Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

History Prof Wins Book Award

History Prof Wins Book Award

By Charlie Wang Special to the Hoya

Georgetown Associate Professor of history Joseph A. McCartin received the 1999 Philip Taft Labor History Prize earlier this month for his book about labor in America in the 20th century. The book, published by the North Carolina Press, is titled “Labor’s Great War: The Struggle for Industrial Democracy and the Origins of odern American Labor Relations, 1912-1921.”

The Philip Taft Labor History Prize is an annual competition sponsored by Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations which carries a $1,000 award. A committee composed of five professors from various national universities was responsible for choosing McCartin’s work to win this year’s prize. His book was chosen out of over 30 books submitted for review.

A reinterpretation of early 20th-century U.S. labor history, “Labor’s Great War” examines labor issues during the decade of the first World War. The book explores the political, economic and social forces that incited the conflict of the war and shows how rising labor militancy and the sudden erosion of managerial control in wartime workplaces combined to create an industrial crisis.

“I wrote the book in part out of some dissatisfaction with trends in my historical sub field of U.S. labor history,” McCartin said. “I wanted to write a history that connected workers’ stories of struggle at the shop floor level to a larger historical development: the emergence of a liberal state.”

Ileen Devault, who is a professor at Cornell, recently took over as chair of the committee. She said, “The 1999 Taft Prize decision was a difficult one. We had an unusually rich crop of excellent books, many of which will change the ways in which historians think about the main trends of labor history.”

Despite the strength of the competition, Nick Salvatore, a professor at Cornell and former chair of the committee, wrote in a press release that “the committee was impressed by the depth and creativity of [McCartin’s] research, the innovative analysis that raises important new issues, and the accessible style of the prose itself.”

Since publication, the book has received high praise and acclaim. Georgetown History Professor Michael Kazin, said cCartin’s book is “the best book ever written about American labor in the era of World War I.”

McCartin said that though he was happy about it, he “was both surprised and honored to receive the award.”

“If I were to do this book again, there are ways that I think I could improve it,” McCartin said.

McCartin said he is now working on a study of public employee unions and politics in the post-World War II era. “In this new project,” he said, “I want to use labor history to shed new light on the decline of the liberal state in the late 20th century.”

This fall, McCartin is teaching “History of American Labor Since 1870” and “America Between the Wars.” In the spring he is scheduled to teach “Studies in U.S. History II.”

The Philip Taft Labor History Prize committee is composed of Devault; Salvatore; Kazin; Melvyn Dubofsky, a professor of history and sociology at SUNY-Binghamton; James Gregory, a history professor at the University of Washington; and Cindy Hahamovitch a professor of history at the College of William and Mary.

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