Back to All Events

Mill Talk: The Factory and the Making of the Modern World

Behemoth Header.jpg

This talk is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served. Advance registration is required.

In this talk, based on his book, Behemoth: A History of the Factory and the Making of the Modern World, celebrated historian Joshua B. Freeman will provide an illuminating overview of the global history of the factory and its effects on society. - - And what better setting for this talk could there be than the first integrated factory in the world, the Francis Cabot Lowell Mill in Waltham Massachusetts, the longtime home of the Boston Manufacturing Company!

We live in a factory-made world: modern life is built on three centuries of advances in factory production, efficiency, and technology. But giant factories have also fueled our fears about the future since their beginnings, when William Blake called them "dark Satanic mills." Many factories that operated over the last two centuries - such as Homestead, River Rouge, and Foxconn - were known not only for their great productivity but also for the labor exploitation and class warfare they engendered, not to mention the environmental devastation caused by factory production from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution up to today.

In this major work of scholarship that is also wonderfully accessible, Professor Freeman tells the story of the factory and examines how it has reflected both our dreams and our nightmares of industrialization and social change. He whisks readers from the textile mills in England that powered the Industrial Revolution and the factory towns of New England, including Waltham, to the colossal steel and car plants of twentieth-century America, Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union and on to today's behemoths making sneakers, toys, and cellphones in China and Vietnam.

"Rich and ambitious. . . . More than an economic history, or a chronicle of architectural feats and labor movements, Behemoth depicts a world in retreat that still looms large in the national imagination." - The New York Times

"Fascinating. . . Freeman shows how factories have had an overwhelming influence on the way we work, think, move, play and fight." - Washington Post

"A lively chronicle of the factory [that] delves into the nitty-gritty of manufacturing [and] successfully melds together those nuggets with social history on the shop floor and beyond the factory walls." - Economist

"You may have no detailed knowledge of factories except that they can be converted into cool lofts. In that case, you'll learn much from historian Joshua Freeman." - Wall Street Journal

Joshua B. Freeman is a Distinguished Professor of History at Queens College and the Graduate Center of CUNY. His previous books include American Empire and Working-Class New York, among others. He lives in New York City.

This talk is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served. Advance registration is recommended.