Men Is Cheap
Exposing the Frauds of Free Labor in Civil War America
By Brian P. Luskey
296 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 20 halftones, notes, bibl., index
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-5432-4
Published: March 2020
eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-5433-1
Published: February 2020
Civil War America
Buy this Book
- Hardcover $37.50
- E-Book $26.99
Free E-Exam Copies
Men Is Cheap shows that in the process of winning the war, Northerners were forced to grapple with the frauds of free labor. Labor brokers, by helping to staff the Union military and Yankee households, did indispensable work that helped the Northern state and Northern employers emerge victorious. They also gave rise to an economic and political system that enriched the managerial class at the expense of laborers--a reality that resonates to this day.
About the Author
Brian P. Luskey is associate professor of history at West Virginia University and author of On the Make: Clerks and the Quest for Capital in Nineteenth-Century America.
For more information about Brian P. Luskey, visit the Author Page.
“Luskey offers a genuinely original take on the Civil War era, a combination of cultural, economic, social, and labor history. . . . The cast of characters is wide, including speculators, soldiers, enslaved and emancipated black people, and headstrong Irish domestic servants. Brokers, Luskey concludes, helped the Union achieve victory in war, but as agents of capitalism, they profited at the expense of those who did the actual work and fighting, a story that seems familiar enough in our own time.”--North Carolina Historical Review
"Brian P. Luskey has written a highly original and extremely compelling account of how the Civil War, a war fought for freedom, ultimately undermined and narrowed what freedom meant in the United States. A beautifully crafted, closely argued work."--Rosanne Currarino, author of The Labor Question in America: Economic Democracy in the Gilded Age
“A masterful work of historical research. Centering his story on a wide-ranging cast of brokers, speculators, merchants, soldiers, and formerly enslaved people, Brian Luskey examines deep flaws in the system of free labor at the very moment when it was supposed to deliver the nation from the oppression of chattel bondage. Luskey leaves no doubt that the Civil War marked a critical shift in the history of American labor and capitalism. Men Is Cheap is an eye-opening and absorbing read.”—Amy Murrell Taylor, author of Embattled Freedom: Journeys through the Civil War’s Slave Refugee Camps