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Volume 92, Number 3 (Summer 2018)


Shedding New Light on Rural Electrification: The Neglected
Story of Successful Efforts to Power Up Farms in the 1920s RICHARD HIRSH

Traditional histories of rural electrification glorify New Deal efforts to bring electricity to farmers, enabling them to enjoy modern amenities equal to those of their urban counterparts. Though not disparaging the fruitful work performed by government agencies in the 1930s, this article challenges standard narratives by highlighting extensive electrification efforts undertaken earlier by power companies and land-grant universities. While many urban utility executives viewed the rural power market with disdain, others formed an undercurrent movement that—even in an agricultural recession—led to an almost quadrupling of electrified farms in the years between 1923 and 1931. The article concludes with an explanation for the persistence of the conventional historiography of rural electrification. It suggests that scholars may have ignored the context of the pre-Depression era, when government rarely intervened in enterprises undertaken by business organizations. More significantly, perhaps, historians found the well-accepted account appealing because it contains colorful actors and a rousing angels-versus-devils storyline.

Feeding the Aversion: Agriculture and the Eschewal of Mining Technology on Angola’s Colonial-Era Diamond Mines, 1917-1975 TODD CLEVELAND

This paper examines how a series of agricultural initiatives forestalled mechanization on the mines of the Companhia de Diamantes de Angola (Diamang) by facilitating the expansion of the company’s African labor force. Unlike other regional mining companies, from its inception in 1917 until Angolan independence from Portugal in 1975, Diamang differed from other regional mining companies by relying on scores of inexpensive, often forced, male and female laborers rather than expending capital for costly mining equipment. This operational approach hinged on the company’s ability to expand its African workforce, which was, itself, contingent upon Diamang’s capacity to feed its workers. Drawing upon company and colonial records, as well as interviews conducted with former mineworkers and company officials, I argue that a range of complementary company and colonial agricultural initiatives generated sufficient nourishment for the African workforce, thereby enabling Diamang to introduce new mining equipment and technology only minimally and fitfully.

Farm Machinery Users, Designers, and Government Policy in Argentina, 1861-1930 YOVANNA PINEDA

This article examines the relationship between the Argentine government’s agricultural policy and farm machinery use and design between 1861 and 1930, showing how this policy strongly influenced the continuous importation of farm machinery from North Atlantic countries, particularly the United States. Most prior research focuses on Argentine farmers’ use of this foreign machinery without examining how many farmers and blacksmiths improved their local technological competencies—not only by adopting imported farm machinery, but also how, through repairing and tinkering with it, some even began designing their own machinery by the early twentieth century. By employing a use-centered approach based on David Edger- ton’s Shock of the Old (2007), this article illustrates the specific farm technologies that Argentine farmers designed to suit their needs after adapting foreign models. Drawing on the archives of family-owned factories, invention patents, government documents, and oral histories of the men and women who used and designed domes- tic farm machinery, this article shows the importance of Argentine machine makers as innovational tinkerers and designers.

The American Way of Farming: Pioneer Hi-Bred and Power in Postwar America MARGARET WEBER

Like many other agribusinesses, Pioneer Hi-Bred sought to widen its control over the food and fiber industry after World War II. With the company’s expansion in the 1950s and 1960s, Pioneer’s interactions with rural people showcased a negotiated exchange of information and service. But even as it grew in size, the company was often confounded not by its competitors but rather its unruly dealers, unhappy farmers, and pesky academics. This paper explores the interaction between Pioneer, local dealers, and rural organizations during this period of economic growth. It investigates the reorganization of the agricultural power structure and how this corn company attempted to circulate their singular vision of agriculture. To do this, Pioneer pursued an overall marketing strategy that sought to infiltrate every layer of the rural community, from the individual farmer to the wider web of academic experts, with the ultimate goal of solidifying their institutional control over the agricultural process.

“We Love You People Better than We Like Ourselves”: Canada, the United States, Australia, the Soviet Union, and the International Wheat Pool Movement of the 1920s JASON MCCOLLOM

In the 1920s, Canadian farmers created the world’s most successful large-scale wheat marketing organization, or wheat “pool.” In doing so, they built upon two decades of interprovincial and national cooperative endeavors, providing the pool movement a firm foundation. During the decade, the Canadians spearheaded an effort to bring about a transnational pooling program, especially among wheat producers in the United States, Australia, and the Soviet Union. Representatives from these countries recognized the Canadian pool as the ideal model and worked closely with their counterparts there. As the international wheat pool movement took shape, however, the Great Depression intervened, shattering hopes for the creation of a transnational cooperative network in wheat marketing.

Book Reviews

Featured Review

Not by Grain Alone, a review of James C. Scott, Against the
 Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States, by Mark B. Tauger

[Read the Featured Review]

North America

Montgomery and Largent, eds., A Companion to the History of American Science, by Margaret W. Rossiter

Bauch, A Geography of Digestion: Biotechnology and the Kellogg Cereal Enterprise, by Kimberly Killion

Chamberlin, On the Trail: A History of American Hiking, by Terence Young

Stroshane, Drought, Water Law, and the Origins of California’s Central Valley Project, by Jeffrey Charles

Loza,Defiant Braceros: How Migrants Fought for Racial, Sexual, and Political Freedom, by Julie M. Weise


Broglio, Beasts of Burden: Biopolitics, Labor, and Animal Life in British Romanticism, by Anna Feuerstein

Kuss, German Colonial Wars and the Context of Military Violence, by Philipp N. Lehmann

Treitel, Eating Nature in Modern Germany: Food, Agriculture, and Environment, c. 1870 to 2000, by Scott Moore


Rappaport, A Thirtst for Empire: How Tea Shaped the Modern World, by Chris Bischof

Nettlebeck, Smandych, Knafla, and Forest, Fragile Settlements: Aboriginal Peoples, Law, and Resistance in South-West Australia and Prairie Canada, by Steve Marti

Eacott, Selling Empire: India in the Making of Britain and America, 1600-1830, by Faisal Chaudhry


Bello, Across Forest, Steppe, and Mountain: Environment, Identity, and Empire in Qing China’s Boderlands, by Mark E. Frank