top of page

A free copy of my book

Last summer I published the book version of my Ph.D. dissertation, bearing the ungainly title Popular Radicalism and the Unemployed in Chicago during the Great Depression. The paperback isn't out yet, and the hardcover is very expensive—$125—so I'm attaching a free PDF below. If you read the book and like it, it would be great if you could write a review on Amazon, for example, or recommend it to friends, colleagues, or libraries.

Here's the blurb:

In a time when mass joblessness and precarious employment have become issues of national concern, it is useful to reconsider the experiences of the unemployed in an earlier period of economic hardship, the Great Depression. How did they survive, and how did they fight against inhumane government policies? Americans are often thought to be a very conservative and individualistic people, but the collective struggles of the supposedly "meek" and "atomized" unemployed in the 1930s belie that stereotype.

Focusing on the bellwether city of Chicago, this book reevaluates those struggles, revealing the kernel of political radicalism and class resistance in practices that are usually thought of as apolitical and un-ideological. From communal sharing to "eviction riots," from Unemployed Councils to the nationwide movement behind the remarkable Workers’ Unemployment Insurance Bill, millions of people fought to end the reign of capitalist values and usher in a new, more socialistic society. While they failed in their maximal goal of abolishing economic insecurity and the disproportionate power of the rich, they did wrest an incipient welfare state from the ruling class. Today, their legacy is their resilience, their resourcefulness, and their proof that the unemployed can organize themselves to renew the struggle for a more just world.

Also some comments by historians:

“In Popular Radicalism and the Unemployed, Chris Wright uncovers a deep vein of activism during the Great Depression. By focusing mostly on industrial workers, scholars have missed layers of protest expressed not just in words but in deeds by the era’s most deprived, the chronically unemployed. Wright shows us a web of activities, often centered in unions and churches. The jobless and homeless held onto a strong sense of mutuality, and they even organized sit-ins, demonstrations, hunger marches, all with clearly articulated policy goals. Popular Radicalism and the Unemployed urges us to rethink the alleged inertia of society’s most oppressed then and now, and thereby to rethink social class.” –Elliot J. Gorn, Professor, Joseph A. Gagliano Chair in American Urban History, Loyola University Chicago, USA.
“In this timely work that examines mass unemployment in 1930s Chicago, Chris Wright tells a powerful story of the active resistance of unemployed people against dehumanizing, capitalist forces. He demonstrates the power of community and solidarity among Chicago’s unemployed and argues for the radical potential of all humans’ desire for dignity and recognition.” –Randi Storch, Distinguished Teaching Professor, SUNY Cortland, USA.
Popular Radicalism and the Unemployed in Chicago during the Great Depression offers a superb understanding of how the unemployed experienced life throughout the Great Depression. Christopher Wright’s extensive archival research provides insights that challenge popular assumptions of life during the Depression. It is a wonderful addition to the literature focused on American life at the grass root level throughout the 1930s.” –Ryan S. Pettengill, Professor of History, Collin College and the author of Communists and Community: Activism in Detroit’s Labor Movement, 1941–1956.

And here's the book:

Popular Radicalism and the Unemployed in the 1930s
Download PDF • 16.40MB

Recent Posts

See All


Thanks for submitting!

bottom of page