At the centre of this rich, provocative book is a body of water and a steampunk contraption. In the 19th century, the Mississippi River loomed large in the American imagination; a waterway of immense power and possibility which sliced through the North American continent.
Household goods piled along curbs with hand-lettered signs saying ‘free’; never-worn clothing hanging in closets, price tags still in place; vacated college dormitory rooms filled with abandoned throw rugs, hair dryers, bookcases; consultants who help us simplify our lives by getting rid of ‘stuff.’ This is the world of things that many Americans inhabit today.
With this volume, John Van Atta has achieved an excellent synthesis of the best recent scholarship relevant to the Missouri Crisis.
It is common for historians of the antebellum, civil war, and reconstruction-era United States to talk of ‘the Northeast’, ‘the South’, or ‘the West’ as offhand for a wide range of interests, like the Confederacy, slaveholders, or industrial capitalism.
In 1833, after centuries of resistance and rebellion by enslaved people, decades of popularly-mobilized antislavery protests, and years of economic struggle on colonial plantations, England’s Parliament initiated the process of slave emancipation in the British Empire.
It is an ambitious book that would try to cover the Conquest of Mexico, the rise and fall of the country’s hacienda system, the emergence of the Virgen de Guadalupe, the intricacies of Emiliano Zapata’s role in the Mexican Revolution, and the exodus of women from rural regions in the mid-1960s to look for work as ‘household help’ in the nation’s fast-growing capital city.
In Dockworker Power: Race and Activism in Durban and San Francisco Bay Area, historian Peter Cole compares the union histories of two port cities, the militant struggles of dockworkers against racial discrimination, their response to technology (in the form of containerisation),