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American Populism: A Social History 1877-1898 (American Century) 1st Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0374522643
ISBN-10: 0374522642
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Product Details

  • Series: American Century
  • Paperback: 245 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang; 1st edition (1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374522642
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374522643
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #894,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By J. Grattan VINE VOICE on December 25, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The author identifies "producerism" and "antimonopolism" as the core aspects of Populist (agrarian) thought. These themes extolled the virtues of the independent working man, fully able to produce his own and society's well-being without being dependent upon or under the control of others. It is doubtful that this idyllic state has ever been achieved in America, but there is no doubt that in the 1870s and 80s small farmers in the Plains states and in the South suffered from the vicissitudes of both natural and economic forces undermining any sense of being in control of their economic destinies.
This book explores the actions of besieged rural Americans, first through cooperative efforts based on dense community ties, and then through political efforts, to counter the forces of industrialization. It is a complex story involving a variety of agrarian and labor organizations, though dominated by the National Farmers' Alliance with its beginnings in western Texas in 1878 and to some extent the Knights of Labor, ranging from the far West, through the Plains and the Midwest, and through the entire southern belt. Agrarian reformers were forever in a contest with the forces of orthodoxy from community values to the agendas of the Democratic and Republican parties; a contest that they would eventually lose.
The author admits to drawing upon the vast work of historians concerning Populism or agrarianism. The book is somewhat complementary to the work of Lawrence Goodwyn, author of the "Democratic Promise. He finds little agreement with those who view Populists as reactionaries, unwilling to accept the demands of progress.
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By A Customer on February 13, 1999
Format: Paperback
Good book, but, truthfully, you probably won't want to read it voluntarily so it is probably going to be assigned to you by a professor in a college course. Here are some of the things/themes that you ought to be getting out of the book: Review Notes on American Populism A Social History 1877-1898 By Robert C. McMath, Jr. Introduction: The author begins his narrative by explaining several events of the year 1877. He recalls that year as being the one in which Pres. Hayes ordered the withdrawal of federal troops from the Reconstruction South who had served as protectors of the newly freed slaves. He couples that event with the Strike of 1877 and the ramifications it had on the US. However, he carefully notes two forgotten events of that year that led to the populist movement that challenged the political hierarchy of US government. According to McMath the first event occurred in western New York State and the second along the Texas frontier. According to the author, in both of these areas of the country movements developed which later took the name (in some form or other) of "Farmers Alliances" which were basically groups of farmers who banded together in protest over government regulation or over issues about the effects of monopolies by big business on the farmer. This group eventually mobilized in three areas: the South, the Great Plains, and the Mountain West. These groups became the Populists of American History. He dedicates the rest of the introduction to introducing the reader to the different scholarship regarding the events of the time. Chapter One: Populist Country Before Populism: Rural Life in the New West and the New South: This chapter attempts to characterize the lives of the persons or groups who would later embrace the populist movement.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Who joins [the Populist movement], and why, and, conversely, why do others similarly situated not join?" This is the question, Robert McMath contends in American Populism: A Social History, 1877-1898, "that has preoccupied scholars who have studied the movement." (9) While acknowledging the work of previous scholars of the 19th century populist movement (Hicks, Woodward, Hofstadter, and Goodwyn), McMath connects the Populist's story to the "social history of rural America." He relates Populism to the "rhythms of family and community life" of the rural Plains, South and Mountain West, where this movement took root in the "social and economic networks of rural communities, not, as some would have it, among isolated and disoriented individuals." (17) In this unromantic study, McMath insists that the Farmers' Alliance and later the Populist Party grew in areas of hard-pressed agriculturalists, not secluded yeoman far from towns or railheads. Populism sprung from the "movement culture" that gave individuals and agricultural communities an avenue to make history and address their own economic and social needs, and rose from older traditions of rural cooperation and radical republicanism.
Despite this seedbed of support for the rise of cooperative alliances and, later, populist political parties, McMath shows that old allegiances to the Democratic Party in the South and a more recent adherence to the Republican Party elsewhere dissuaded many farmers and laborers from carrying the Populist banner, which prevented the new party from achieving lasting gains. "In the end," he laments, the Populist movement "failed to bend the forces of technology and capitalism toward humane ends.
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