Faculty Directory

James D. Schmidt

Chair and Professor


Fields of Study: United States–19th Century, Labor, Legal
E-mail: jschmidt@niu.edu
Phone: 815-753-6810
Office: Zulauf 613


Education: Ph.D., Rice University, 1992


Current Research: 

My primary research and teaching interests are in the legal, labor, and social history of the nineteenth-century United States.  My current research concerns the legal history of childhood.  My recent book, Industrial Violence and the Legal Origins of Child Labor was published by Cambridge University Press in 2010.  It examines the ways in which legal actions resulting from industrial accidents incurred by young people helped to shape the cultural meanings of child labor.  The book was awarded the 2011 Philip Taft Labor History Prize.  An article on the legal evolution of children's work over the course of the nineteenth century appeared in Law and History Review in 2005.  My first book, Free to Work: Labor Law, Emancipation, and Reconstruction, 1815-1880 (1998), expored the effects of antebellum labor and social welfare policy on the outcome of emancipation and the development of a capitalist labor market.  I am currently doing research on violence in nineteenth and early twentieth century schools.

Major/Recent Publications:

  • Industrial Violence and the Legal Origins of Child Labor, Cambridge University Press, 2010
  • Free to Work: Labor Law, Emancipation, and Reconstruction, 1815-1880, University of Georgia Press, 1998.
Courses Taught:
  • HIST 260  American History to 1865
  • HIST 261 American History Since 1865
  • HIST 372 U. S. South
  • HIST 376 Evolution of American Capitalism
  • HIST 464 Civil War and Reconstruction
  • HIST 465 Industrial America
  • HIST 491 Senior Thesis
  • HIST 510 Reading Seminar: Gilded Age and Progressive Era
  • HIST 510 Reading Seminar: Law and Society
  • HIST 510 Reading Seminar: History of Childhood
  • HIST 510 Reading Seminar: U. S. Social/Cultural History