Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Quarterly SUMMER 1988 .Copyright 1988 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska—Lincoln.


Rejecting "political narrative" as "debilitating to historical scholarship.," Norman Pollack employs textual exegesis in this effort to construct a coherent intellectual history of Populism. Interspersing extensive quotations with his own paraphrases, elaborations, and inferences, Pollack examines a handful of Populist writings and extravagantly maintains that his work reconceptualizes both the nature and the study of Populism. After struggling through nearly 350 pages of opaque and often tumid prose, few historians will accept such claims. Even those sympathetic to this style of history, which ignores the specific political context of the documents analyzed, will worry about some issues that Pollack dismisses here. In The Populist Response to Industrial America (1962), for example, Pollack warned that "the intellectual history of social movements is without value unless the evidence is in fact representative," but he now ostentatiously rejects any concern about "the representative character of my evidence and ... generalizations."