This book was the first broad exposé of the social and environmental damage inflicted by the growth of corporate agriculture in California. Factories in the Field—together with the work of Dorothea Lange, Paul Taylor, and John Steinbeck—dramatizes the misery of the dust bowl migrants hoping to find work in California agriculture. McWilliams starts with the scandals of the Spanish land grant purchases, and continues on to examine the experience of the various ethnic groups that have provided labor for California's agricultural industry—Chinese, Japanese, Mexicans, Filipinos, Armenians—the strikes, and the efforts to organize labor unions
Carey McWilliams's books include California: The Great Exception (California, 1998), Ill Fares the Land: Migrants & Migratory Labor in the U.S. (1942), Ambrose Bierce: A Biography (1929), Brothers under Skin (1943) and Southern California:An Island on the Land (1946). Douglas C. Sackman teaches history at Oberlin College.
"A masterpiece. . . . Two months after the publication of The Grapes of Wrath, Little, Brown issued the second controversial California documentary of 1939, Factories in the Field. . . . If John Steinbeck was a novelist seeking documentation, Carey McWilliams was a documentary journalist seeking the moral and imaginative intensity of art."—Kevin Starr, author of Endangered Dreams: The Great Depression in California
"Factories in the Field is a true classic of the 'other California' that one rarely hears about. McWilliams chronicles the modern saga of industrial capitalism's transformation of would-be yeoman farmers into a low-paid, multi-racial army of farmworkers toiling on huge factory farms. From the start, McWilliams called for the abolition of the artificial distinction between factory and farm as the necessary first step in guaranteeing farmworkers the right to collective bargaining. His work is still relevant to the ongoing migrations of peoples around the world in search of a better life."—Neil Foley, author of The White Scourge
"Indispensable to the study of California history."—Jules Tygiel, author of The Great Los Angeles Swindle