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The Haymarket Tragedy Paperback – May 21, 1986

ISBN-13: 978-0691006000 ISBN-10: 0691006008 Edition: Centennial

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 556 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Centennial edition (May 21, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691006008
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691006000
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #516,511 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"What makes [this book] so valuable is that Avrich has shown us a time when anarchism breathed life into American politics, and not simply when it drew its last breath in Chicago."--The New Republic

"Critics have been asking, where are the studies of American working-class history that arc also in the best literary tradition? Where among serious scholars today is the art of historical narrative? Here is the answer, in Paul Avrich's finest book."--Paul Berman, Village Voice Literary Supplement

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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 20, 1997
This history of the Haymarket affair traces the lives and development of the principles in the drama from their earliest exposure to the labor movement, socialism, and anarchism and up to the tragic bombing in which they were falsly accused and ultimately executed.
What makes Avrich special is in the way he does not shy away from the uncomfortable truth while strill retaining the idealistic values of the players in this tragedy. He does not portray the men who were executed after the Haymarket bombing as lambs, but demonstrates their intense, often militant struggle. It was a violent time. At the same time, he explains the motivations of these men, especially Albert Parsons, in such a way that one wonders what other course could they have taken. The stirring explorations of Parsons' development from civil war vet to committed advocate of the working class does not idolize the man, but casts as heroic the struggle for justice and the loving and rich culture that produced the early figures of Anarchism. Avrich is the most well known and effective mainstream historian of Anarchism. His book on Sacco and Vanzetti is even more powerful than the Haymarket book, and his Anarchist Portraits and Anarchist Voices are essential primary sources
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By James Seymour on July 8, 2005
Avrich details the events of the Haymarket affair, which devastated the anarchist community in 1886.

On May 4, 1886, anarchists and workers conducted a meeting in Haymarket Square. They protested the police shooting of striking workers at the McCormick Reaper Works. At the conclusion of demonstration, police interrupted the last speaker and told crowd to disperse. A bomb was thrown at the police and exploded. The police opened fire. Over sixty casualties were reported, including the deaths of seven police officers. The press, business community and politicians provoked a Red Scare.

Nine Chicago anarchists were accused. One fled the country. One turned states' evidence. At the trial, the prosecutor presented evidence to sway the jury by concentrating on the background of the defendants, without proving the state's case. The judge further prejudiced the proceedings to ensure a conviction. After the trial, one man committed suicide. One received a lengthy prison sentence. Six were condemned to die. The governor of Illinois commuted two of their sentences to life in prison. Four were hanged. The outcry against this incident inflamed American and European liberals and radicals.

Avrich documents this information in meticulous detail. He offers biographies of all the individuals involved in the incident, including the condemned men, their families, the prosecution, the defense, and other related anarchists and socialists.

To provide a background for the incident, he traces the development of the anarchist movement in the United States and explores its ties with socialism. He evaluates the doctrines of the anarchists, who organized in the International Working People's Association.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Borowy26 VINE VOICE on January 30, 2008
This is the definitive account of the Haymarket riot and the trial of the anarchists who were arrested for inciting the resulting riot that resulted in the deaths of several police officers. Had the police not attempted to disperse the crowd in such a heavy handed manner, it is most likely that no outrage would have occurred at all.

Despite their radical views, the labor activists and political agitators who were put on trial for the Haymarket bombing were simply scapegoats. The actual bomb thrower was never apprehended. The farcical trial was conducted in a circus like atmosphere that could be best characterized as mass hysteria. Governor John P. Altgeld eventually pardoned the remaining Haymarket prisoners, but several of their fellow defendants had already been executed before Altgeld took office.

One unexpected surprise that I discovered after reading this book is that one of my close friends is a lineal descendant of former Chicago Police Superintendent Frederick Ebersold.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sheila Dreckman on August 25, 2011
There's not much I can add the fine reviews here. For me the anarchists were a bunch of violent, bomb throwing morons until I read this book. They were wrong in what they advocated and wrong in the notion that the people would rise up against the capitalists, but being wrong is part of what makes us human. It's our motives that count, and our willingness to go all the way for our beliefs. These men and women had pure motives, love of their fellow humans and were willing to die for them. Mr. Avrich brings these people, these anarchists, a humanity that made the book riveting.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Keith Wheelock on July 6, 2013
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Paul Avrich's THE HAYMARKET TRAGEDY (1984) is a superb example of how the facts of some 'troublemakers' are swept aside by the mood of the time, as reflected my middle-class fear of anarchists, by a corrupt police and judicial system, and by a power elite's lock-step determination to crush workers' rights initiatives.

Professor Avrich, the dean of American anarchist chroniclers, has scoured massive archives of personal accounts, biographies, and hitherto unavailable official records to write his account of an incident that marked a low light in the history of labor and anarchists in their fruitless struggle against the late 19th century American conservative power elite.

Much has been written about the Haymarket affair. This is THE definitive account. Adapting a biographic approach, Avrich brings to life the personalities of the 'anarchists' as well as of members of the trial's prosecution and defense. The humanity reflected in his personal biographies highlights the magnitude both of the railroading of the defendants and the unrestrained violation of basic judicial rights and the U. S. Constitution.

Avrich commences by focusing on two of the principal protagonists: Albert Richard Parsons, with a distinguished American heritage, and August Spies, a recent immigrant from Germany. The Great Railroad Strikes of 1877 were a personal catalyst for them both. The spontaneous explosion of these strikes and then the brutality of their crushing led them both, on separate paths, to justify anarchism in response to the hopelessness of the working class in opposing the judicial, government, media, and business community juggernaut that confronted them.
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