Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in History



First Committee Member

David Wrobel, Chair

Second Committee Member

Eugene Moehring

Third Committee Member

Thomas Wright

Graduate Faculty Representative

John Tuman

Number of Pages



This dissertation analyzes the class struggle in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Mexico and the western United States to illuminate the social transformation taking place in this trans-national region. The US and Mexico both underwent a significant metamorphosis in this era. The creation of a labor based working class and the displacement of occupational professionals from the upper class in many communities into an emerging middle class disrupted traditional social structures in both nations. This systematic social change, occurring nearly simultaneously in the US and Mexico, was complicated by the emerging system of monopoly capitalism, which led to a new form of trans-national ideological, political, and economic struggle between social classes. While the emergence of monopoly capitalism brought social transformation, it also resulted in new political challenges as conservatives, moderates, and radicals in the middle- and upper-classes struggled for political and economic control in both nations. In the US, social struggles led to the Populist movement, Progressivism, and increased radicalization of labor unions such as the International Workers of the World and the Western Federation of Miners, while at the same time, labor unions, clerical groups, Indian farmers, moderate landowners, and anarchists, fought in Mexico against Porfirio Díaz and foreign corporations. The transformation of Mexican capitalism began as early as 1857 with the creation of its Liberal Constitution. Under this constitution the Liberals in Mexico privatized communal and church lands, through laws such as the Ley Lerdo, strengthening their economic and political control across Mexico. The economic restructuring of Mexico during the Díaz administration, however, increased this redistribution of power, displacing the wealthy landowners and increasing the influence of foreign investors, primarily from the United States. The end of the nineteenth century was a time of great change for the United States as well. Essentially independent of each other for most of the nineteenth century, the eastern and western United States began to merge politically, economically, and socially in the Progressive Era. Greatly fueled by investments from the eastern US, corporate mines, ranches, and farms spread through the West with growing railroad and telegraph companies connecting America's many island communities. Traditional community leaders were displaced as the national economy grew more interconnected and industrial leaders grew more powerful both nationally and internationally. To better understand the social changes in the US and Mexico as industry giants dominated these nations at the turn of the nineteenth century, this trans-national analysis of labor struggles from 1876-1920 will examine the social struggles within these industrializing nations. Though these regions are often treated separately by scholars, the similarities of the struggles that took place in both of them indicates a common and connected series of social transformations. This trans-national emphasis highlights the shortcomings of the traditional regional and national models that have marked scholarship on the American West and Mexico. As the first truly trans-national study of the labor wars that erupted in the US and Mexico from 1876-1920 this dissertation draws on a wide range of more readily available secondary literature on mining labor and labor violence in the US West and Mexico. This secondary literature, while voluminous, has, for the most part, occupied separate streams, primarily divided by the international border artificially drawn through the western desert. The aim of "Mining Wars" is to bring these stories together, to show how they illuminate one another and in doing so provide a larger narrative of the relationships between business and labor in a larger region of the American continent that cuts across the international borderline. The early twenty-first century, as US-Mexican border issues - including strict enforcement of the US law through increased border patrols and Congressional debates over the status of the up to twelve million Mexicans currently residing in the US without official papers (sans papales)-is an opportune time to remind ourselves of the vital interconnectedness of the two nationally separate parts of this border region. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)


Corporate expansion; Guggenheims’ American Smelting and Refining Company; History; Labor; Labor violence; Mexico; Mines; Mining strikes; Nineteenth century; Porfirio Díaz; Twentieth century; Unions; United States-Mexico border; Western Federation of Miners; Western United States


History | Latin American History | Social History | United States History

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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