History from the Bottom Up and the Inside Out

Ethnicity, Race, and Identity in Working-Class History

Book Pages: 304 Illustrations: Published: August 2017

Author: James R. Barrett

Contributor: David Roediger

History > U.S. History, Sociology, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

In History from the Bottom Up and the Inside Out James R. Barrett rethinks the boundaries of American social and labor history by investigating the ways in which working-class, radical, and immigrant people's personal lives intersected with their activism and religious, racial, ethnic, and class identities. Concerned with carving out space for individuals in the story of the working class, Barrett examines all aspects of individuals' subjective experiences, from their personalities, relationships, and emotions to their health and intellectual pursuits. Barrett's subjects include American communists, "blue-collar cosmopolitans"—such as well-read and well-traveled porters, sailors, and hoboes—and figures in early twentieth-century anarchist subculture. He also details the process of the Americanization of immigrant workers via popular culture and their development of class and racial identities, asking how immigrants learned to think of themselves as white. Throughout, Barrett enriches our understanding of working people’s lives, making it harder to objectify them as nameless cogs operating within social and political movements. In so doing, he works to redefine conceptions of work, migration, and radical politics.


“A stimulating collection of essays by one of the USA’s finest historians of the working-class experience.” — Gregory S. Kealey, Labour/Le Travail

"James R. Barrett’s History from the Bottom Up and the Inside Out defies categorization. It is not singularly a memoir, nor a historiographical examination, nor a book about new approaches to history; it is an amalgam of all three. . . . . Barrett in this book not only synthesizes samples of his previous work, but offers a manifesto of sorts to young scholars for how labor history could be made of flesh and blood." — Robert Cassanello, American Historical Review

"History from the Bottom Up presents a lesson in reflexivity and the process of historical study. . . . This book should be read by all scholars who want to learn more about the process of historical thinking. It is accessible and thought-provoking, arguing persuasively for a closer examination of our own motivations in researching history, as well as a declaration in favour of making the political personal." — Sophie Cooper, Immigrants & Minorities

"History from the Bottom Up & Inside Out challenges labor and working-class historians to widen their lenses to include more room for identities, emotions, and personal lives for their own sake but also to incorporate those understandings into studies of movements, politics, and power. . . . As an historian, it is exciting to begin reading an introduction and wonder, ‘How is the author going to pull this off?’ After reading History from the Bottom Up & Inside Out, I found myself asking, ‘How are we going to pull this off?’" — Lou Martin, Journal of Working Class Studies

"History from the Bottom Up and the Inside Out is an exemplary life's work." — Christopher Phelps, Labour History Review

"Here’s how to read James Barrett’s marvellous new collection of essays. Begin with his opening call for American labour historians to pay more attention to the inner worlds of working people . . . so as to give their lives the complexity they deserve. Then flip to the final essay and make your way, one by one, back to the first, following Barrett’s distinguished career as he closes in on the standard he has set for the field." — Kevin Boyle, Social History

"Barrett makes a persuasive case for the utility and beauty of an inside-out approach to labour and working-class history. . . . With its unique, even refreshing mix of the personal and the political—both in content and form—I can see History from the Bottom Up & Inside Out featuring on graduate reading lists for years to come." — Kathryn Olivarius, Canadian Journal of History

“Barrett’s collection of essays is a wonderful book, a model for effective historical method. Students of history, whether practicing scholars or graduate students, will learn much from Barrett’s rigorous approach.”

— Thomas Castillo, Labor

"I found this stirring collection of essays completely absorbing. James R. Barrett incisively weaves together the fabric of his own life experience with the trajectory of the new labor history in which he played a central part. From his astute discussion of faith in the lives of working people to his persuasive explorations of working-class culture and class, Barrett pushes us to consider the relevance of working-class history to contemporary politics." — Alice Kessler-Harris, author of Gendering Labor History

"These sparkling essays catch a mature and prodigious talent in an uncommonly contemplative mood. James R. Barrett ranges across the field's core themes of class, race, and ethnicity (including an original take on the whole Thompsonian paradigm), then uses his own personal intellectual and political coming of age as an opening to new inquiries about work and individual identity." — Leon Fink, author of The Long Gilded Age: American Capitalism and the Lessons of a New World Order


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

James R. Barrett is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the author and editor of several books, most recently, The Irish Way: Becoming American in the Multiethnic City.

David Roediger is Foundation Professor of American Studies at the University of Kansas and the author of Seizing Freedom: Slave Emancipation and Liberty for All.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Foreword / David R. Roediger  ix
Acknowledgments  xvii
Introduction. The Subjective Side of Working-Class History  1
1. The Blessed Virgin Made Me a Socialist Historian: An Experiment in Catholic Autobiography and the Historical Understanding of Race and Class  7
2. Was the Personal Political? Reading the Autobiography of American Communism  33
3. Revolution and Personal Crisis: William Z. Foster, Personal Narrative, and the Subjective in the History of American Communism  58
4. Blue-Collar Cosmopolitans: Toward a History of Working-Class Sophistication in Industrial America  77
5. The Bohemian Writer and the Radical Woodworker: A Study in Class Relations  102
6. Americanization from the Botton Up: Immigration and the Remaking of the Working Class in the United States, 1880–1930  122
7. Inbetween Peoples: Race, Nationality, and the "New Immigrant" Working Class / James R. Barrett and David R. Roediger  145
8. Irish Americanization on Stage: How Irish Musicians, Playwrights, and Writers Created a New Urban American Culture, 1880–1940  175
9. Making and Unmaking the Working Class: E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class, and the "New Labor History" in the United States  192
Notes  209
Selected Bibliography  273
Index  277
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6979-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6967-7
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