Behemoth: A History of the Factory and the Making of the Modern World

Norton. Feb. 2018. 448p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780393246315. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393246322. HIST
In this expansive new book, Freeman (history, Queens Coll.; Working-Class New York) traces the history of factories from their advent in 18th-century England to their dissemination throughout America and the Soviet Union as 20th-century symbols of progress and modernity, and finally their migration to China and other countries in Asia. A recurring character throughout is American carmaker Henry Ford, and an integral idea to factories is that of mass production and automation. The book satisfyingly shows the undiscriminating reach of Fordism from America to Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. Besides focusing on the rise and spread of factories, changes in factory labor, and creation and struggle of unions, Freeman also looks at the way factories permeated the culture of art, literature, movies, and politics. Present-day factories are bigger than ever but are no longer the beacons of culture, progress, and modernity they once were. Instead, factory life is shrouded in mystery and working conditions are mired in scandal.
VERDICT Freeman has provided an ambitious, sweeping, and well-researched history of factories, which remains accessible and relevant to general readers.
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