The core of James Kraft’s Havoc and Reform consists of five single-chapter studies of post–World War II disasters. There is also an introduction, an initial background chapter, and a conclusion. The disasters Kraft discusses are the Texas City explosion of 1946; the United Airlines–TWA midair collision over the Grand Canyon in 1956; the San Fernando earthquake of 1956 that leveled, among other buildings, two local hospitals; the MGM Grand fire in Las Vegas in 1980; and the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

In the introduction and first chapter, Kraft introduces commonalities that link these tragedies. In the author’s view, all were workplace disasters; all occurred in modern times and in the South or Southwest, far from the older industrial regions. Finally, all had important policy consequences, because “havoc and reform…look like two strands of a single cord” (14). These claims are surely hard to...

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