Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Quarterly 15:1 (Fall 1996). Copyright © 1996 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


This issue of Great Plains Quarterly is given up to two long articles that probe different facets of the history of the Left on the Great Plains. In "Workers, Unions, and Historians on the Northern Plains," William C. Pratt surveys unions in Nebraska and the Great Plains with an eye to what historians have written about them, what stories remain to be told, and what sources are available for the telling. Certainly he finds no dearth of material, though he is disappointed not to find integrative texts in the school of the "new labor history" for the northern Plains, the social history that features labor in the context of people's everyday lives. Pratt organizes his study by industry, by geographical area, by particular labor movements, and of course, as befits a historian, by time period. His research turns up relatively little about railroad workers and a great deal about the radicalism of miners. Historians give radical farm movements prominence, though without providing the synthesis other historians have given to movements in other places. Both the Knights of Labor and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, or Wobblies) had their days on the Great Plains, but Pratt notes that much more could be said about them. What exactly went on in local organizations of the Knights of Labor? And what happened to former Wobblies after the movement faded?