Although Michael D. Thompson modestly never mentions it in the acknowledgments, the dissertation on which Working on the Dock of the Bay: Labor and Enterprise in an Antebellum Southern Port is based won the 2011 Hines Prize from the College of Charleston’s Program in the Carolina Lowcountry and the Atlantic World. It well deserved that award. Historians have written about Charleston’s waterfront before the revolution and about the struggles of a free and biracial workforce to negotiate the waterfront in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Fewer scholars have examined the period between the 1780s and the 1860s, perhaps because it seemed relatively static and thus less interesting. This book proves the error of such an assumption. Its nearest comparator might be Seth Rockman’s Scraping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early Baltimore (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009), although Thompson’s work is more tightly focused on the...

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