The American Populists

15 Jun, 2017 320 Political science

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss what, in C19th America’s Gilded Age, was one of the most significant protest movements since the Civil War with repercussions well into C20th. Farmers in the South and Midwest felt ignored by the urban and industrial elites who were thriving as the farmers suffered droughts and low prices. The farmers were politically and physically isolated. As one man wrote on his abandoned farm, ‘two hundred and fifty miles to the nearest post office, one hundred miles to wood, twenty miles to water, six inches to Hell’. They formed the Populist or People’s Party to fight their cause, put up candidates for President, won several states and influenced policies. In the South, though, their appeal to black farmers stimulated their political rivals to suppress the black vote for decades and set black and poor white farmers against each other, tightening segregation. Aspects of the Populists ideas re-emerged effectively in Roosevelt’s New Deal, even if they are mainly remembered now, if at all, thanks to allegorical references in The Wizard of Oz.

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  • Lawrence Goldman 10 episodes
    Professor of History at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London
  • Mara Keire No other episodes
    Lecturer in US History at the University of Oxford
  • Christopher Phelps No other episodes
    Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Nottingham

Reading list

  • In the Lion's Mouth: Black Populism in the New South, 1886-1900
    Omar H. Ali (University Press of Mississippi, 2010) Google Books →
  • The Wizard of Oz
    L. Frank Baum (Puffin Classics, 2008) Google Books →
  • Democratic Promise: The Populist Moment in America
    Lawrence Goodwyn (Oxford University Press, 1978) Google Books →
  • The Populist Moment: A Short History of the Agrarian Revolt in America
    Lawrence Goodwyn (Oxford University Press, 1978) Google Books →
  • The Populist Revolt: A History of the Farmers' Alliance and the Populist Party
    John D. Hicks (University of Nebraska Press, 1967) Google Books →
  • The Age of Reform: From Bryan to FDR
    Richard Hofstadter (Random House, 1988) Google Books →
  • American Populism
    William F. Holmes (ed.) (Houghton Mifflin, 1993) Google Books →
  • The Populist Persuasion: An American History
    Michael Kazin (Basic Books, 1995) Google Books →
  • American Populism: A Social History 1877-1898
    Robert C. McMath (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1990)
  • The Populist Vision
    Charles Postel (Oxford University Press, 2007) Google Books →
  • Tom Watson: Agrarian Rebel
    C. Vann Woodward (Martino Fine Books, 2014) Google Books →

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Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. In the late 19th century, in late 19th century America, farmers in the South and Midwest suffered with droughts and low prices while the new urban and industrial centres were thriving.