Toni Gilpin has written a splendid history of industrial conflict. Big capital in the title refers to the implacably antiunion owners of the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, which in 1902 merged into International Harvester (IH). The radical labor of the title are mainly the officers, shop stewards, and the rank and file of the United Farm Equipment Workers (FE), a left-wing union that successfully organized the McCormick/IH workers in the late 1930s. The resulting story of class war is powerfully told and deeply researched. It is also a story of contemporary relevance that opens windows on big historical questions.

The author began this study in the 1980s as a doctoral student in the Yale history department and part of a cohort mentored by David Montgomery. In many ways, Gilpin delivers on what was so exciting and promising about that historiographical moment....

You do not currently have access to this content.