THE GREAT COALFIELD WAR by George S. & Leonard F. Guttridge McGovern


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Senator McGovern's Ph.D. thesis, touched up for general readability by Guttridge, is the most extensive and fair-minded treatment yet published on the savage confrontation between the Colorado coal miners and owner-barons in 1913-14 which culminated in the strike-breaking murders at Lud-low of 13 women and children during the ""grimmest week in the history of American labor."" Not only does McGovern limn the historical conditions which prefigured the conflict but he graphically describes the specific discontents which fomented the miners' bitterness and eventual violence against the Colorado Fuel Company and its absentee-owner, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Obviously McGovern's sympathies are with the wretched miners (largely a polyglot of immigrants recruited as cheap labor from Europe) and their attempt to achieve bargaining power (the crux of the dispute), but his goal is getting at the historical truth and not the production of a labor manifesto; for example, he refutes the calumny that Rockefeller personally masterminded the strike from his New York office and therefore was directly responsible for the bloodshed -- ""This is unsupportable,"" says McGovern. There is good reason to believe (see Anson's McGovern, p. 163) that George McGovern's research into the Colorado Coalfield War had an enormous impact on the development of his political sensibilities and for this reason his dissertation takes on added interest. But in the main it will be read by labor historians as an authoritative account of one of the most classic and most brutal struggles between American labor and its adversary.

Pub Date: May 15th, 1972
ISBN: 0870813811
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin