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Ten Years of This Day in Labor History


Ten years ago today, new to this blog, I decided to start a series called “This Day in Labor History.” The first post was on the Homestead Strike in 1892. Intended to bring necessary knowledge about the labor movement and its history to the readers of this blog, it’s been one of the defining things of my entire life. Out of this came A History of America in Ten Strikes, an actual legitimate successful book by the standards of an academic history. Several years ago, I decided to spin these out into discussions on Twitter, which have proven pretty popular. More recently, I’ve started publishing a few of these on Wonkette, expanded and with some reading recommendations. So that’s been fun. I like preaching the doctrine of labor history, in all its complexities and not some romantic ridiculousness. That’s the one criticism I really get, even from some other labor historians. I’m not really on the team. Well, I guess that’s true. I’d rather present complex histories instead of whatever fits the current talking points of contemporary left politics. It may surprise some of you, as it surprises friends of mine both inside and outside the academy, that most of the attacks on this work come from the “left,” if we want to call it that, though I would probably call it “people who want to celebrate the Haymarket anarchists as heroes instead of thinking about the past critically.”

In any case, I recently published my 400th post in the series, on the 1888 London matchgirls strike. I actually enjoy these posts more now that we’ve moved beyond the biggest events in labor history and I can get into the weeds. They do take longer to write, which is kind of a pain sometimes when I’m busy. But in 10 years, I’ve never missed a scheduled post, which I take a certain Protestant work ethic pride in. Over the past few years, I’ve made the series at least somewhat more international (probably about 20% of the posts over the past few years have been outside the US; these take vastly more work for me) while really digging into various issues in American history. I know that I need to do more to make the archive useful. Bijan Parsia set his students on it a bit and that was cool, but ideally I would do more with it. The problems here are a) time and b) my complete incompetence at things like this.

Anyway, I don’t have a labor history post for today. In fact, I don’t have another one scheduled until August, which will in fact be a very heavy month for the series. But since it was meaningful for me to celebrate this anniversary, I hope you can indulge this trip down memory lane.

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