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Labor History and Public History: Introduction

  • Thomas Miller Klubock (a1) and Paulo Fontes (a2)

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Labor history and public history have had a long relationship in the United States, as James Green argues in Taking History to Heart, dating back to Progressive-era historians like Mary Ritter and Charles A. Beard. Labor historians like Phillip Foner, who identified with the “Old Left,” made labor history public history through ties to labor organizations and the Communist Party. Then, during the 1960s, historians identified with the “New Left” and inspired by E.P. Thompson, worked to extend social history and working-class history “from the bottom up” beyond the confines of the academy, even as they shifted their focus from the institutional histories of unions and political parties, to make the history of “ordinary people” and “everyday life” public history. The organization of history workshops and the proliferation of oral history projects reflect the ways in which historians of the working class made their practices public history in new ways during the 1960s and 1970s while expanding the sphere of both “the public” and “labor” to include histories of women, gender and patriarchy, and ethnic and racial minorities.

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Labor History and Public History: Introduction

  • Thomas Miller Klubock (a1) and Paulo Fontes (a2)

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