Friday, May 11, 2007

Reviewed: Johnson, Warriors into Workers: The Civil War and the Formation of Urban-Industrial Society in a Northern City

Those interested in the history of law and war at the ground level will want to know about Russell L. Johnson's book, reviewed on H-CivWar, and just posted on H-Net: Warriors into Workers: The Civil War and the Formation of Urban-Industrial Society in a Northern City (Fordham University Press, 2003). It is not a legal history, but lays out the rich terrain within which we could see wartime law operating. The book might also serve as a useful model for deeply contextualized legal histories related to war. (Dissertation topic seekers: these are tips for you!) It is reviewed by Bruce E. Baker, Department of History, Royal Holloway, University of London. Baker writes:
Russell L. Johnson's meticulously researched study is a very successful blend of two, or perhaps three, "new" kinds of history: the new military history, the new labor history, and the new social history. All of these "new" fields, of course, are as old as Johnson himself, but Warriors into Workers is one of the few monographs that attempts to bring these subfields together. By taking a detailed look at a city--Dubuque, Iowa--that was on the verge of major industrialization when the Civil War came along, Johnson examines the extent to which the experience of military service affected the transition of society from one based on farming, some mining, and commerce to one that would be increasingly dominated by industry in the postwar decades. The task he sets himself is to "[trace] the connection between the industrial workplace and the other great centralized, stratified, and authoritarian institution of the nineteenth century, the Union army" (p. 5). Using sophisticated analysis of the 1860 and 1870 censuses and thorough combing of local newspapers and a variety of local records, Johnson is able to present a fine-grained account of how Dubuque changed and how the war changed its veterans....
The second part of the book examines the military experience and its impact. Before the war, workers in Dubuque were overwhelmingly artisanal, experiencing a certain degree of independence, as Herbert Gutman, Sean Wilentz, and any number of labor historians have argued. Johnson's argument in this and the next chapter relies on an analogy: the experience of military life was very much like the experience of living in an urban-industrial situation in many important ways. The analogy is not exact, and Johnson never claims it is, but it is powerful nonetheless.
For the rest, click here.