Cover: Unfree Labor in PAPERBACK

Unfree Labor

American Slavery and Russian Serfdom

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Product Details


$49.50 • £39.95 • €44.50

ISBN 9780674920989

Publication Date: 03/01/1990


534 pages

6-3/8 x 9-1/4 inches

4 maps, 2 halftones, 11 tables

Belknap Press


Comparative history is a tricky business and Unfree Labor succeeds where many previous ventures into this genre have failed.—Richard S. Dunn, The Times Literary Supplement

A learned and sophisticated book in the tradition of high scholarship, as well as a book written to be read and enjoyed. Those who share a taste for comparative history will be taken with the author’s spirit of play, his readiness to ask ‘what if,’ and his zest for experiment and discovery.—C. Vann Woodward, The New York Review of Books

In its balance of interpretation, clarity of exposition, and depth and breadth of research, the book is exceptional. Moreover, it is a model of comparative analysis, displaying, as too few such studies have ever done, the complexities and the value of historical comparison.—Carl N. Degler, Journal of Social History

Students of servile labor systems, slave and serf, and of American and Russian history, have needed, and have known they needed, a book like this for a long time… This is indeed a splendid and indispensable book… Required reading for American historians.—Eugene D. Genovese, Journal of Economic History

Kolchin’s book is a work of staggering erudition as regards the literature and sources concerning both Russian serfdom and American slavery. His comparative study offers significant insight into both systems of bondage. There is nothing remotely comparable in the literature in Russian or English, and Kolchin’s writing is always lucid.—Daniel Field, Russian Research Center, Harvard University

Kolchin’s stupendous research effort and sensitive reading of the evidence have resulted in an original, perceptive, and significant book. Admirably proving the enormous value of comparative study, Kolchin’s analysis provides fresh insights into the nature of unfree labor in general and slavery and serfdom in particular. And despite its sophistication and its length, the book is a good read; it is clear, cogent, and free of academic jargon. This is a splendid study.—Harold D. Woodman, Purdue University

Awards & Accolades

  • 1988 Bancroft Prize, Columbia University
  • 1988 Charles S. Sydnor Award, Southern Historical Association
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