The Factory
A Social History of Work and Technology
by Allison Marsh
December 2018, 165pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Greenwood

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-5332-6
$43, £34, 38€, A59
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-5333-3
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

The first textile factory in the United States opened in 1790, had 72 spindles, and was operated by nine workers.

The book goes beyond the assembly line to examine the physical environment of the industrial landscape.

What machines are used to make cars and computer chips? Who are the people who make the products? When did robots replace humans on the assembly line? Why are factories configured the way they are?

The Factory: A Social History of Work and Technology answers these questions and more, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look into the wonders of mass production. The book traces the history of the factory from the first small cottage workshop through the Industrial Revolution to the large, clean room it is today. It also examines the people behind the machines and how their roles have been defined by the design of factory buildings. Lastly, it illustrates the broader world of industrialization in relation to the effects it has had on workers and the consumer society that feeds it.


  • Appeals to readers interested in world history, industrial tourism, and the robotics industry
  • Explains the significance of the factory to American history and culture
  • Tells the story of American factory work through spaces and objects
  • Details how factory buildings have evolved over the years
Allison Marsh is director of Public History at the University of South Carolina. She supervises graduate students in material culture and museum studies. Her work focuses on how the general public comes to understand technology in informal learning environments. She recently published on the orphaned engineering collections at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. She is chair of the IEEE History Committee and chair of the Curriculum and Training Committee of the National Council on Public History. She received her PhD from Johns Hopkins University in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology.

History of Human Spaces

The History of Human Spaces series explores different rooms and social locations that humans have occupied throughout U.S. history, from the earliest colonial period through the present day. Focusing on the evolution of both private and public spaces, such as the bathroom and the schoolroom, each title in the series provides the history of a specific space as well as an overview of its architecture, materials, and design. Delving further into the social, cultural, political, and economic significance of each space, the series uncovers how these spaces have impacted American life and history.
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