Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

February 1995


Published in Great Plains Research 5:1 (February 1995). Copyright © 1995 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


Why was there no populism in Iowa? That is the question posed by Jeffrey Ostler, assistant professor of history at the University of Oregon, in this revised version of his dissertation. The question itself is more complicated than it might first seem, and Ostler's thoughtful and carefully-researched answers have interesting implications for the study of late 19th century politics more generally.

Ostler approaches his question by comparing Iowa with Kansas and Nebraska. Arguing that the economic situation of farmers in the three states was not sufficiently different to explain the great dissimilarity in their support for the Populist Party in the 1890s, he demonstrates that the Farmers' Alliance developed comparable levels of strength in all three states. The key differences, he maintains, are to be found instead within the system of party politics within each state and the reception that the Alliance found in each state for its proposals.