Hazards of the Job

From Industrial Disease to Environmental Health Science

By Christopher C. Sellers

350 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 16 halftones, 6 figs, notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4798-5
    Published: August 1999
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-6445-6
    Published: November 2000

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Hazards of the Job explores the roots of modern environmentalism in the early-twentieth-century United States. It was in the workplace of this era, argues Christopher Sellers, that our contemporary understanding of environmental health dangers first took shape. At the crossroads where medicine and science met business, labor, and the state, industrial hygiene became a crucible for molding midcentury notions of corporate interest and professional disinterest as well as environmental concepts of the 'normal' and the 'natural.' The evolution of industrial hygiene illuminates how powerfully battles over knowledge and objectivity could reverberate in American society: new ways of establishing cause and effect begat new predicaments in medicine, law, economics, politics, and ethics, even as they enhanced the potential for environmental control. From the 1910s through the 1930s, as Sellers shows, industrial hygiene investigators fashioned a professional culture that gained the confidence of corporations, unions, and a broader public. As the hygienists moved beyond the workplace, this microenvironment prefigured their understanding of the environment at large. Transforming themselves into linchpins of science-based production and modern consumerism, they also laid the groundwork for many controversies to come.

About the Author

Christopher C. Sellers holds an M.D. and also a Ph.D. in American studies. He is associate professor of history at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
For more information about Christopher C. Sellers, visit the Author Page.

Reviews

“A valuable contribution to multiple fields and there is much within it that can be mined depending on one’s interest. It is a challenging but rewarding read for anyone interested in the history of environmentalism.”—Not Even Past

"A well-written narrative history of this diverse and not very cohesive field using data gathered from a wide variety of sources. . . . Sellers is a first-rate researcher and capable writer who has succeeded in making order out of a tangled web of strands from very diverse sources."--Journal of the History of Medicine

"A major achievement with wide-ranging implications for business history and the history of medicine and government in twentieth-century America."--Business History

"Sellers reconceptualizes the history of workplace health, making it as significant to historians of medicine and the environment as it has long been to scholars of labor and economics."--Journal of American History

"Demonstrate[s] a profound sensitivity and deep understanding of workers' day to day concerns, the nuances of their political philosophies, and the goals of their collective actions. No one has done a better job in recapturing the authentic voices of rank and file workers; no one has done more to place workers' struggles into the larger historical narrative."--The Americas