Strikebreaking and Intimidation

Mercenaries and Masculinity in Twentieth-Century America

By Stephen H. Norwood

344 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 26 illus., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5373-3
    Published: May 2002
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-6046-5
    Published: April 2003
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-7556-3
    Published: April 2003

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This is the first systematic study of strikebreaking, intimidation, and anti-unionism in the United States, subjects essential to a full understanding of labor's fortunes in the twentieth century. Paradoxically, the country that pioneered the expansion of civil liberties allowed corporations to assemble private armies to disrupt union organizing, spy on workers, and break strikes. Using a social-historical approach, Stephen Norwood focuses on the mercenaries the corporations enlisted in their anti-union efforts--particularly college students, African American men, the unemployed, and men associated with organized crime. Norwood also considers the paramilitary methods unions developed to counter mercenary violence. The book covers a wide range of industries across much of the country.

Norwood explores how the early twentieth-century crisis of masculinity shaped strikebreaking's appeal to elite youth and the media's romanticization of the strikebreaker as a new soldier of fortune. He examines how mining communities' perception of mercenaries as agents of a ribald, sexually unrestrained, new urban culture intensified labor conflict. The book traces the ways in which economic restructuring, as well as shifting attitudes toward masculinity and anger, transformed corporate anti-unionism from World War II to the present.

About the Author

Stephen H. Norwood, professor of history at the University of Oklahoma, is author of the award-winning Labor's Flaming Youth: Telephone Operators and Worker Militancy, 1878-1923.
For more information about Stephen H. Norwood, visit the Author Page.


"An important collection of essays that deserves the attention of labor historians."--Labor

"It is easy to become engaged with this book. Norwood's writing is colorful and immediate. . . . Importantly, Strike-breaking and Intimidation reminds us of things that should not be forgotten--the intensity and unrelenting nature of class struggle, the power of capital and the fortitude of working people and their families."--Journal of Gender Studies

"By enriching traditional labor history with more recent discourses on gender roles and identities in the American workplace, Norwood has put together a solid, well researched, and enjoyable book. . . . Its style and content make it an excellent reading for laymen wishing to familiarize themselves with the new labor history; Norwood's skillful treatment of the subject matter, theoretical consistency, and thorough research make it mandatory reading for all serious students of American labor history."--Journal of Mississippi History

"Both labor historians and those currently contemplating college-sports-related riots will find much to think about in Norwood's story."--Journal of American History

"Norwood offers a fine survey of American anti-unionism. His treatment of the bitter Chicago teamster and meatpacking strikes of 1904-1905 adds much to the existing literature on those events."--American Historical Review

"Strikebreaking and Intimidation is a wonderfully readable, evocative, and economical work of history. Focused and well-crafted, the book draws the reader quickly and engagingly into the central issues and cultural processes at stake."--Journal of Social History