Killing for Coal: America’s Deadliest Labor War

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Killing for Coal: America’s Deadliest Labor War
Series Title:
Killing for Coal: America’s Deadliest Labor War
Rees, Jonathan
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
Center for Colorado and the West
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Auraria Library
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Auraria Library
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Killing for Coal: Americas Deadliest Labor War | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 1:12:15 PM] Home Killing for Coal: Americas Deadliest Labor WarKilling for Coal: Americas Deadliest Labor WarSubmitted by cowestadmin on 9-26-2009 08:22 PMAuthor: Thomas G. Andrews Publishing: Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008. Index, photos, maps, endnotes. x + 386 pages. 6.5" x 9.5". $29.95 hardcover. Reviewer: Jonathan Rees Reviewer Affiliation: Colorado State University-Pueblo Thomas Andrews has written a book that is very hard to describe. Indeed, the most obvious explanation doesnt make sense at first blush: an environmental history of the Ludlow Massacre. One might better describe it as a book about the relationship between coal miners, their employers, and the environment in which they worked. The parts of Killing for Coal are stronger than the book as a whole. Nevertheless, any potential reader should understand that these are very strong parts. The book begins and ends with Ludlow. Other subjects include a chapter on William Jackson Palmer that ably merges his activities in Colorado with the rest of his life, a discussion of how coal changed Colorados environment both indoors and out, and absolutely the best examination I have ever seen of exactly what coal miners did day in and day out underground. In this last section, Andrews describes the employers and employees conflicting visions of time and effort that are at the heart of any labor conflict. Andrews also contributes to a recent renaissance of Ludlow Massacre scholarship with an analysis of the 1913-1914 Colorado coal strike that takes into account the entire conflict rather than just one tragic day. His research on the miners angry and violent reaction to the massacre is particularly good. When Andrews describes the coal miners environment he does not just mean the coal and the rock. He examines their relationship with mules, rats, and even the air they breathed. Andrewss discussion of more traditional topics like company stores and company towns are marked by a subtlety that cannot be found in the traditional one-sided labor histories that cover these topics. Most importantly, since his analysis of the Coalfield War is based on the conflicting visions of the environment possessed by each side, it is both fresh and provocative. This perspective, however, also explains why Andrews cannot convincingly tie all of these fascinating pieces together. Instead of moving forward with his analysis of the struggle for control of the workplace, Andrews falls back on an almost exclusively environmental explanation of the Coalfield War and subsequent massacre. While he correctly links unsafe conditions to the struggle for a union, Colorado coal mines were unsafe long after miners had more control of their environment. Unionization, which both sides agreed was the ultimate reason for the strike, does not get its due in Killing for Coal The coal miners and the family members who died at Ludlow risked their lives and their EXPLORE BY MEDIABook Reviews Photographs Video Biographies New Publications Resource Guides County Newspaper HistoriesEXPLORE BY TOPICLand & Natural Resources Government & Law Agriculture Mining Commerce & Industry Transportation People & Places Communication Healthcare & Medicine Education & Libraries Cultural Communities Recreation & Entertainment Tourism ReligionEXPLORE BY CULTUREHispanic Native AmericanNow, thats wrong! Some of these Japanese are citizens of the United States. Colorado Gov. Ralph Carrs response to Executive Order 9066 forcing Japanese into internment camps during WWII.


Killing for Coal: Americas Deadliest Labor War | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 1:12:15 PM] livelihoods in order to join the United Mine Workers of America, not to better control their natural environment. To explain the culminating event of a strike for unionization apart from class struggle does not do justice to that conflict. Workers struggle to form unions in order to win a bigger piece of the pie from their employers, and while Andrewss environmental perspective is extremely interesting, his analysis suffers from his failure to properly acknowledge this fact. For those interested in a more conventional history of the Colorado Coal War and Ludlow Massacre, there is another recent book that discusses the union in a comprehensive and balanced manner. Scott Martelles Blood Passion: The Ludlow Massacre and Class War in the American West (Rutgers University Press, 2007) is a compact, well-researched history of this tragedy that brings the miners aims and activities into sharp focus. What it lacks is Andrewss extraordinary grasp of the strikes context. For a complete picture of this seminal event in Colorado history, I would read these two works together as they complement each other beautifully. Reviewer Info: Jonathan Rees is associate professor of history at Colorado State UniversityPueblo. His history of the Rockefeller Plan (the company union at the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company) will be published by the University Press of Colorado in late 2009. Add new commentComments It really seems interesting Permalink Submitted by Anonymous on 6-8-2010 03:18 PMIt really seems interesting, I wrote an essay about the coal workers in the 19' s. I will have to look around in the bookstore to find this one. Thanks. -------------------------Daniel E. reply good read indeed Permalink Submitted by Anonymous on 9-2-2010 02:50 AMThe coal miners are important legacy of our country. Praises are in order for Mr. Thomas G. Andrews for this comprehensive book. I am a history student and I have learned so much from reading this book. It was really a good read. There is just so much to learn about the life of coal miners as well as the times that contributed greatly to the decisions made by people of that generation.