The Politics of Industrial Life in Nineteenth-Century New England
A panoramic account of the rise and fall of the last New England textile empire
Part narrative, part analysis, this book reconstructs the complex history of the southeastern New England textile industry during the nineteenth century. Mary H. Blewett takes a fresh look at the process of industrialization from the point of view of management as well as labor and reinterprets the struggle between the two in terms of class, culture, and power. Highlighting the role of contingency and human agency in the shaping of historical events, she traces the efforts of the legendary Borden family and their allies not only to build their own private empire but to dominate the national market in print cloth. At the same time, she examines the shifting fortunes of a labor force striving to accommodate newly arrived immigrants, adapt to new technologies, and contest the control of the mill owners. Blewett has been a pioneer in analyzing the role of gender in industrialization, and this book carries that work forward. She shows how changing meanings of manhood and womanhood, nationality and race, altered the course of American labor politics, as immigrant workers from Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Quebec brought their own political and cultural traditions into the New England mills. What emerges is a richly textured tale involving business scoundrels, high-minded reformers, radical agitators, sober-minded accommodationists, and assertive women activists—all engaged in a dynamic political struggle to control the destiny of an industry that would not survive the next century.
"This is a big book—in every sense. Broadly proportioned, rich in detail, covering a lengthy span of years, at once complex and wide ranging in its themes and conceptualizations, Constant Turmoil is a major statement by a major historian on the character of industrial society as it emerged in nineteenth-century New England. A fundamentally valuable contribution to the historical literature, this is a volume that will surely last."—Jonathan Prude, author of The Coming of Industrial Order:
Town and Factory Life in Rural Massachusetts, 1810–1860
"A 'sophisticated, skillful, and epic piece of historical scholarship' which creates 'a densely woven, beautiful, and useful fabric' consisting of 'an important methodological and theoretical exercise in exploring the importance of gender in industrial history.'"—Lisa Fine,
, Business History Review