Émile Basly

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Basly as deputy-mayor of Lens, early 20th Century.

Émile Basly (March 29, 1854 – February 11, 1928) is one of the great figures of trade unionism in mining in the mineral field of Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France, along with Arthur Lamendin. He is primarily known for his participation in the strike of 1884, when he became known as "the untameable miner" and "the tsar of Lens". He was the inspiration for the character Etienne Lantier in Émile Zola's novel Germinal.[1]

Basly was born in Valenciennes, and entered mining as a galibot (minor) at the age of twelve. After the creation of the Trade Union of the minors of Anzin in 1882, Basly became its secretary, and subsequently its president in 1891. He became mayor of Lens in 1900, and devoted the last ten years of his life to rebuilding the city, which had been completely destroyed during First World War. He continued to serve as mayor until his death there in 1928.

Rue Émile Basly is a street in Avion, named in his honor.


  1. ^ Zola, E. Germinal. trans. MacKenzie, R. 2011. Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. pp. xxii