This book offers a social history of the tension between the state's often bumbling attempts to help and control, on one hand, and citizens' work to receive that help and reject control during disasters, on the other. Focusing on the Salem fire of 1914 and the Halifax explosion of 1917, it examines issues of power and politics that accompanied disaster citizenship during the Progressive Era that saw survivors develop networks of solidarity and obligation to help each other. The book is divided into three sections: the first is about individuals in the first hours and days of each of the Salem and Halifax disasters; the second explores how informal communities like families and neighborhoods responded to the disasters and to the state over the span of weeks and months; and the third section looks at how Salemites and Haligonians created formal, explicit political demands and institutions from the informal and implicit politics of disaster relief and aid. The last section also considers how churches and unions responded to the disasters and to the growth of the state.
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