The People’s Revolt


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Texas Populists and the Roots of American Liberalism

Gregg Cantrell

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An engaging and meticulously researched history of Texas Populism and its contributions to modern American liberalism

“A work of deep research and profound wisdom that adds a critical dimension to our understanding of Populism and the American liberal tradition. It is political history at its finest.”—Charles Postel, author of The Populist Vision

In the years after the Civil War, the banks, railroads, and industrial corporations of Gilded-Age America, abetted by a corrupt political system, concentrated vast wealth in the hands of the few and made poverty the fate of many. In response, a group of hard-pressed farmers and laborers from Texas organized a movement for economic justice called the Texas People’s Party—the original Populists. Arguing that these Texas Populists were among the first to elaborate the set of ideas that would eventually become known as modern liberalism, Gregg Cantrell shows how the group broke new ground in reaching out to African Americans and Mexican Americans, rethinking traditional gender roles, and demanding creative solutions and forceful government intervention to solve economic inequality. Although their political movement ultimately failed, this volume reveals how the ideas of the Texas People’s Party have shaped American political history.

Gregg Cantrell holds the Erma and Ralph Lowe Chair in Texas History at Texas Christian University. His previous books include Stephen F. Austin: Empresario of Texas and The History of Texas.

“Gregg Cantrell’s The People’s Revolt is a work of deep research and profound wisdom that adds a critical dimension to our understanding of Populism and the American liberal tradition. It is political history at its finest.”—Charles Postel, author of The Populist Vision

“Outstanding. Cantrell’s claim is startling and cuts starkly against the grains of the current history of Populism. Meticulously researched and thoughtfully written, this is an essential read for anyone hoping to understand the roots of twentieth century politics.”—Nancy Beck Young, University of Houston

“Deeply researched and beautifully written, The People’s Revolt could not be more timely or important.  Gregg Cantrell restores the Populists to their rightful place at the leading edge of American liberalism through his close attention to the experiences of African Americans, ethnic Mexicans, and women in the crucible of Texas politics.”—Karl Jacoby, Columbia University

“Gregg Cantrell’s argument that Texas populists authored one of the key chapters in the development of American liberalism is provocative and rigorously advanced. It is a landmark contribution to a long conversation about democracy in the United States at a time when the stakes, as in the 1890s, could not be higher.”—Benjamin H. Johnson, Loyola University Chicago

“This is history at its finest: well written, insightful, clearly argued, and filled with carefully chosen supporting detail drawn from extensive study of the primary sources.”— Walter L. Buenger, University of Texas at Austin

“As political commentators mull the meaning of the recent rise of different forms of populism in the U.S., Europe, and India, Cantrell’s book offers a timely look at the movement’s early roots. . . . Tying the legislative and civil protest aspects of twentieth-century American liberalism to the pugilistic ethos of an era of Texas history rife with guns, stolen ballots, and violence might seem odd. Yet Cantrell pulls it off by marshaling a great deal of evidence for his argument. His affection for his subjects, be they eccentric hayseeds or scheming lawyers, is infectious.”—Texas Monthly

A “revisionist interpretation [detailing] how farmers organized the Texas Alliance movement, which evolved into the Texas People’s Party in the late 19th and 20th centuries to advocate for their economic interests, which were not national priorities. Populists joined the Democrats in 1896—marking their political downfall—but Cantrell insists that some of their progressivism lived on, particularly ideas of a people’s government, and LGBTQ rights, the feminist movement, and civil rights all over time evolved from a people’s movement.”—Choice

“Smoothly and clearly reported by the esteemed TCU historian [Gregg Cantrell],  The People’s Revolt: Texas Populists and the Roots of American Liberalism firmly links a grassroots agrarian movement, which grew into the organized left-wing Populist Party or People’s Party during the late 19th century, to Democratic and Republican progressives such as Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, as well as to advocates of the later New Deal and Great Society, in the 20th century.”—Michael Barnes, Austin American-Statesman

“Cantrell brings decades of research to this magisterial new study. . . . The People’s Revolt is an important book. . . . As a history of Texas Populism, it is the new gold standard (to use a term with which Populists were familiar).”— Matthew Hild, Southwestern Historical Quarterly

Winner of the 2021 Kate Broocks Bates Award for Historical Research, sponsored by the Texas State Historical Association
ISBN: 9780300100976
Publication Date: March 17, 2020
592 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
37 b/w illus.