Political society

South Dakota State News


CONTACT: Kevin Larsen, Media Coordinator, 605-773-6000, [email protected]

New book from historical society explores left-wing farm movements

PIERRE, SD—The latest book published by the South Dakota Historical Society Press explores the activism of left-wing farm groups on the Great Plains.

“After Populism: The Agrarian Left on the Northern Plains, 1900–1960” is a collection of essays by historian William C. Pratt, professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. The book documents the evolution of several distinct but related rural political movements in the 20th century and assesses their impact in space and time.

Historians have paid great attention to the rise of populism, a movement led by farmers calling for sweeping economic reforms that became a major political force in many parts of the country during the 1890s. was apparently short-lived, its core ideas remained popular in communities in North and South Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, and the Canadian prairie provinces well into the next century.

“After Populism” reveals how a wide range of voices pushed to improve conditions for farmers and rural communities in the plains during decades of significant political transition. Pratt explores farmers’ relationships with socialist groups; the persistence of radicalism in isolated lowland communities; the involvement of agrarian radicals in local affairs; the role of women in radical agricultural groups; the importance of the Farmers’ Union in regional and national politics; repeated and unsuccessful attempts to organize by third parties; and the gradual decline of progressive agricultural protest in the late 20th century.

Pratt’s articles on rural politics have appeared in scholarly journals—including South Dakota History, Montana: The Magazine of Western History, and Great Plains Quarterly—since the early 1980s. Compiling revised versions of many of these essays, as well as previously unreleased material, “After Populism” serves as both a career retrospective and a call for new research on a rich but understudied subject.

“After Populism: The Agrarian Left on the Northern Plains, 1900–1960” is available for $34.95, plus shipping and taxes, and can be ordered directly from the South Dakota Historical Society Press at sdhspress.com or by calling 605-773-6009. Follow the South Dakota Historical Society Press on Facebook (SDHS Press) and Twitter (@sdhspress) for more.


About the South Dakota State Historical Society

The South Dakota State Historical Society is a division of the Department of Education. The State Historical Society, affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, is headquartered at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. The center houses the society’s world-class museum, archives, and offices for historic preservation, publishing, and administration/development. To become a member or inquire, call (605) 773-3458 or visit www.history.sd.gov. The society also has an archeology office in Rapid City; call (605) 394-1936 for more information.