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Other titles in the Lamar Series in Western History series:
Liberty to the Downtrodden: Thomas L. Kane, Romantic Reformer (Lamar Series in Western History)by Matthew J. Grow
Synopses & Reviews
Thomas L. Kane (1822and#150;1883), a crusader for antislavery, womenand#8217;s rights, and the downtrodden, rose to prominence in his day as the most ardent and persuasive defender of Mormonsand#8217; religious liberty. Though not a Mormon, Kane sought to defend the much-reviled group from the and#147;Holy Warand#8221; waged against them by evangelical America. His courageous personal intervention averted a potentially catastrophic bloody conflict between federal troops and Mormon settlers in the now nearly forgotten Utah War of 1857and#150;58.
Drawing on extensive, newly available archives, this book is the first to tell the full story of Kaneand#8217;s extraordinary life. The book illuminates his powerful Philadelphia family, his personal life and eccentricities, his reform achievements, his place in Mormon history, and his career as a Civil War general. Further, the book revises previous understandings of nineteenth-century reform, showing how Kane and likeminded others fused Democratic Party ideology, anti-evangelicalism, and romanticism.
The farmer-led insurgency known as the Nonpartisan League thrived between 1915 and 1924, going so far as to take control of the North Dakota state legislature. Challenging entrenched political and corporate interests in America and Canada alike, the League and its grassroots populism had particular influence in the West. League leaders developed local communal financial and industrial institutions, while resisting national and international speculators and investors. Michael Lansing shows that the League was not a spasm of populist rage that burned itself out, nor is it a historical footnote. Rather, it is an instructive and even cautionary exemplar of how populist movements take shape under particular social conditions and across specific geographies, how they increase their influence, and how they die out. These are vital topics today, given the prominence of populist and pseudo-populist movements. Lansing shows that the League was responding less to government policies than to economic threats and transformations, much as todayand#8217;s movements do.
In 1915, western farmers mounted one of the most significant challenges to party politics America has seen: the Nonpartisan League, which sought to empower citizens and restrain corporate influence. Before its collapse in the 1920s, the League counted over 250,000 paying members, spread to thirteen states and two Canadian provinces, controlled North Dakotaandrsquo;s state government, and birthed new farmer-labor alliances. Yet today it is all but forgotten, neglected even by scholars.
Michael J. Lansing aims to change that. Insurgent Democracy offers a new look at the Nonpartisan League and a new way to understand its rise and fall in the United States and Canada. Lansing argues that, rather than a spasm of populist rage that inevitably burned itself out, the story of the League is in fact an instructive example of how popular movements can create lasting change. Depicting the League as a transnational response to economic inequity, Lansing not only resurrects its story of citizen activism, but also allows us to see its potential to inform contemporary movements.
About the Author
Matthew J. Grow is assistant professor of history and director of the Center for Communal Studies, University of Southern Indiana.
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