This introduction presents the main topics and analytical concerns of the contributions to this Special Issue about ethnicity and migration in coalfield history in a global perspective. From the nineteenth century the development of industrial and transport technologies required the supply of coal-based energy in every part of the world. Nineteenth- and early twentieth-century globalization, including colonialism, would not have been possible without coal. Coalmining operations were launched in all world regions, and to enable exploitation mine operators had to find, mobilize, and direct workers to the mining sites. This quest for labour triggered a series of migration processes (both from nearby and far away) and resulted in a broad array of labour relations (both free and unfree). This introduction points to the variety of constellations analysed in the different contributions to this Special Issue. These cover cases from Africa (Nigeria, Zimbabwe), Asia (China, Japan), the Americas (USA, Brazil), Turkey, the Soviet Union, and western Europe (France, Germany), and a broad range of topics, from segregation, forced labour, and subcontracting to labour struggles, discrimination, ethnic paternalism, and sport.