Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology

2014 Edition
| Editors: Claire Smith

Labor Archaeology

  • Paul A. Shackel
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-0465-2_1618


The rise of industry transformed labor and impacted landscapes, gender roles, and living conditions. Today, in most of the Americas and across Europe, the evidence of these industrial signatures is found in the form of rusting factories, abandoned buildings, deserted mines, scarred landscapes, and decaying cities and towns. These are all reminders of an economy that was once dominated by industrial capitalism for more than a century. While most of the factory production has moved to Asia, many communities in the Americas and in Europe debate about how to use and interpret these abandoned industrial properties. Archaeologists are involved in documenting the industrial past, and this work ranges from recording the engineering and technological feats to studying labor and working-class conditions.


Labor archaeology is about examining issues of power, resistance, and the affects of industrialization from the perspective of the laboring classes.

Historical Background

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Further Reading

  1. Gordon, R.B & P.M. Malone. 1994. The texture of Industry: an archaeological view of industry in North America. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
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  3. Little, B.J. 1994. People with history: An update on historical archaeology in the United States. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 1(1): 5-40.Google Scholar
  4. Mcguire, R.H. & R. Paynter (ed.) 1991. The archaeology of inequality. Cambridge: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  5. Montgomery, D. 1979. Worker’s control in America: studies in the history of work, technology, and labor struggle. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Shackel, P.A. & D.L. Larsen. 2000. Labor, racism, and the built environment in early industrial Harpers Ferry, in J. Delle, R. Paynter & S. Mrozowski (ed.) Lines that divide: historical archaeologies of race, class, and gender: 22-39. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.Google Scholar
  7. Silliman, S.W. 2006. Struggling with labor, working with identities, in M. Hall & S.W. Silliman (ed.) Historical archaeology: 147-66. Malden: Blackwell Publishers.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA