After transferring from CUNY with his advisor Professor Gregory Downs in Fall 2015, Mike Haggerty has established himself as an integral part of the History Department here at UC Davis. In June 2016, Mike was co-awarded the Emile G. Scholz prize for his second-year research paper, "Low Company: Mike Walsh and the Politics of Freedom in Nineteenth-Century America."
Mike's work examines the exponential growth of urban incarceration in the nineteenth century, a development that shaped the lives of a growing number of working people. He focuses on inmates who were capable of political action and often utilized violence alongside a rhetoric of "wage slavery" to negotiate for power in nineteenth century America. He maintains that examining the political activism of the nineteenth-century inmates promises a deeper understanding of the limits of anti-slavery politics as well as the pro-slavery alliances of southern slave owners and northern wage laborers.
Mike's advisor, Professor Gregory Downs, underscores the importance of this work writing: "Mike's work not only reveals that the American incarceration has a deep history but also changes out sense of its roots by fining them less in state prisons than in city and county jails, which grew dramatically in the early to mid-nineteenth century, partly in response to Irish immigration. By detective work in the archives, Mike has unearthed some of the most convincing data about the size and scales of local jails in the pre-Civil War Era, and by careful connections to political events, has begun to make the case for the centrality of those experiences in shaping the way white Northerners talked about freedom and government. His work promises to rewrite our sense of the origins of America's unusual rates of imprisonment and to show how imprisonment shaped the political beliefs of people in the mid-nineteenth century United States."
Looking ahead, Mike will serve as a graduate student researcher for the Institute of Social Sciences during Spring 2017.