Commentary on "Artisans Into Workers" by Bruce Laurie Essay

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As I’ve stated in earlier commentaries, my knowledge of this time period and subject before the semester was quite limited. Joan Scott and her theories only muddled the subject even more for me as it was one of the first articles I read for the course. After reading Laurie’s book, I regret not reading it sooner. Even though it is very early in the semester, I feel Laurie’s work is the best option to introduce labor history in America to a person who is not familiar with the topic. Laurie’s introduction takes us through a brief study on the literature of labor history as of 1989. In his opening analysis, it is apparent that Laurie would agree with Gutman and Brody, both of whom he mentions, in the fact that it has been difficult for scholars to develop a shared synthesis of the topic. For example, Laurie cites Stephan Thernstrom’s work on “geographic and economic mobility” in American. (7). Thernstrom found that because Americans very rarely stayed in one place, it would have been difficult for them to form any type of “common identity or common grievance” that would have led to some type of socialist system. (8) Although we’ve echoed this point in our first class meetings, and Laurie mentions that the findings were “new and compelling” to some scholars, he cites that another historian, Selig Perlman, had already made the same argument in 1928. (8) The first half of Laurie’s book takes us through the transition of the simple American farmer. At first, they were simply concerned with supporting their family. There was not even a use for money, as most families bartered with each other. Butchers would trade their meat with the shoemaker, tailor, hatters, and so on. Other farmers would raise enough for the family, and then some more to trade. Any cash was put away for gifts and big purchases such as land. (18) The onset of improved transportation led to more

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