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The Great Cowboy Strike: Bullets, Ballots & Class Conflicts in the American West

Regular price $ 29.95

by Mark Lause


01/16/2018, hardcover

SKU: 9781786631961


When cowboys were workers and battled their bosses

In the pantheon of American icons, the cowboy embodies the traits of "rugged individualism," independent, solitary, and stoical. In reality, cowboys were grossly exploited and underpaid seasonal workers, who responded to the abuses of their employers in a series of militant strikes. Their resistance arose from the rise and demise of a "beef bonanza" that attracted international capital. Business interests approached the market with the expectation that it would have the same freedom to brutally impose its will as it had exercised on native peoples and the recently emancipated African Americans. These assumptions contributed to a series of bitter and violent "range wars," which broke out from Texas to Montana and framed the appearance of labor conflicts in the region. These social tensions stirred a series of political insurgencies that became virtually endemic to the American West of the Gilded Age. Mark A. Lause explores the relationship between these neglected labor conflicts, the "range wars," and the third-party movements.

The Great Cowboy Strike subverts American mythology to reveal the class abuses and inequalities that have blinded a nation to its true history and nature


"Focusing on industrial workers in the Northeast and Chicago, US labor history largely ignores the rural proletariat, leaving the impression that none such existed in the vast expanse of the cattle and agribusiness industries west of the Mississippi. Historian Mark Lause has turned that erasure upside down with this meticulously researched and beautifully written history of the of cattle worker's militancy and organizing. Although the 1880s cowboy strikes are at the heart of the story, Lause takes the history from the Civil War's Missouri Confederate guerrillas and ethic-cleansing Texas Rangers and the genocidal campaigns of the Army of the West against the Plains peoples of the bison and the Apaches, into the 20th century and the organized revolt of tenant farmers in Indian Territory in opposition to conscription for World War I, the 1917 Green Corn Rebellion. Both these proletarian actors, cowboys and landless farmers, were made up of not only the white cowboys-as-gunslingers of Hollywood imagination, but Black, Indian, Mexican, and Anglo." -- Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States, Not a Nation of Immigrants, and All the Real Indians Died Off": And 20 Other Myths about Native Americans

"Widely ranging across time and space, this engaging history moves gracefully from cowboy work culture, to politics, to The Wizard of Oz. Lause enhances his stature as the US historian most able to connect agrarian radicalism to union organizing. A stirring account of western labor radicalism and its limits at times in the face of racism and of unity among settlers across class lines." -- David Roediger, author of The Wages of Whiteness

About the Author:


Mark A. Lause is a Professor of History at the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Cincinnati. His previous books include Some Degree of Power: From Hired Hand to Union Craftsman in the Preindustrial American Printing Trades, 1778-1815The Antebellum Crisis and America's First BohemiansYoung America: Land, Labor, and the Republican CommunityFree Labor: The Civil War and the Making of an American Working ClassThe Collapse of Price's Raid: The Beginning of the End in Civil War Missouri; Price's Lost Campaign: The 1864 Invasion of MissouriThe Civil War's Last Campaign: James B. Weaver, the Greenback-Labor Party and the Politics of Race and SectionFree Spirits: Spiritualism, Republicanism, and Radicalism in the Civil War EraA Secret Society History of the Civil War; Race and Radicalism in the Union Army, and Soldiers of Revolution: The Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune.