These Poor Hands: The Autobiography of a Miner Working in South Wales, was first published in June 1939. It was an instant bestseller, and its fame catapulted its author into the front rank of ‘proletarian writers’. B. L. Coombes, an English-born migrant, had lived in the Vale of Neath since before the First World War, but only turned to writing in the 1930s as a way of communicating the plight of the miners and their communities to the wider world. These Poor Hands presents, in a documentary style, the working life of the miner as well as the author’s experiences in the lock-outs of 1921 and 1926. It demonstrates Coombes’s desire to offer an accurate account of the lives of miners and their families, and carries a sincere moral charge in its description of the waste of human potential that is industrial capitalism in decline.