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MANUFACTURING THE PAST THE REPRESENTATION OF MINING COMMUNITIES IN HISTORY, LITERATURE AND HERITAGE: FANTASIES OF A WORLD THAT NEVER WAS'?1 JULIE LIGHT At best, the heritage industry only draws a screen between ourselves and our true past. I criticise the heritage industry because so many of its products are fantasies of a world that never was Robert Hewison, The Heritage Industry (London, 1987) Introduction Although Robert Hewison's criticism was aimed at the heritage industry, it provides a valid focus for the analysis of the representation of mining communities in other genres such as historical scholarship and imaginative literature. The intention of this paper is to assess the difficulties involved with each of these three approaches. At the same time, due consideration will be given to the concept of community, a concept which presents historians with particular problems of definition and analysis.2 Sociologists, too, have failed to deliver a satisfactory definition. It is not possible here to do more than indicate some of the issues involved. Alan Macfarlane denies the existence of a real community 'out there' in the world. He prefers to see the concept used purely as an analytical tool and warns of the problem of 'invention' of community; the investigator 'will find community bonds and community sentiments because he expects to do so,.4 C. J. Calhoun argues that there is little to be gained from abandoning the concept, but that it should be refined.5 It is certainly not helpful to assume that community is unproblematically 'present' where there are certain socio-spatial formations. This could result in 'essentialising' community rather than analysing its construction. Robert Hewison, The Heritage Industry: Britain in a Climate of Decline (London, 1987), p. 10. 1 would like to thank Dr Chris Williams for his help and advice in producing this paper. For the purpose of this paper, a practical working definition will be adopted which accepts that people within a particular locality perceive a shared experience that is both defining and defined. Due to restrictions of space the accounts studied as examples of each genre are small in number, with the accompanying limitations which that involves. They are sufficient, however, to reveal the difficulties of both the genre and the concept. For example, G. A. Hillery counted at least ninety-four working definitions: G. A. Hillery, 'Definitions of community: Areas of agreement', Rural Sociology, 20 (1955), 111-23. For further discussion of this issue, see Graham Crow and Graham Allen, Community Life: An Introduction to Local Social Relations (London, 1994); and Martin Bulmer, 'Sociological Models of the Mining Community', The Sociological Review, 23 (1975), 61-92. 4 Alan Macfarlane, 'History, anthropology and the study of communities', Social History, 1/2 (1977), 632, 634. C. J. Calhoun, 'Community: toward a variable conceptualisation for comparative research', Social History, 5 (1980), 105.