England’s Great Transformation: Law, Labor and the Industrial Revolution (University of Chicago Press, 2016)


American Journal of Sociology

“An exemplar of comparative/historical sociological work, both theoretically and methodologically, seamlessly blending micro- and macro-levels of analysis empirically and analytically. . . . a powerful narrative that should have a big influence on sociological studies of labor and capitalism, both past and present.”


Jeffrey M. Haydu, University of California, San Diego

“Steinberg’s meticulous study rethinks the relationship between the labor process and the state, between market and society, and between base and superstructure during Britain’s industrial revolution. The law was thoroughly embedded in relations of production, and in ways that varied with local configurations of technology, labor requirements, and political power. That finding leads Steinberg to uncover other surprises: ‘free labor’ came to England later than usually thought, and it came with the backing of organized labor seeking protection, not by, but from the state. The book is compelling reading for students of labor, political economy, and comparative-historical sociology.”


Fred Block, University of California, Davis

“This is a major and extremely valuable work of scholarship. Through rigorous analysis, Steinberg develops a new argument of central importance to sociologists and social scientists. Steinberg argues that a fully modern employment structure did not emerge in England until the beginning of the twentieth century—a finding that has important implications for understanding the formation of the English working class and how this differs from the European Continent.”


Michael Burawoy, University of California, Berkeley

“Steinberg returns us to the question of labor control in nineteenth-century England, and in meticulous detail shows how the law becomes an instrument of capitalist exploitation. England’s Great Transformation’s focus on the legal basis of work organization is not only of historical significance—it is as pertinent to today’s on-demand economy as it is to Chinese state capitalism. A thrilling book that plunges into the important debates about the nature of workplace politics.”


Victorian Studies

“[England’s Great Transformation] is in many ways a model of theoretically informed historical analysis: it is intelligently conceived, clearly written, and deeply researched. In that sense, it is a valuable contribution to our understanding of labor relations in nineteenth-century Britain.”


Labour / Le Travail

“A fascinating and thought-provoking work of historical sociology.”