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Risk

Negotiating Safety in American Society

Arwen P. Mohun

Publication Date
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How have Americans confronted, managed, and even enjoyed the risks of daily life?

Winner of the Ralph Gomory Prize of the Business History Conference

"Risk" is a capacious term used to describe the uncertainties that arise from physical, financial, political, and social activities. Practically everything we do carries some level of risk—threats to our bodies, property, and animals. How do we determine when the risk is too high? In considering this question, Arwen P. Mohun offers a thought-provoking study of danger and how people have managed it from pre-industrial and industrial America up until...

How have Americans confronted, managed, and even enjoyed the risks of daily life?

Winner of the Ralph Gomory Prize of the Business History Conference

"Risk" is a capacious term used to describe the uncertainties that arise from physical, financial, political, and social activities. Practically everything we do carries some level of risk—threats to our bodies, property, and animals. How do we determine when the risk is too high? In considering this question, Arwen P. Mohun offers a thought-provoking study of danger and how people have managed it from pre-industrial and industrial America up until today.

Mohun outlines a vernacular risk culture in early America, one based on ordinary experience and common sense. The rise of factories and machinery eventually led to shocking accidents, which, she explains, risk-management experts and the "gospel of safety" sought to counter. Finally, she examines the simultaneous blossoming of risk-taking as fun and the aggressive regulations that follow from the consumer-products-safety movement.

Risk and society, a rapidly growing area of historical research, interests sociologists, psychologists, and other social scientists. Americans have learned to tame risk in both the workplace and the home. Yet many of us still like amusement park rides that scare the devil out of us; they dare us to take risks.

Reviews

Reviews

A thought-provoking study of danger and how people have managed it in American from preindustrial and industrial times up until today.

Risk is a fascinating exploration of culture, history, and mankind's tenuous grasp on saving itself from accidents.

Writing in a lucid style, Mohun gives an impressive overview of the American transition from vernacular to expert-centered or state-driven risk regimes.

Mohun’s claims are persuasively argued, well documented, rooted in the everyday experiences of knowledgeable historical contemporaries, and animated by the broad political, social, and cultural changes that define modernization.

Mohun's comprehensive approach registers a major contribution that takes safety history a big step forward.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
344
ISBN
9781421407906
Illustration Description
21 halftones
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Part I: Risks from Nature
1. Fire Is Everybody's Problem
2. The Uncertainties of Disease
3. Doing Something about the Weather
4. Animal Risk for a Modern Age
Part II

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Part I: Risks from Nature
1. Fire Is Everybody's Problem
2. The Uncertainties of Disease
3. Doing Something about the Weather
4. Animal Risk for a Modern Age
Part II: Industrializing Risk
5. Railroads, or Why Risk in a System Is Different
6. The Professionalization of Safety
7. The Safety-First Movement
Part III: Risk in a Consumer Society
8. Negotiating Automobile Risk
9. What's a Gun Good For?
10. Risk as Entertainment: Amusement Parks
11. Consumer Product Safety
Conclusion
Notes
Essay on Sources
Index

Author Bio
Arwen P. Mohun
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Arwen P. Mohun

Arwen P. Mohun is a professor of history at the University of Delaware. She is author of Steam Laundries: Gender, Technology, and Work in the United States and Great Britain, 1880–1940 and coeditor of Gender and Technology: A Reader, both published by Johns Hopkins.