The fateful kick of Mrs O'Leary's cow, the flight to escape the flames, the rapid rebuilding - these are the well-known stories of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. But as much as Chicago's recovery from disaster was a remarkable civic achievement, the Great Fire is also the story of a city's people divided and at odds. In a detailed account, drawn on memoirs, private correspondences and other documents, this book chronicles years of widespread - and sometimes bitter - social and political conflict in the fire's wake, from fights over relief soup kitchens and cries against profiteering to marches on city hall by workers burned out of their homes. The author shows how, through the years of rebuilding, the people of Chicago struggled to define civic order and the role that "good citizens" would play within it. As they rebuilt, Sawislak writes, Chicagoans confronted hard questions about charity and social welfare, work and labour relations, morality, and the limits of state power. Their debates in turn exposed the array of values and interests that different class, ethnic, and religious groups brought to these public discussions.