Beasts of the Field: A Narrative History of California Farmwokers, 1769-1913

Overview


Written by one of America's preeminent labor historians, this book is the definitive account of one of the most spectacular, captivating, complex and strangely neglected stories in Western history—the emergence of migratory farmworkers and the development of California agriculture.

Street has systematically worked his way through a mountain of archival materials—more than 500 manuscript collections, scattered in 22 states, including Spain and Mexico—to follow the farmworker ...

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Overview


Written by one of America's preeminent labor historians, this book is the definitive account of one of the most spectacular, captivating, complex and strangely neglected stories in Western history—the emergence of migratory farmworkers and the development of California agriculture.

Street has systematically worked his way through a mountain of archival materials—more than 500 manuscript collections, scattered in 22 states, including Spain and Mexico—to follow the farmworker story from its beginnings on Spanish missions into the second decade of the twentieth century. The result is a comprehensive tour de force. Scene by scene, the epic narrative clarifies and breathes new life into a controversial and instructive saga long surrounded by myth, conjecture, and scholarly neglect.

With its panoramic view spanning 144 years and moving from the US-Mexico border to Oregon, Beasts of the Field reveals diverse patterns of life and labor in the fields that varied among different crops, regions, time periods, and racial and ethic groups.

Enormous in scope, packed with surprising twists and turns, and devastating in impact, this compelling, revelatory work of American social history will inform generations to come of the history of California and the nation.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

". . . [Street] has produced a work of monumental scholarship."—Los Angeles Times Book Review

"[Street's] meticulous research comes alive with his passionate prose as he documents the march of history from the "bottom up" in the tradition of E.P. Thompson's The History of the English Working Class.—California History

"In Beasts of the Field, [Street] synthesizes thirty years of research into a compelling and highly readable account written with insight and empathy."—History Workshop Journal

"Richard Street's two books offer a new benchmark in the history of agricultural labor, with a perceptive, fascinating Californian focus. Only 1,283 pages? I wanted to look and read further."—Anthropology of Work Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804738804
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2004
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 936
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 2.20 (d)

Meet the Author


Richard Steven Street is an independent scholar and writer. He has held a Guggenheim Fellowship and has also been a fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center. He earned his doctorate in American labor history at the University of Wisconsin, and has been an award-winning photographer and journalist specializing in California agriculture and agricultural labor. He is the author of Organizing for Our Lives: New Voices from Rural Communities (1992). He is currently finishing a multivolume history of California farmworkers.
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Table of Contents

List of illustrations
Preface
Ch. 1 In the nets of heaven : the campesino on the Spanish frontier 3
Ch. 2 Bird herders, stirrup boys, and naked winemakers : assembling a labor force 21
Ch. 3 Always trembling with fear : controlling mission farmworkers 38
Ch. 4 No longer keep up by force : accommodation and resistance among mission field hands 60
Ch. 5 Not free to be idle : life and labor on the Mexican ranchos and American farms 89
Ch. 6 To the highest bidder : native field hands and gold rush agriculture 115
Ch. 7 They have filled our jails and graveyards : the decline of Indian labor 135
Ch. 8 Between the teeth of the cylinder : the emergence of migratory labor and farm technology 161
Ch. 9 Open-air factories : industrialization of labor on the bonanza wheat farms 178
Ch. 10 Hell's fury and liquid fire : the coarse culture of wheat harvesters and threshers 205
Ch. 11 Trustworthy laborers : Chinese infiltration into irrigated agriculture 235
Ch. 12 Bought like any other commodity : China bosses and gang labor 258
Ch. 13 The Chinese must go! : community, Chinatowns, and the anti-Chinese movement 286
Ch. 14 More manpower from a pinto of rice : sugar beets, short-handled hoes, and Chinese exclusion 307
Ch. 15 Snapping their fingers in our faces : human pesticides, labor shortages, child labor, and the response to exclusion 334
Ch. 16 Worn out, bent, and discouraged : Chinese labor (almost) disappears from the fields 371
Ch. 17 Running from vine to vine : Japanese farmworkers and the beginning of labor militancy 407
Ch. 18 Blood spots on the moon : the 1903 Oxnard sugar beet workers strike 440
Ch. 19 Exact everything possible : Keiyaku-nin, Mexicans, Sikhs, and the quest for labor stability 470
Ch. 20 Handle the fruit like eggs! : the Japanese shift from field-workers to farmers 497
Ch. 21 Blinky Joe, Red Mike, and Hobo Sam : bindlemen on the move 527
Ch. 22 As rotten as ever : jungle camps, slave markets, and the main stem 548
Ch. 23 The privilege of quitting : death, discontent, and alienation 572
Ch. 24 I've been robbed : the struggle to organize farmworkers 596
Abbreviations 629
Notes 635
Acknowledgments 871
Index 877
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