Colliers across the Sea: A Comparative Study of Class Formation in Scotland and the American Midwest, 1830-1924 (Working Class in American History)

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9780252068270: Colliers across the Sea: A Comparative Study of Class Formation in Scotland and the American Midwest, 1830-1924 (Working Class in American History)

This masterful study charts the extensive common ground and telling differences between two widely separated coal-mining communities: Lanarkshire, in the Clyde Valley of southwest Scotland, and the northern Illinois coalfield that became a prime destination for skilled Scottish migrant miners in the mid-nineteenth century. Challenging the prevailing exceptionalist paradigm of labor history, John Laslett examines the social, economic, and political context of each of these communities in generous detail. He traces the progressive heightening of class consciousness as the coal industry evolved from skilled hand labor to an increasingly mechanized extraction process and the escalating hostility between miners and mineowners as their interests split along class lines. Examining the rise of militant industrial unionism in both areas, Laslett provides a sophisticated explanation of the American and Scottish miners' divergent approaches to collectivist solutions. Based on a profound knowledge of both communities, "Colliers across the Sea" tells a compelling story of industrial transformation's human costs, of conflict and greed, and of democratic aspirations and community.

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Review:

"During the 19th and early 20th centuries, Scottish colliers, skilled coal-miners, plied their craft on both sides of the Atlantic. Laslett's well-researched study seeks to compare and contrast miners in Lanarkshire County, Scotland, with those in various Illinois coalfields, as they developed a working-class consciousness and made a transition from artisan to proletarian... Laslett makes a strong case for the development of 'common traditions of militancy at the workplace and in the community' in both Scotland and the US'... Challenges the concept of US 'labor exceptionalism.'" -- Choice "This comparative study presents the migration of Scottish miners to the American Midwest and effectively challenges the myth of American 'labor exceptionalism' by providing a clear understanding of why Scottish miners in America reacted differently to modernization than did the miners who stayed in Scotland... In writing this well researched and readable book, Laslett has made a significant contribution to our understanding of labor history and class formation, as well as to the important story of British migration to America." -- William E. Van Vugt, American Historical Review "An impressive comparative study of mining communities in the west of Scotland and the American Midwest." -- Alex Murdoch, History "Laslett has contructed a powerful comparative study that includes assessments of economic growth, social structure, class formation, and political behaviour. This is an exceptionally well-conceived study that uses the tools of the social historian to address major questions concerning the similarities and differences in the process of class formation in Britain and the United States." -- David Frank, Labour/LeTravail "Sophisticated, meticulous, and engaging... A model of comparative history. Readers will marvel at the narrative achievement, at Laslett's ability ... to pursue two separate but related stories and to make his reader care about both of them... A compelling book by a talented historian." -- William Graebner, Journal of Illinois History "A splendid achievement -- carefully researched, elegantly written, innovative in approach and interpretation... Comparative labor history now has a new model and a new standard." -- David Emmons,Annals of Iowa "Laslett has written a unique book. Few historians are willing to tackle the logistical and historiographic morass of systematic comparative history and even fewer are able to directly confront major interpretive puzzles. This book succeeds on both counts." -- James Jaffe, Left History ADVANCE PRAISE "An exceptional work of scholarship... Laslett's findings are important and will be widely noticed, debated, and assimilated into the labor history canon."-David Brody, author of Steelworkers in America: The Nonunion Era

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Laslett, John H.
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