Current Issue

Defeating the Devil’s Army: The Victory over the Short-Handled Hoe in California Agriculture TAYLOR COZZENS

In the mid–twentieth century many California growers required their field workers to use the short-handled hoe to thin and weed crops such as lettuce and sugar beets. With only an eight to eighteen-inch handle, this tool could be used only in a stooped position. Over time, such stooping caused chronic back pain and, often, debilitating back injuries. In 1970 Latino activist Cesar Chavez implored Maurice Jourdane, a young lawyer of the California Rural Legal Assistance, to find a way to outlaw the tool. For the next four years, Jourdane and his supervisor, Martin Glick, worked to do just this. Despite opposition from growers and the bias of California officials, they eventually convinced the state government that the tool could and should be replaced with the regular long hoe. Through this case, many California leaders and citizens came to consider more seriously the physical wellbeing of Latino workers.

Razing Cane: Making Sense of Arson in the Sugar Fields of Republican Cuba MARC MCLEOD

This article explores the nature and meaning of sugarcane arson in Cuba during the first four decades of the twentieth century. In the scholarly literature as well as popular memory, the illegal burning of sugarcane has been seen as an important means by which marginalized groups, such as slaves, rebels, bandits, and striking workers, challenged the established order during times of political and social upheaval. Sugarcane arson, however, was not just a tactical measure utilized during extraordinary moments, but was intrinsic to the island's sugar economy. Despite varied efforts by government officials and plantation managers to prevent cane fires, a number of groups—including colonos (cane farmers) as well as cane cutters—regularly ignited sugar fields for their own purposes. Using sugarcane arson as an analytical lens thus provides a more nuanced picture of agrarian relations in prerevolutionary Cuba.

On the Edge of the Possible: Artificial Rainmaking and the Extension of Hope on the Great Plains JULIE COURTWRIGHT

Rainmaking flourished on the Great Plains during the 1890s drought. A complicated hybrid of sincere belief in science and confidence games, Plains peoples' willingness to place tentative faith in the practice reflected larger insecurities about the advisability of practicing agriculture in a marginal environment and their ability to succeed in the face of periodic, intense, drought. An extension of older weather modification theories—such as rain follows the plow—rainmaking facilitated hope and empowered believers. Doubters, meanwhile, participated under the guise of entertainment, a harmless diversion that allowed them to delay any absolute judgment regarding the legitimacy of the practice. Suspension between skepticism and belief in rainmaking, in effect, allowed faith in the region, even during conditions of devastating drought, to remain alive. A supposed panacea for the Plains' most significant environmental insufficiency, rainmaking resurfaced beyond the 1890s whenever the rains stopped. Hope, like moisture, was in constant demand.

Modernized Farming by Stagnated Production: Swedish Farming in the 1950s Emerging Welfare State CARIN MARTIIN

Swedish agriculture in the 1950s deviated from general Western European patterns as the increased use of purchased inputs was not accompanied by sharply increased outputs. Instead, some crop yields declined, some were stagnant, and some increased, primarily wheat. There was an increase in pork whereas other animal products were unchanged or reduced, especially the total production of milk. At the same time, the Swedish population increased, which meant a decline in total output per capita. This was, however, no problem as Sweden was already self-sufficient in food, and the authorities were glad to avoid surpluses. On the input side, the area of arable land decreased, and the labor force declined drastically, primarily due to fewer smallholdings and fewer employees on the largest farms. Moreover, the decade saw a huge wave of mechanization, in the form of tractors, and an increased use of artificial fertilizers, which were valued for their time-saving potential rather than their yield-increasing effects.

Book Reviews


Anderson, Food and Environment in Early and Medieval China ,by Mark Swislocki

Wemheuer, Famine Politics in Maoist China and the Soviet Union, by Judith Shapiro


Di Palma, Wasteland: A History by Philip Mills Herrington

Latin America

Levy, PPuerto Ricans in the Empire: Tobacco Growers and US Colonialism , by Rosa Elena Carrasquillo


Bynum and Bynum, Remarkable Plants That Shape Our World, by Barbara A. Kimmelman

Uekötter, Comparing Apples, Oranges, and Cotton: Environmental Histories of the Global Plantation, by Erin Stewart Mauldin

North America

Stalcup, He Loved to Carry the Message: The Collected Writings of Douglas Helms, 1979-2010,,by Stanley W. Trimble

Pruitt, The Other Great Migration: The Movement of Rural African Americans to Houston, 1900-1941, by Story Matkin-Rawn

Blackman, Oklahoma’s Indian New Dealby William Bauer Swanson,A Golden Weed: Tobacco and Environment in the Piedmont South, by Evan P. Bennett

Danbom, Sod Busting: How Families Made Farms on the Nineteenth-Century Plains, by Kimberly K. Porter

Williams, et. al., To Pass on a Good Earth: The Life and Work of Carl O. Sauer, by Matthew Mitchelson

Smith, Trouble in Goshen: Plain Folk, Roosevelt, Jesus, and Marx in the Great Depression South, by John Hayes

Spears, Baptized in PCBs: Race, Pollution, and Justice in an All-American Town, by Merritt McKinney

Sandul, California Dreaming: Boosterism, Memory, and Rural Suburbs in the Golden Stateby Henry Knight Lozano

McNeur, Taming Manhattan: Environmental Battles in the Antebellum City, by David S. Stradling

Douglas, Steward of the Land: Selected Writings of Nineteenth-Century Horticulturist Thomas Affleck, by Tom Okie

Freedman, et. al., Food in Time and Place: The American Historical Association Companion to Food History, by Jonathan Rees

Immerwahr, Thinking Small: The United States and the Lure of Community Development, by Stephen Macekura

Dolan, Beyond the Fruited Plain: Food and Agriculture in US Literature, 1850-1905, by Deagan Miller

Riccio, Farms, Factories, and Families: Italian American Women of Connecticut, by Tina Stewart Brakebill

Hilliard, Hot Meat and Hoecake: Food Supply in the Old South, 1840-1860, by Mark D. Hersey

Gordon, When Money Grew on Trees: A. B. Hammond and the Age of the Timber Baron, by James E. Fickle

Bennett, When Tobacco Was King: Families, Farm Labor, and Federal Policy in the Piedmont, by Drew Swanson

Rich, Fort Worth: Outpost, Cowtown, Boomtown, by Glen Sample Ely

Porcher Jr. and Judd, The Market Preparation of Carolina Rice: An Illustrated History of Innovations in the Lowcountry Rice Kingdom, by Peter A. Coclanis

Mizelle Jr., Backwater Blues: The Mississippi Flood of 1927 in the African American Imagination, by Andrew C. Baker

MacLennan, Sovereign Sugar: Industry and Environment in Hawai’i, by April Merleaux

Thomas, In Food We Trust: The Politics of Purity in American Food Regulation, by Gabriella Petrick

Colten, Southern Waters: The Limits of Abundance, by Christopher J. Manganiello

Davis, Banned: A History of Pesticides and the Science of Toxicology, by Adam Romero