- Hardcover: 408 pages
- Publisher: Harvard University Press; 1 edition (October 31, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674031016
- ISBN-13: 978-0674031012
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 22 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,038,754 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Killing for Coal: America's Deadliest Labor War 1st Edition
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The Ludlow Massacre of 1914 has long been known as one of the most notorious events in all of American labor history, but until the publication of Killing for Coal, it was still possible to see this slaughter simply as an episode in the history of American industrial violence. In Thomas Andrews's skilled hands, it becomes something much subtler, more complicated, and revealing: a window onto the profound transformation of work and environment that occurred on the Western mining frontier in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Anyone interested in the history of labor, the environment, and the American West will want to read this book.
--William Cronon, author of Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West
Killing for Coal is a stunning achievement. Beautifully written and masterfully researched, it stands as the definitive history of the dramatic events at Ludlow and breaks new ground in our understanding of industrialization and the environment. If I were to pick one word to describe this book, I would say, "powerful."
--Kathryn Morse, author of The Nature of Gold: An Environmental History of the Klondike Gold Rush
Killing for Coal arises from the rare and providential convergence of an extraordinary author and an extraordinary topic. With a perfect instinct for the telling detail, Thomas Andrews wields a matching talent for conveying, in crystal-clear prose, the deepest meanings of history. This is, in every sense, an illuminating book, shining light into a dark terrain of the American past and of the human soul.
--Patricia Nelson Limerick, author of The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West
A groundbreaking work about coal and coal development, labor relations and class conflict.
--Sandra Dallas (Denver Post 2009-02-15)
Thomas G. Andrews' Killing for Coal offers an intriguing analysis of the so-called Ludlow Massacre of April 20, 1914, a watershed event in American labor history that he illuminates with a new understanding of the complexity of this conflict...Killing for Coal distinguishes itself from conventional labor histories, by going beyond sociological factors to look at the total physical environment--what Andrews calls the "workscape"--and the role it played in the lives of both labor and management...In its deft marriage of natural and social history, Killing for Coal sets a new standard for how the history of industry can and should be written.
--Emily F. Popek (PopMatters 2009-01-30)
A stunning debut, full of insight into the role of labor and class not just in southern Colorado, but across the country. (Denver Westword 2009-03-27)
Andrews brings a 21st-century approach to this once-troubled landscape where the region's voracious need for fuel trumped the rights and independence of the men who dragged it out of the ground.
--Bob Hoover (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 2009-04-19)
Killing for Coal is far more than a blow-by-blow account of America's deadliest labor war. It is an environmental history that seeks to explain strike violence as the natural excretion of an industry that brutalized the earth and the men who worked beneath it. Andrews is one of the excellent young scholars who have given new life to the field of labor and working-class studies by introducing new questions about race and gender, ethnicity and nationality, and new insights drawn from anthropology and physical geography...Andrews deserves credit for writing one of the best books ever published on the mining industry and its environmental impact and for drawing more public attention to the Ludlow story and its significance.
--James Green (Dissent 2009-05-01)
Andrews does an excellent job of placing the massacre in the larger context of both previous labor strife in the area and the violent reprisals that armed bands of miners launched on mine owners, strikebreakers, and militia men in response to the deaths at Ludlow. One of the great strengths of Andrews's account is his integration of environmental history into his narrative at all levels, and not just as an afterthought. The book is as much a history of coal, coal mining, and the reshaping of Colorado's environment as it is a history of the Great Coalfield War of 1914.
--A. M. Berkowitz (Choice 2009-04-01)
About the Author
“In its deft marriage of natural and social history, Killing for Coal sets a new standard for how the history of industry can and should be written.”
—Emily F. Popek, PopMatters.com
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KILLING FOR COAL starts and concludes with the Ludlow Massacre. In between, the book is about coal and coal mining in Colorado and about the larger conflict between labor and capital. It aims to be an environmental history and an industrial history. It aims to explore the natural world and the social, technological, and economic forces that combined to bring about the Colorado Coal War that culminated in the Ludlow Massacre. It also aims to be a new and different sort of history, and as things turned out, it was awarded the Bancroft Prize in 2009.
In the end I am somewhat ambivalent about the book. I had wanted to read about the Ludlow Massacre, and I selected KILLING FOR COAL because I thought it would provide more background than the other options. I got plenty of background -- more than I hoped for -- and I wish that there had been more detailed discussion of the Ludlow Massacre and the ten days of guerilla warfare that followed it. Nonetheless, there is considerable merit in what Thomas Andrews was trying to do in writing a broader, more comprehensive history. At times, the scope of his vision and the reach of his ambition were nigh breathtaking. Plus, Andrews is a much more colorful and skilled writer than most historians. The problem is that he overdoes things on virtually all scores.
On occasion, he claims too much. (The book "illuminates how the close study of one small area of the world can improve our understanding of processes that now pose grave threats to the well-being of our nation and our planet.") In trying to cover everything, he sometimes dwells on the obvious. ("Miners sidled up to the bars of [mine camp saloons] thirsting not simply for refreshment, but also for release from the anxiety, loneliness, and anger that mine work tended to inflict on them.") There are occasional gratuitous nods to political correctitude. (Andrews uses the pronoun "he" for a "mogul" buying coal to heat his Denver mansion, because "virtually all moguls were men".) Often Andrews gets carried away with the color and flamboyance of his prose. ("Men, women, and children had traveled a long, winding road to reach this precipice; many years of struggle and suffering seemed to drive them toward the abyss before them.") There are sentences that are goofy ("They [historical photographs of Colorado] attest to the protean nature of energy and its incredible capacity for disguise."), and others that are grandiose ("[Mining] companies unwittingly transformed disputes rooted in subterranean workscapes into an all-out struggle in which the very meaning and fate of America seemed to hang in the balance.").
The book is based on seemingly prodigious research and reading. Andrews gets considerable mileage out of the transcripts of a lengthy "man-to-man talk" the Colorado governor called between three coal company executives and three leaders of the striking miners in November 1913, transcripts inexplicably ignored by other historians. The 290 pages of text are supported by 75 pages of endnotes. There are about thirty historical photographs and four maps, all of which enhance the presentation.
Bottom line: KILLING FOR COAL is an ambitious, over-the-top history that nonetheless is worth reading if you are interested in (a) the history of coal mining and the coal industry in America, (b) the conflict between capital and labor as played out in the coal fields of Colorado, or even (c) the Ludlow Massacre.
However, the latter part of the book doesn't live up to the promise of the prologue. The prologue discusses how the unrest spread from the miners into other sectors of the working class and how it looked like the strikers might take over the state, but that isn't really covered in the section covering the battles between the strikers and the guardsmen after the Ludlow Massacre. The battles aren't covered in great detail either. Finally, although the prologue discusses the trials of the strike organizers afterward and how various factors (including anti-Communism and even a period of dominance by the Klan) "encouraged" the miners to forget how they'd outright defeated the state government, there is almost nothing about the aftermath. Considering how well-done the early parts of the book are, this is a major missed opportunity.
Still, it's a very informative book and definitely worth a read.