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Vagrants and Vagabonds


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About the Author

Kristin O'Brassill-Kulfan is Instructor in the Department of History at Rutgers University.


"Kristin OBrassill-Kulfan's study of the mobility of poor and otherwise unwanted members of society, and the efforts of authorities to dictate and control their movement, tells us much about the life of multiple subaltern groups in the antebellum U.S. in a way that is especially relevant today. She addresses forced migration, incarceration, and exclusion, bringing all of these issues of mobility together in a multifaceted study that should be required reading for anyone interested in early U.S. history, the carceral state, and poverty in the U.S. Her important book adds much to the historiography of a number of fields, including early U.S. history, labor history, racial and ethnic history, and poverty studies. It is essential reading for policy makers and political scientists today who want to understand the history of race- and class-based exclusion in the U.S."-Beverly Tomek, author of Colonization and its Discontents
"Americans in the early republic believed that their ability to move--geographically, socially, economically--was the essence of their freedom. They trusted that capitalism offered upward mobility and that an expansive republic would prove an empire for liberty in which law would protect property rights. Vagrants and Vagabonds offers an important corrective to these ideas. Capitalist transformation forced poor Americans to move often and in ways they did not necessarily choose. Vagrancy law limited their movements and curtailed their freedom. O'Brassill-Kulfan's important book reminds us that mobility helped to entrench inequality in the United States as much as it enabled American dreams."-Brian Luskey, author of On the Make: Clerks and the Quest for Capital in Nineteenth-Century America

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