Witt's Book on Workplace Safety Law Now Available in Chinese


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: Sonia von Gutfeld, 212-854-1453, [email protected]

July 31, 2008 (NEW YORK) – Columbia Law School Professor John Fabian Witt’s award-winning book on the development of American workplace safety law has been translated into Chinese and published. The Accidental Republic: Crippled Workingmen, Destitute Widows, and the Remaking of American Law (Harvard University Press, 2004) was published in Chinese this year by the Shanghai Joint Publishing Company in conjunction with Harvard University Press.

Witt’s book is especially relevant today to China, which faces the same kinds of challenges in governing workplace safety as the United States did in its early industrial history.

“Coalmines in Pennsylvania in the 1860s – where 6 percent of the workers were killed each year, 6 percent crippled, and another 6 percent temporarily disabled – looked very much like the mines now operating in Shaanxi Province,” Witt wrote in a 2004 editorial published in the Taipei Times.

Just as the development of legal institutions to improve occupational safety in the United States laid the groundwork to address the multi-faceted problems that occur in an industrial society, the development of accident law in China will have impact beyond the workplace, Witt argues.

One potential area that accident law may shape is environmental reform, says Witt.

“[T]he creation of rule of law institutions for industrial problems such as work accidents was a precondition in the U.S. and elsewhere to tacking even more complex challenges such as the environmental risks posed by industrialization,” Witt writes in the preface for the Chinese edition of Accidental Republic.

“As China begins to deal with the potentially crippling environmental effects of industrialization, workplace accidents may prove (as they did in the Untied States) to be a valuable test case in the creation of rule of law institutions for an industrial economy,” he continues.

“No matter the path taken, the project of grappling with the difficult conundrums of work safety questions will very likely shape the legal systems of the world’s developing economies in the century to come,” he writes.

The Accidental Republic: Crippled Workingmen, Destitute Widows, and the Remaking of American Law received the 2001 Thomas J. Wilson Prize of Harvard University Press; the 2005 James Willard Hurst Prize, sponsored by the Law and Society Association; and the 2005 William Nelson Cromwell Foundation Prize from the American Society for Legal History.

Witt, Professor of Law and History at Columbia Law School, is also the author of Patriots and Cosmopolitans: Hidden Histories of American Law (Harvard Press, 2007), which explores law and American nationalism at key moments in legal history since the founding. He received his B.A. (1994), J.D. (1999), and Ph.D. in history (2000) from Yale University.

Columbia Law School, founded in 1858, stands at the forefront of legal education and of the law in a global society. Columbia Law School joins traditional strengths in international and comparative law, constitutional law, administrative law, business law and human rights law with pioneering work in the areas of intellectual property, digital technology, sexuality and gender, and criminal law.