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Topsail Alley: Labor Networks and Social Conflict on the New York Waterfront in the Age of Revolution

Luecke, Mirelle (2019) Topsail Alley: Labor Networks and Social Conflict on the New York Waterfront in the Age of Revolution. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation explores how the movement of workers around the Atlantic shaped emerging understandings of politics, labor, and society in the United States. Focusing on early republican New York City between 1790 and 1820, it examines the interplay between land and sea labor, arguing that the transatlantic mobility of the “floating population” shaped how transient laborers found work, shared knowledge, formed identities, and participated in politics and society. The term “floating population” describes the array of workers at the heart of this study: sailors and other semi-skilled and unskilled workers – both male and female – such as washerwomen, dockworkers, peddlers, day laborers, servants, and the enslaved, whose precarious employment meant that they drifted from job to job and from city to city.

The radical turmoil of the Age of Revolution serves as the backdrop for this study. The upheavals of the American Revolution, the French and Haitian Revolutions, and resistance and rebellion in England and Ireland sent massive numbers of people in motion around the Atlantic in search of work, subsistence, and liberty, thereby shaping the political and social relations of many Atlantic ports, especially New York city. In this era, American political and economic elites sought to create an orderly workforce that would allow them to expand commerce and national prosperity. The floating population alternatively both embraced and challenged emerging perceptions of national belonging and citizenship, the politics of immigration, the practice of commerce, and the development of city space. Placing this transient working population at the center of the narrative highlights the Atlantic influences that shaped developing national ideologies in the early republic and offers a new approach to its labor history.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Luecke, Mirellemgl14@pitt.edumgl140000-0001-7435-3405
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairRediker,
Committee CoChairHoock,
Committee MemberFrykman,
Committee MemberMarkoff,
Date: 25 June 2019
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 11 January 2019
Approval Date: 25 June 2019
Submission Date: 3 March 2019
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 270
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: American history; Atlantic history; social history; maritime; precarious labor; floating population
Date Deposited: 25 Jun 2019 21:33
Last Modified: 25 Jun 2019 21:33


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