I don’t know much about the Haymarket Riot of 1886 beyond a general knowledge that one might have when teaching a U.S. survey course. But I still found this discussion of the work of Haymarket scholar Timothy Messer-Kruse to be absolutely fascinating. (You may recall that about a year ago we did a post on Messer-Kruse’s problems with Wikipedia).
Messer-Kruse, a labor historian at Bowling Green State University, has challenged the liberal orthodoxy of Haymarket historiography and has received some pretty harsh reviews of his work in return. (Interestingly enough, Messer-Kruse is himself a liberal).
However, as John J. Miller notes in his story in The National Review, Messer-Kruse has persevered. In the process he has brought some significant changes to how we understand this landmark event in 19th century labor history. His book, The Trial of the Haymarket Anarchists; Terrorism and Justice in the Gilded Age was recently chosen as the book of the year by Labor History journal. He has also published The Haymarket Conspiracy: Transatlantic Anarchist Networks.
Here is a taste of Miller’s piece:
The question stumped Messer-Kruse. “It had not occurred to me before,” he says. He muttered a few words about lousy evidence and paid witnesses. “But I didn’t really know,” he recalls. “I told her I’d look it up.” As he checked out the standard sources, he failed to find good answers. The semester ended and the student moved on, but her question haunted him. “My interest grew into an obsession.” As Messer-Kruse began to look more closely, he started to wonder if the true story of Haymarket was fundamentally different from the version he and just about everybody else had been told.
Read the rest here.