Populism, Its Rise and Fall
William A. Peffer Edited by Peter H. Argersinger
Before it was "Populism," the great reform movement of the 1890s was often called "Pefferism" after its most prominent leader, Kansas editor William Peffer. Peffer's Populism, Its Rise and Fall is the only significant memoir by a major Populist figure.
The Populist movement arose as a revolt against the special privileges of industrialism and the American banking system. It spread quickly throughout the Midwest and South and reached its zenith with the founding of the People's party in the early 1890s. William Peffer chaired the national conference that organized the People's party and was the party's first U.S. senator and president of its National Reform Press Association.
“This book deserves a place in every library of Populism.”
—Journal of American History
“Argersinger enhances the work by providing an informative introduction and carefully editing the manuscript. His footnotes make it easy for readers to identify the individuals and issues that appear in Peffer’s text. The republication of Peffer’s history represents a welcome addition to Populist historiography.”
—Journal of Southern HistorySee all reviews...
“The strength of the book is its detailed portrayal of the maneuverings of Populists, Democrats, and Republicans in Congress as they danced an intricate dance of courtship, commitment, and betrayal.”
—Chronicles of Oklahoma
“There are other Populist memoirs, but none from such a central figure as Peffer, and none from a key Kansas Populist. This book will be of note to scholars with general interests in the Gilded Age, as well as to specialists in Populism and farm activism.”
—Tom Isern, author of Bull Threshers and Bindlestiffs: Harvesting and Threshing on the North American Plains and coauthor of Plainsfolk: A Commonplace of the Great Plains
“Beyond doubt, Peffer was one of the more significant leaders produced by the Populist movement. This memoir is useful in helping us to understand the course he followed, which has remained something of an enigma.”
—Gene Clanton, author of Kansas Populism: Ideas and Men.See fewer reviews...
Peffer's memoir, written in 1899 but discovered decades later, offers a unique insider's view of the Populist movement. Peffer describes the development of Populism, the political maneuverings and campaign practices of the People's party, the effect of the famous silver movement on the critical election of 1896, and the behind-the-scenes conflicts and disagreements that ultimately led to the dissolution of America's last great third party.
Populism, Its Rise and Fall includes the complete text of this singular memoir, transcribed, edited, and annotated by Peter H. Argersinger, a leading scholar of the Populist movement. Argersinger's introductory essay and extensive annotation evoke America at the turn of the century and place Peffer's memoir in the context of the times, at the vortex of the forces that shaped and ultimately destroyed Populism.