Title Reviewed:
A Biographical Directory of the Indiana General Assembly. Volume 2, 1900–1984

Author Reviewed:
Justin E. Walsh; Alan F. January; Elizabeth Shanahan; Vincent A. Giroux, Jr

Philip R. VanderMeer


Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 82, Issue 1, pp 97-98

Article Type:
Book Review

Download Source:

Book Reviews

A Biographical Directory of the Indiana General Assembly. Volume 2, 1900–1984. Edited by Justin E. Walsh, Alan F. January, Elizabeth Shanahan, and Vincent A. Giroux, Jr. (Indianapolis: The Select Committee on the Centennial History of the Indiana General Assembly, in cooperation with the Indiana Historical Bureau, 1984. Pp. xxvii, 605. Session lists, apportionment acts, key to sources. $20.00.)

Historians of Indiana or state legislatures will be pleased by the publication of this volume. The "Introduction" and "Key to Sources" reveal careful planning and prodigious research. The procedures for acquiring information and reconciling conflicting data are sound and improved over those in volume 1. (To confirm this impression of comprehensiveness and reliability, I compared my own, arduously collected data on Indiana legislators, 1900–1920, with data from this volume: in a few cases my collection was more complete, in slightly more instances the Directory was better, and in most cases our information was identical.) This work is also more useful than volume 1 especially concerning occupational data: both volumes list all the occupations a legislator ever held, but this volume indicates clearly an individual's occupation at the time of legislative service.

Any data collection project faces hard choices about what information to seek and how to record it. The editors of this volume included demographic characteristics, economic and social interests, political activity, and military service; and most recording decisions were straightforward. However, some choices deserve comment. The only information about legislators' parents is the vague category of "Ancestry." Thus, any study of family influences on political careers will require additional research (aided, however, by good source references in the Directory). Involvement in political parties is sometimes mentioned, but since printed party records were not checked, the information is incomplete. One must be cautious, therefore, about using this volume to evaluate the importance of party involvement in political careers or to estimate the general significance of parties. Students of legislative turnover or political careers will be disappointed that although the Directory notes some electoral defeats, it omits the most important—those which terminated legislative service. The most questionable decision was to record memberships in voluntary associations without identifying when they were acquired. Although determining this involves a painstaking evaluation of sources, it is simply erroneous to assume that all memberships listed were held at the time of legislative service. While still useful for end-of-career assessments, these data are not reliable for evaluating legislative recruitment.

In the final analysis a directory is only as good as its basic conception. This volume was designed to provide information about the life experiences of legislators and, to a certain extent, about their political careers. In this regard it is largely successful although the editors could have taken a broader approach—one more in keeping with the aims of the legislative history project—that would also have advanced the study of legislative activities and structures. If they had included information on various leadership positions, committee service, and reasons for leaving the legislature, this good reference work would have been even better.

Arizona State University, Tempe Philip R. VanderMeer

Published by the Indiana University Department of History.