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Historiography


Historiography of Work

The history of labor and workers has been an incredibly productive field. From foundational works to the most recent scholarship, this list collects the best academic writings on workers and the history of labor. It also includes award-winning books, including winners of the Philip Taft Prize in Labor and Working-Class History.

Click on Summary for an annotated description of the work, and use the review link to read an in-depth review.

Book links are to Amazon. A percentage of the purchase price will be donated to labor organizations.

✭ denotes award-winning works


FOUNDATIONAL WORKS

Friedrich Engels, Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State. 1884. 

Marx, Karl. Das Kapital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume One. 1867.

Polanyi, Karl. The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time. 1944.

Smith, Adam. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. 1776.

Thompson, E.P. The Making of the English Working Class. 1963.

Weber, Max. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. 1905.

WOMEN AND GENDER

✭ Harris, LaShawn. Sex Workers, Psychics, and Numbers Runners: Black Women in New York City’s Underground Economy.University of Illinois Press, 2017.

✭ Woloch, Nancy. A Class by Herself: Protective Laws for Women Workers, 1890s-1990s. Princeton University Press, 2015.

✭ Basso, Matthew L. Meet Joe Copper: Masculinity and Race on Montana’s World War II Home Front. University of Chicago Press, 2013.

✭ Glymph, Thavolia. Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household. Cambridge University Press, 2008

Kessler-Harris, Alice. Gendering Labor History. University of Illinois Press, 2007.

✭ MacLean, Nancy. Freedom is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace. Harvard University Press, 2006.

✭ Cobble, Dorothy Sue. The Other Women’s Movement: Workplace Justice and Social Rights in Modern America. Princeton University Press, 2004. 

✭ Kessler-Harris, Alice. In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men, and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in 20th Century America. Oxford University Press, 2001. 

Chojnacka, Monica. Working Women of Early Modern Venice. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.

Enstad, Nan. Ladies of Labor, Girls of Adventure: Working Women, Popular Culture, and Labor Politics at the Turn of the Twentieth Century. Columbia University Press, 1999.

✭ Boris, Eileen. Home to Work: Motherhood and the Politics of Industrial Homework in the U.S. Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Milkman, Ruth. Gender at Work: The Dynamics of Job Segregation by Sex During World War II. University of Illinois Press, 1990.

Stansell, Christine. City of Women: Sex and Class in New York, 1789-1860. University of Illinois Press, 1987.

✭ Jones, Jacqueline. Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work, and the Family from Slavery to the Present. Vintage Books, 1986.

✭ Kessler-Harris, Alice. Out to Work: A History of Wage-Earning Women in the United States. Oxford University Press, 1982.

✭ Katzman, David M. Seven Days a Week: Women and Domestic Service in Industrializing America. Oxford University Press, 1978.

Federici, Silvia. “Wages Against Housework.” Power of Women Collective and Falling Wall Press, 1975.

RACE AND LABOR

✭ Harris, LaShawn. Sex Workers, Psychics, and Numbers Runners: Black Women in New York City’s Underground Economy. University of Illinois Press, 2017.

✭ Talitha L. LeFlouria, Chained in Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South. University of North Carolina Press, 2016.

✭ Norrgard, Chantal. Seasons of Change: Labor, Treaty Rights, and Ojibwe Nationhood. University of North Carolina Press, 2015.

✭ Phillips, Kimberley. War! What Is It Good For?: Black Freedom Struggles and the U.S. Military from World War II to Iraq. University of North Carolina Press, 2012.

✭ Glymph, Thavolia. Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household. Cambridge University Press, 2008

✭ Green, Laurie B. Battling the Plantation Mentality: Memphis and the Black Freedom Struggle. University of North Carolina Press, 2007.

Rothman, Adam. Slave Country: American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South. Harvard University Press, 2007.

✭ MacLean, Nancy. Freedom is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace. Harvard University Press, 2006.

Deyle, Steven. Carry Me Back: The Domestic Slave Trade in American Life. Oxford University Press, 2006.

✭ Gregory, James N. The Southern Diaspora: How the Great Migrations of Black and White Southerners Transformed America. University of North Carolina Press, 2005.

✭ Korstad, Robert Rodgers. Civil Rights Unionism: Tobacco Workers and the Struggle for Democracy in the Mid-Twentieth-Century South. University of North Carolina Press, 2003.

✭ Peck, Gunther. Reinventing Free Labor: Padrones and Immigrant Workers in the North American West, 1880-1930. Cambridge University Press, 2000.

✭ Hunter, Tera. To ‘Joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women’s Lives and Labors After the Civil War. Harvard University Press, 1997.

✭ Sugrue, Thomas. The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit. Princeton University Press, 1996.

Roediger, David. The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class. Verso, 1991.

✭ Jones, Jacqueline. Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work, and the Family from Slavery to the Present. Vintage Books, 1986.

✭ Meier, August and Elliott Rudwick. Black Detroit and the Rise of the UAW. University of Michigan Press, 1979.

WORKERS’ MOVEMENTS AND ORGANIZATIONS

✭ Murphy, Ryan Patrick. Deregulating Desire: Flight Attendant Activism, Family Politics, and Workplace Justice. Temple, 2016.

✭ Garcia, Matt. From the Jaws of Victory: The Triumph and Tragedy of Cesar Chavez and the Farm Worker Movement. University of California Press, 2012.

✭ Lichtenstein, Nelson. State of the Union: A Century of American Labor. Princeton University Press, 2002.

✭ McCartin, Joseph A. Labor’s Great War: The Struggle for Industrial Democracy and the Origins of Modern American Labor Relations, 1912-1921. University of North Carolina Press, 1998.

✭ Zieger, Robert. The CIO, 1935-1955. University of North Carolina Press, 1995.

Zieger, Robert. American Workers, American Unions. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995. (4th ed., 2014)

✭ Fraser, Steven. Labor Will Rule: Sidney Hillman and the Rise of American Labor. Cornell University Press, 1993.

✭ Avrich, Paul. The Haymarket Tragedy. Princeton University Press, 1984.

✭ Zieger, Robert. Rebuilding the Pulp and Paper Workers’ Union, 1933-1941. University of Tennessee Press, 1984.

✭ Licht, Walter. Working for the Railroad: The Organization of Work in the Nineteenth Century. Princeton University Press, 1983.

GOVERNMENT AND LABOR RELATIONS

✭ Lipman, Jana K. Guantánamo: A Working-Class History between Empire and Revolution. University of California Press, 2008.

✭ Lichtenstein, Nelson. State of the Union: A Century of American Labor. Princeton University Press, 2002.

Sanders, Elizabeth. The Roots of Reform: Farmers, Workers, and the American State, 1877-1917. University of Chicago Press, 1999.

✭ Jacoby, Sanford M. Modern Manors: Welfare Capitalism Since the New Deal. Princeton University Press, 1997.

✭ Keyssar, Alexander. Out of Work: The First Century of Unemployment in Massachusetts. Cambridge University Press, 1986.

✭ Harris, Howell John. The Right to Manage: Industrial Relations Policies of American Business in the 1940s. University of Wisconsin Madison Press, 1982.

✭ Gross, James A. The Reshaping of the National Labor Relations Board: National Labor Policy in Transition, 1937-1947. State University of New York Press, 1981.

TRADES AND INDUSTRIES

✭ Beckert, Sven. Empire of Cotton: A Global History. Knopf, 2015.

✭ Peter Way. Common Labour: Workers and the Digging of North American Canals, 1780-1860. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993.

✭ Flamming, Douglass. Creating the Modern South: Millhands and Managers in Dalton, Georgia, 1884-1984. University of North Carolina Press, 1992.

✭ Freeman, Joshua. In Transit: The Transport Workers Union in New York City, 1933-1966. Oxford University Press, 1989.

✭ Scranton, Philip. Figured Tapestry: Production, Markets, and Power in Philadelphia Textiles, 1855-1941. Cambridge University Press, 1989.

✭ Derickson, Alan. Workers’ Health, Workers’ Democracy: The Western Miners Struggle, 1891-1925. Cornell University Press, 1989.

✭ Dowd, Jacquelyn, James Leloudis, Robert Korstad, Mary Murphy, Lu Ann Jones, and Christopher B. Daly. Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World. University of North Carolina Press, 1987.

Johnson, Paul E. A Shopkeeper’s Millennium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York, 1815-1837. Hill and Wang, 1978.

SLAVERY AND THE WORKING POOR

✭ Smith, Stacey L. Freedom’s Frontier: California and the Struggle over Unfree Labor, Emancipation, and Reconstruction. University of North Carolina Press, 2014

✭ Rockman, Seth. Scraping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early Baltimore. John Hopkins University Press, 2009

Rothman, Adam. Slave Country: American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South. Harvard University Press, 2007.

Deyle, Steven. Carry Me Back: The Domestic Slave Trade in American Life. Oxford University Press, 2006.

✭ Higbie, Frank Tobias. Indispensable Outcasts: Hobo Workers and Community in the American Midwest, 1880-1930. University of Illinois Press, 2003.

Katz, Michael. The Undeserving Poor: From the War on Poverty to the War on Welfare. Pantheon Books, 1989.

INDUSTRIALISM AND INDUSTRIAL WORKERS

✭ Fones-Wolf, Elizabeth and Ken Fones-Wolf, Struggle for the Soul of the Postwar South: White Evangelical Protestants and Operation Dixie. University of Illinois Press, 2015.

Callahan Jr., Richard J., Kathryn Lofton, and Chad E. Seales. “Allegories of Progress: Industrial Religion in the United States,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, vol. 78, no. 1 (Mar. 2010), pp. 1- 39.

✭ Schmidt, James D. Industrial Violence and the Legal Origins of Child Labor. Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Brody, David. Workers in Industrial America: Essays on the 20th Century Struggle. Oxford University Press, 1980

✭ Cohen, Lizabeth. Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939. Cambridge University Press, 1990

GLOBAL LABOR HISTORY

✭ Hahamovitch, Cindy. No Man’s Land: Jamaican Guestworkers in America and the Global History of Deportable Labor. Princeton University Press, 2011.

Chomsky, Aviva. Linked Labor Histories: New England, Colombia, and the Making of a Global Working Class. Duke University Press, 2008.

Silver, Beverly J. Forces of Labor: Workers’ Movements and Globalization Since 1870. Cambridge University Press, 2003.

✭ Cowie, Jefferson. Capital Moves: RCA’s 70-Year Quest for Cheap Labor. The New Press, 2001.

Cooper, Frederick. Decolonization and African Society: The Labor Question in French and British Africa. Cambridge University Press, 1996.

THEORETICAL APPROACHES TO LABOR HISTORY

Cornell, Drucilla. “Can There Be a People’s Commons?: The Significance of Rosa Luxemburg’s Accumulation of Capital,” in The Intellectual Origins of the Global Financial Crisis, edited by Roger Berkowitz and Taun Toay. New York: Fordham U. Press, 2012.

Federici, Silvia. Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation. New York: Autonomedia, 2004.

Illich, Ivan. The Right to Useful Unemployment. London: Marion Boyars, 1978.

Harvey, David. “The Enigma of Capital and the Crisis this Time,” The American Sociological Association Meeting, Atlanta, GA, August 16th, 2010.

Leon, Luis D. The Political Spirituality of Cesar Chavez. University of California Press, 2014.

O’Connor, James. “Capitalism, Nature, Socialism: A Theoretical Introduction,” in Capitalism, Nature, Socialism vol. 1, no. 1 (1988), pp. 11-38.

Spence, Martin. “Capital Against Nature,” Capital & Class, vol. 24, no. 3 (2000), pp. 81-110.

Tronti, Mario. “Workerism and Politics,” Historical Materialism vol. 18 (2010), pp. 186–189.

Tronti,  Mario. “The Struggle Against Labor,” in Operai e Capitale “Workers and Capital”, Einaudi, Turin, 1966.

Tronti, Mario. “The Strategy of Refusal,” in Operai e Capitale “Workers and Capital”, Einaudi, Turin, 1966, pp. 234-252. 

CHRONOLOGICAL

ANCIENT AND MEDIEVAL

Epstein, Steven A. Wage Labor and Guilds in Medieval Europe. University of North Carolina Press, 1991.

Whyte, Ian D. Scotland Before the Industrial Revolution: An Economic and Social History, c. 1050-c. 1750. Longman, 1995.

EARLY MODERN

Allen, Aaron. “Conquering the Suburbs: Politics and Work in Early Modern Edinburgh,” Journal of Urban History, vol. 37, no. 3 (2011), pp.  423-443.

Chojnacka, Monica. Working Women of Early Modern Venice. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.

Cohn, Samuel. The Laboring Classes in Renaissance Florence. Academic Press, 1980.

Epstein, S.R. and Maartyn Prak, eds. Guilds, Innovation and the European Economy, 1400-1800. Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Farr, James R. Artisans in Europe, 1300-1914. Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Foyster, Elizabeth and Christopher Whatley, eds. A History of Everyday Life in Scotland, 1600-1800. Edinburgh University Press, 2010.

Gibson, A.J.S., and T.C. Smout. Prices, Food and Wages in Scotland, 1550-1780. Cambridge University Press, 1995.

EIGHTEENTH CENTURY

Fraser, W. Hamish. Conflict and Class: Scottish Workers 1700-1838. John Donald, 1988.

Sanderson, Elizabeth C. Women and Work in Eighteenth-Century Edinburgh. Macmillan, 1996.

Thompson, E.P. The Making of the English Working Class. 1963.

NINETEENTH CENTURY

✭ Peter Way. Common Labour: Workers and the Digging of North American Canals, 1780-1860. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993.

Stansell, Christine. City of Women: Sex and Class in New York, 1789-1860. University of Illinois Press, 1987.

✭ Licht, Walter. Working for the Railroad: The Organization of Work in the Nineteenth Century. Princeton University Press, 1983.

Johnson, Paul E. A Shopkeeper’s Millennium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York, 1815-1837. Hill and Wang, 1978.

EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY

Enstad, Nan. Ladies of Labor, Girls of Adventure: Working Women, Popular Culture, and Labor Politics at the Turn of the Twentieth Century. Columbia University Press, 1999.

✭ McCartin, Joseph A. Labor’s Great War: The Struggle for Industrial Democracy and the Origins of Modern American Labor Relations, 1912-1921. University of North Carolina Press, 1998.

✭ Derickson, Alan. Workers’ Health, Workers’ Democracy: The Western Miners Struggle, 1891-1925. Cornell University Press, 1989.

✭ Freeman, Joshua. In Transit: The Transport Workers Union in New York City, 1933-1966. Oxford University Press, 1989.

✭ Zieger, Robert. Rebuilding the Pulp and Paper Workers’ Union, 1933-1941. University of Tennessee Press, 1984.

✭ Gross, James A. The Reshaping of the National Labor Relations Board: National Labor Policy in Transition, 1937-1947. State University of New York Press, 1981.

LATE TWENTIETH CENTURY

✭ Jacoby, Sanford M. Modern Manors: Welfare Capitalism Since the New Deal. Princeton University Press, 1997.

TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY