For the People: American Populist Movements from the Revolution to the 1850s

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Univ of North Carolina Press, Feb 25, 2008 - History - 328 pages
For the People offers a new interpretation of populist political movements from the Revolution to the eve of the Civil War and roots them in the disconnect between the theory of rule by the people and the reality of rule by elected representatives. Ron Formisano seeks to rescue populist movements from the distortions of contemporary opponents as well as the misunderstandings of later historians.

From the Anti-Federalists to the Know-Nothings, Formisano traces the movements chronologically, contextualizing them and demonstrating the progression of ideas and movements. Although American populist movements have typically been categorized as either progressive or reactionary, left-leaning or right-leaning, Formisano argues that most populist movements exhibit liberal and illiberal tendencies simultaneously. Gendered notions of "manhood" are an enduring feature, yet women have been intimately involved in nearly every populist insurgency. By considering these movements together, Formisano identifies commonalities that belie the pattern of historical polarization and bring populist movements from the margins to the core of American history.


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2 The American Revolution and the AntiFederalist Legacy
3 The Taming of the American Revolution
4 The Rise of New Social Movements
A New Kind of Populist Movement
Progressive and Reactionary
7 AntiMasonry the Parties and the Changing Public Sphere
8 Two Wars of the 1840s
The KnowNothings

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About the author (2008)

Ronald P. Formisano is William T. Bryan Chair of American History at the University of Kentucky. He is author of four books, including Boston Against Busing: Race, Class, and Ethnicity in the 1960s and 1970s.

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