Title Reviewed:
Agricultural Discontent in the Middle West; 1900-1939

Author Reviewed:
Theodore Saloutos; John D. Hicks

Louis Bernard Schmidt


Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 49, Issue 2, pp 205-206

Article Type:
Book Review

Download Source:

Agricultural Discontent in the Middle West; 1900-1939. By Theodore Saloutos and John D. Hicks. (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1951, pp. ix, 581. Index and map. $6.75.)

This book is the outgrowth of Hicks history seminars at the University of Wisconsin during the 1930's of which Saloutos was then a member. It is the joint product of both, with Hicks the author of the first two and fourth chapters in which he defines the area, crops, and causes of agricultural discontent; the transition from populism of the 1890's to insurgency of the first decade of the 1900's: and the impact of World War I on American agriculture. Saloutos then takes on the greater part of the book in sixteen chapters devoted to the development of the co-operative movement during this period, the American Society of Equity, the Non-partisan League, the Farmers Union, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Farm Bloc of the early 1920's, the Farmer-Labor party and the Election of 1924, the McNary-Haugen movement, the Farm Strike movement, the New Deal farm program and the concluding chapter summarizing the book.

The authors have restricted their studies to the area embracing the nine North Central States west of the Lake Michigan-Indiana line as "the region of discontent." While this delineation may be justified as a regional study, the reviewer feels that an integrated survey of agricultural discontent for the country as a whole, as manifested in the national farm organization would have enchanced its value satisfied the natural curiosity of the student and the general reader, and made it a more fitting continuation of Buck's The Granger Movement and Hicks’ The Populist Revolt. This task still awaits accomplishment. But the present book should not be judged as such.

The chapters comprising this book are the product of painstaking research and sound scholarship. They are based on a wide variety and number of sources as shown by the footnotes fortifying nearly every page: publications of farm organizations, farm journals, government publications, books and monographs, periodical literature, and newspapers. The chief merit of the book is its objectivity in the treatment of subject matter. It brings together a great deal of useful information not otherwise available in convenient form. It is serviceable as a reference work and as a text for courses on farm organization for this period.

Several criticisms may be ventured. The book may be described as a series of essays presented in chronological order rather than as an integrated historical study; hence an apparent lack of continuity. Some of the chapters are of disproportionate length. Two chapters of sixty-nine pages are devoted to the Nonpartisan League (reprinted in full from Agriculture History), and thirty-seven pages to the American Society of Equity: a total of one hundred and six pages (over one-sixth of the book), while the American Farm Bureau Federation is given but thirty pages. The absence of a classified bibliography impairs the value of the book for those who use the volume as a reference.

Despite these criticisms it is a worthy contribution to the history of the farmers’ movement in the United States for which the authors are to be commended.

Tucson, Arizona

Louis Bernard Schmidt

Published by the Indiana University Department of History.