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Industrial Violence and the Legal Origins of Child Labor

$108.00 (P)

Part of Cambridge Historical Studies in American Law and Society

  • Date Published: March 2010
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521198653

$ 108.00 (P)

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About the Authors
  • Industrial Violence and the Legal Origins of Child Labor challenges existing understandings of child labor by tracing how law altered the meanings of work for young people in the United States between the Revolution and the Great Depression. Rather than locating these shifts in statutory reform or economic development, it finds the origin in litigations that occurred in the wake of industrial accidents incurred by young workers. Drawing on archival case records from the Appalachian South between the 1880s and the 1920s, the book argues that young workers and their families envisioned an industrial childhood that rested on negotiating safe workplaces, a vision at odds with child labor reform. Local court battles over industrial violence confronted working people with a legal language of childhood incapacity and slowly moved them to accept the lexicon of child labor. In this way, the law fashioned the broad social relations of modern industrial childhood.

    • Challenges the reality of 'child labor'
    • Dramatic stories of industrial work and violence told by young people
    • Integration of all levels of legal process in the study of law and society (high courts, local courts, non-legal actors)
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    Reviews & endorsements

    “Industrial Violence and the Legal Origins of Child Labor is an imaginative and compelling work of historical reconstruction. Through vividly told legal stories of injured child workers in the turn-of-the-twentieth-century Appalachian South, Schmidt chronicles how clashes over new understandings of work and age transformed the lives of countless boys and girls and the society in which they lived. In doing so, he deftly weaves together legal, labor, and children’s history to make a very persuasive case for the role of child labor in the construction of modern childhood and the modern legal and industrial order.” – Michael Grossberg, Indiana University

    “Schmidt has written an original and gripping legal history of childhood and industrial capitalism. He shows how the modern idea of child labor as a grave social injustice was forged in heartbreaking litigation over industrial violence that spread across the Appalachian South in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.” – David S. Tanenhaus, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

    “From a worldview that saw the labor of young people as essential to the family economy and a natural, normal part of growing up, Americans, between the 1880s and the 1920s, came to see this labor as not simply wrongheaded, but illegal ‘child labor.’ James D. Schmidt reconstructs this history, placing at its center young people who suffered industrial accidents, their families, and the courts that decided their legal claims. Thoroughly researched, brilliantly argued, beautifully written, and showing throughout a deep humanity for its subjects – a pathbreaking contribution to the history of law, labor, childhood, and the making of modern America.” – Barbara Young Welke, University of Minnesota

    "...Schmidt has opened an important door for future scholarship in histories related to children." -James Flannery, Journal of American History

    "...imaginative and well-written..." -James Martin, American Historical Review

    "...outstanding contribution..." -Donald W. Rogers, The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era

    "James D. Schmidt's new book treats child labor as a historical construct that judges...gradually came to embrace between the 1880s and 1920s." -Theresa A. Case, The Journal of Southern History

    "This book is an important contribution to the history of child labor that will appeal to scholars of labor, law, and the Progressive Era." -Virginia C. Young, Southern Historian

    "With its vivid recovery of youthful voices, moving portrayal of working people’s aspirations, and innovative argument, Schmidt’s book will provide valuable insight for both specialists and undergraduates interested in the history of childhood, labor, and masculinity." -Corinne T. Field, Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2010
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521198653
    • length: 304 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 158 x 21 mm
    • weight: 0.52kg
    • contains: 10 b/w illus.
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    Prologue: the job
    1. Big enough to work
    2. The divine right to do nothing
    3. Mashed to pieces
    4. Natural instincts
    5. An injury to all
    6. The dawn of child labor
    Epilogue: get up and play.

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • American Labor History
  • Author

    James D. Schmidt, Northern Illinois University
    James D. Schmidt is Associate Professor of History at Northern Illinois University. His first book, Free to Work (1998), examined the relationship between labor law and the meanings of freedom during the age of emancipation. He teaches courses on the history of law, capitalism, childhood, and the United States in the long nineteenth century.

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