The Limits of Agrarian Radicalism
Western Populism and American Politics
Peter H. Argersinger
As Ross Perot proved in 1992, even when funded by a bottomless bank account, American third parties have always struggled in their efforts to achieve recognition and political power. Yet even in defeat their contributions to national politics have been substantial. That, Peter Argersinger contends, was certainly true of the Populists a century earlier.
Argersinger, one of our nation's foremost historians of the Populist era, brings together in this volume some of his best and most influential essays-ranging from a study of a single election campaign to complex analyses of political organizations, legislative behavior, and government institutions. Together they amply display his consistently sharp and wide-ranging insights on this important moment in American life.
“An important and cohesive collection of well-researched and readable selections from the lengthy and influential career of one of Populism's most noted scholars, and it is must reading for those interested in the third party movement of a century ago.”
—Journal of American History
“This valuable collection holds compelling interest for students not only of Populism, but also of American third parties in general.”
—Pacific Historical ReviewSee all reviews...
“This is a valuable collection. . . . the introductory chapter brings a focus to the previously published essays that makes the whole worth more than the parts.”
—North Dakota History
“[This book] does a particularly fine job of explaining the movement’s limits and shortcomings by relating them to predicaments created by a broader political context.”
“This is an excellent book. It enriches our understanding of the context within which Populism operated.”
—South Dakota History
“Argersinger is a methodologically sophisticated analyst of the politics of the 1880s and 1890s, and it is useful to possess his writings in a convenient form.”
—Journal of the West
“The author concisely explains the volatile rise and fall of the People's Party and integrates the movement into the larger political traditions of the United States.”
—Montana The Magazine of Western History
“For over a quarter century Argersinger has explored western Populism with an honest, evenhanded approach notable for its credible scholarship, enduring value, increasing influence, and lack of ideological posturing. These essays are of uniformly high quality and tell a good story.”
—Robert C. McMath, Jr., author of American Populsim: A Social History
“Argersinger has done more than anyone else to help us understand the Populists in the political context (and within the political boundaries) of the places and time in which they operated. A beacon of sound, well-conceived, and insightful scholarship, this volume makes some important Populist scholarship more conveniently accessible.”
—David Danbom, author of The World of Hope: Progressives and the Struggle for an Ethical LifeSee fewer reviews...
Argersinger examines, among other things, the Populists' evolution in electoral politics, from creating a party to running election campaigns; the enormous obstacles they overcame in the process of electing a U.S. Senator; specific laws and procedures that suppressed Populism's full political participation; hard-won successes in Western state legislatures in the face of powerful enemies and numerous internal disputes; and the Populists' long-standing struggles and frustrations with the U.S Congress.
Throughout Argersinger illuminates the fundamental ways in which Populism challenged our political system and brings to life its volatile personalities, dramatic controversies, visionary programs, and enduring frustrations. (So frustrating that an Oklahoma Populist once pulled a gun on the Speaker of the House who kept refusing to recognize his request to speak to the assembly.)
Of special interest to political, social, rural, Western, and Gilded Age historians, this book provides a timely reminder of the political constraints on third parties in America.