Cover image for Roots of reform : farmers, workers, and the American state, 1877-1917
Roots of reform : farmers, workers, and the American state, 1877-1917
Sanders, M. Elizabeth, 1943-
Publication Information:
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
x, 532 pages : maps ; 23 cm.
Introduction -- Political economy -- Core and periphery in the American economy -- Labor organizations and the state, 1873-1912 -- Farmers in politics, 1873-1896 -- Agrarian politics and parties after 1896 -- Agrarian statist agenda -- Transportation system -- Trade, taxation, banking, and credit -- Antitrust and the structure of the marketing network -- Federal aid for practical education: farmers first -- Labor program of the Farmers' Party -- Farmers, workers, and the administrative state -- Conclusion.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
JK1118 .S36 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Roots of Reform offers a sweeping revision of our understanding of the rise of the regulatory state in the late nineteenth century. Sanders argues that politically mobilized farmers were the driving force behind most of the legislation that increased national control over private economic power. She demonstrates that farmers from the South, Midwest, and West reached out to the urban laborers who shared their class position and their principal antagonist--northeastern monopolistic industrial and financial capital--despite weak electoral support from organized labor.

Based on new evidence from legislative records and other sources, Sanders shows that this tenuous alliance of "producers versus plutocrats" shaped early regulatory legislation, remained powerful through the populist and progressive eras, and developed a characteristic method of democratic state expansion with continued relevance for subsequent reform movements.

Roots of Reform is essential reading for anyone interested in this crucial period of American political development.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

A close examination of congressional and agrarian movement sources, Sanders contends, reveals that the expansive state regulations of both Populist and Progressive eras were indebted to the "periphery agrarians" and their impact on lawmakers. In exhaustively researched detail, Sanders also explores the Socialist Party's immediatism and social democratic character, the Knights of Labor, and the American Federation of Labor with its voluntarism and "pure job consciousness." Unable to resist some oblique criticism of the AFL, she notes its rejection of the broad reform agenda in the Progressive period and its cooption by the political agenda of capitalism. Her richly described dual emphases are agrarian discontent, beginning with the Granges and the Alliances and evolving into the People's Party, and the congressional maneuvers that carry readers from the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 into the early 1920s. In exploring Progressivism, she reminds readers that it was not created ex nihilo in the 1900s and takes exception to the conventional scholarly wisdom that agrarian-led reform ended at the 1896 divide with Bryan's defeat. A superb mix of data and conceptualization, Sanders's study compels rethinking the politics of Populism and Progressivism. Upper-division undergraduates and above. M. Cantor; University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Table of Contents

1 Introduction
Part 1 The Political Economy
2 Core and Periphery in the American Economy
3 Labor Organizations and the State, 1873-1912
4 Farmers in Politics, 1872-1896
5 Agrarian Politics and Parties after 1896
Part 2 The Agrarian Statist Agenda
6 The Transportation System
7 Trade, Taxation, Banking, and Credit
8 Antitrust and the Structure of the Marketing Network
9 Federal Aid for Practical Education: Farmers First
10 The Labor Program of the Farmers' Party
11 Farmers, Workers, and the Administrative States
12 Conclusion