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The Agrarian Revolt in Western Canada

The Agrarian Revolt in Western Canada: A Survey Showing American Parallels

Copyright Date: 1948
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    The Agrarian Revolt in Western Canada
    Book Description:

    The Agrarian Revolt in Western Canada was first published in 1948. A revised edition appeared in 1997. In the 1940s, two American graduate students travelled to the prairie provinces to research Canadian farm movements. One was Seymour Martin Lipset and the other was Paul F. Sharp. Subsequently, their revised dissertations were published as books. Lipset’s Agrarian Socialism (1950), a sociological study of Saskatchewan’s Cooperative Commonwealth (CCF), is the better known of the two and has remained the point of departure for scholarship on the CCF ever since. Though not as frequently cited, Sharp’s Agrarian Revolt in Western Canada is the standard work on its topic as well. It explores the history of agrarian insurgency in the prairie provinces from the turn of the century until the Depression of the 1930s. From Sharp’s perspective, his work outlined the background of both Alberta’s Social Credit and Saskatchewan’s CCF. What made it provocative at the time was its emphasis upon American influences in these earlier movements. Virtually all reviewers acknowledged its contribution, and W. L. Morton offered a particularly enthusiastic assessment of its merits. The Agrarian Revolt in Western Canada provides an essential understanding of the development of agrarian movements in the prairie provinces, and a very useful perspective on such efforts south of the forty-ninth parallel. In honour of the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of The Agrarian Revolt in Western Canada, the Canadian Plains Research Center is pleased to make this seminal study available once more to students of both the Canadian and American farm movements. New introductions by Professors William Pratt (University of Nebraska, Omaha) and Lorne Brown (University of Regina) examine Sharp’s legacy from a contemporary American and Canadian perspective respectively.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6443-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. I The Last Best West
    (pp. 1-20)

    The first two decades of the twentieth century were marked by one of the greatest land rushes in North American history. This was the movement into the Canadian West—called the “last best West” by those who responded to the attraction of free land. While predominantly a movement of peoples from eastern Canada and Europe, it attracted over a million Americans. The year 1890 and the “passing of the frontier” consequently are seen in a somewhat different perspective when a continental viewpoint is adopted.

    The end of the nineteenth century, it is true, saw the passing of good lands within...

  4. II The Farmer’s Burden
    (pp. 21-31)

    The settlement of the Canadian Northwest, and the enormous expansion in wheat production which accompanied it, marked the emergence of the premier hard spring wheat region in the world. The somewhat earlier development of the American Northwest forecast the expansion possible on the Canadian prairies. Though American immigration literature may have implied otherwise, the existence of a political boundary did not alter the conditions of nature. The climate and soils of the hard spring wheat belt were the same on both sides of the forty-ninth parallel, and the “land of the No. 1 Hard” could not be contained by an...

  5. III “Organize! O, Organize!”
    (pp. 32-53)

    To meet the challenge of their grievances, both real and imagined, the farmers drew together. The dominant theme of the period from 1900 to 1914 was the movement of farmers into well-organized and effective societies to improve their position in the economic structure of the country. The story of the grain growers’ movement, from its inception in 1901 with the formation of the Territorial Grain Growers’ Association and its spread throughout the prairies, has been told so often that there is no need to repeat it here.¹ It may be worth while to point out, however, that though the grain...

  6. IV The Prewar Crusade for Democracy
    (pp. 54-76)

    In the decade before 1914 a general democratic ferment on the Canadian prairies intensified agrarian discontent. During these years western Canadian farmers joined the crusade for greater democracy which was sweeping through North America. The protest against the concentration of wealth and political power in the hands of a capitalistic plutocracy thus spread into the latest frontier area on the continent.

    The western Canadian farmer who protested against a high tariff, trusts and combines, and “money power” in 1911 did so in the best Jeffersonian tradition. His protests were rooted in the same soil of Lockean thought and evangelical Protestantism...

  7. V The Nonpartisan League Invades Canada
    (pp. 77-90)

    The movement of the Nonpartisan League into western Canada is one of the most striking parallel developments in the history of American and Canadian farmers’ movements. So close is the parallel that Sidney Godwin, editor of theNon-Partisan Leaderand one of the foremost Saskatchewan leaguers, admitted that “the program and pledge is practically a duplication of the Nonpartisan League in North Dakota.”¹ Such duplication is not surprising, for the league in Canada was born of the same grievances and advocated the same solutions as the parent organization in the United States.

    Scarcely a year after A. C. Townley had...

  8. VI The Nonpartisan League in Prairie Politics
    (pp. 91-104)

    The provincial elections of 1917 revealed the extent of the sweep of the Nonpartisan League through Saskatchewan and Alberta. The league was still in the early stages of organization when the opportunity came to prove its strength in both provinces. It was compelled to enter political campaigns under its own banner and as a distinct party.

    The parliamentary system of responsible government could not be reconciled with the nonpartisan concept, nor could the leaguers capture the older party organizations as they had in North Dakota, for there were no direct primary elections. Candidates were selected by party conventions, and parliamentary...

  9. VII. The War Years
    (pp. 105-127)

    The conflagration that spread from Sarajevo caught the farmers of the Canadian West, along with almost all other people in the New World, completely unprepared for war. Years of isolationist and pacifist indoctrination had created an illusion of security and an optimism which the events of August 1914 rudely shattered. Western civilization faced the catastrophe of 1914 with shocked disbelief, and the farmers of the prairies shared the worldwide disillusionment.

    The outbreak of war for a time created a unity on the prairies which had been missing during the preceding decade of agitation and discontent. The grain growers’ organizations joined...

  10. VIII Revolt on the Prairies
    (pp. 128-151)

    The war at long last was over, but peace seemed to betray those who had sacrificed the most, and the postwar years brought disillusionment, restlessness, and discontent. The Great Crusade had, ended victoriously, but victory failed to bring the promised “new world” that had called forth unstinted devotion and prolonged sacrifice. The Canadian West was infected with the same restless spirit that swept the world during the early twenties.

    Canada faced tremendous tasks of demobilization and reconstruction when the guns were finally silenced on the western front. These major problems were aggravated by the economic collapse and political ferment that...

  11. IX The Farmers in Politics
    (pp. 152-178)

    The agrarian revolt had worked its will and the farmers’ party vaulted into power over the wreckage of the older parties in the West. The party of the New National Policy had won striking victories and its future seemed altogether promising. Hopes were widespread on the prairies that a new era in Canadian politics had been born.

    Echoes from the election had scarcely died out when disquieting rumors swept Canada that Mackenzie King and certain Progressive leaders were engaged in “negotiations” looking to a coalition of Liberal and Progressive forces. The political analyst for theCanadian Forumexpressed a common...

  12. X The Progressive Heritage
    (pp. 179-192)

    The National Progressive party collapsed in the federal election of 1925. The calm tempo of the rather colorless campaign of that year concealed the momentous effects the election held for Canadian politics. Both Liberals and Conservatives conducted “safe” campaigns as they battled over issues that had been grist for the political mill for a generation. The prime minister denounced the Progressives as “political outlaws“ who made the West “ridiculous.”¹ Liberals made every effort to capture western votes, for they were essential to a strengthened liberalism in the House of Commons. Promises to bring western men into the cabinet and to...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 193-198)
  14. Index
    (pp. 199-204)