Miller Center

American Forum - Looking for Work: A History of Unemployment

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The Miller Center is a nonpartisan institute that seeks to provide critical insights for the nation’s governance challenges.

Professor Brian Balogh, Edward L Ayers, Prof. Peter S. Onuf
June 19, 2009
5:30PM - 6:30PM (EDT)

Join the creators of BackStory with the American History Guys for a live taping of the radio show at the Miller Center. BackStory is the American history-themed public radio show hosted by U.Va. History Professor PETER ONUF, University of Richmond President EDWARD AYERS, and Miller Center GAGE Chair BRIAN BALOGH.

The show's theme is "Looking for Work: A History of Unemployment," and explores themes such as joblessness, immigration, and internal migration through three centuries of American life.

Among the central questions for the hour:

  • When did the concept of unemployment arise in the first place?
  • How did industrialization change our notion of "the job?"
  • Are people more or less attached to their professions than they used to be?
  • How has Americans' search for work shaped the American landscape?
  • What has it meant for American workers that there are almost always new immigrants willing to work for less?

Contribute your questions, comments, and stories on the BackStory web site. During the taping, audience members posed their own questions to the History Guys.

BackStory with the American History Guys brings historical perspective to the events happening around us today. On each episode, "18th Century Guy" Peter Onuf, "19th Century Guy" Ed Ayers, and "20th Century Guy" Brian Balogh tear a topic from the headlines and plumb its historical depths. Over the course of the hour, they are joined by fellow historians, people in the news, and callers interested in exploring the roots of what's going on today. Together, they drill down to colonial times and earlier, revealing the connections (and disconnections) between past and present.  

BackStory is produced at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, and receives support from the Miller Center and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2008, the program was a recipient of the Federation of State Humanities Councils' Helen and Martin Schwartz Prize, given each year to recognize the most imaginative and significant public humanities projects in the nation. More information about BackStory is online at

Professor Brian Balogh
Professor Brian Balogh
Edward L Ayers
Edward L Ayers
Prof. Peter S. Onuf
Prof. Peter S. Onuf

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