History 248 Reading Guide

Industrialization:  New Technologies, the Reorganization of Production, and Cultural Change and Conflict for Workers

  • Chad Montrie, "'I Think Less of the Factory than of My Native Dell': Labor, Nature, and the Lowell 'Mill Girls'," Environmental History, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Apr., 2004), 275-295.  JSTOR 
  • Thomas Dublin, “Rural-Urban Migrants in Industrial New England: The Case of Lynn, Massachusetts, in the Mid-Nineteenth Century,” Journal of American History 73.3 (1986), 623-644.  JSTOR

Further reading:

  • Ira Berlin, Herbert G. Gutman, “Natives and Immigrants, Free Men and Slaves: Urban Workingmen in the Antebellum American South,” American Historical Review 88.5 (1983), 1175-1200.  JSTOR


  • In his study of textile mill workers in Lowell, how does Montrie describe their previous relationship with the rural environment and with nature as daughters involved in domestic production on farms? How conscious a relationship had this been for these young women?
  • What changes and contrasts did mill workers draw between their experiences with nature on rural New England farms and their current experiences as factory workers in a growing industrial town?
  • To what extent can Montrie separate the influence of romantic poetry and fiction from memories and recollections of their own experiences with nature, in the writings of mill workers who expressed their longing to return home? How did writers who were more critical of the work environment in the factories incorporate comparisons with the natural environment?
  • Did the evolving environmental consciousness that Montrie describes inspire resistance to mill labor (or the conditions of labor), or did writers use that to express disillusionment and discontent that stemmed from other concerns? To what extent did Lowell mill workers focus their critique on industrial capitalism as the source of the problem?
  • According to Dublin, in what ways was the migration to Lynn part of a larger a community phenomenon?  How does he describe the evolution of the boot and shoe industry in Lynn and the economic circumstances nearby counties and countryside from which its migrants came?
  • In what ways was the migration “fundamentally a family phenomenon”? According to Dublin, how did the migrants’ families of origin shape/influence their decisions to migrate to Lynn in the years between 1850 and 1880, and their decisions to stay in Lynn or return to their hometowns?
  • How does Dublin explain the remarkable residential persistence of Lynn’s working class community?
  • How did the residential stability of the community contribute to, rather than hinder, organized economic and political protest?