Review of “The Tragedy of William Jennings Bryan”

This review is courtesy of “Choice” Magazine, which is published by the American Library Association:

This brief but intriguing book argues that although most studies focus on successful constitutional movements, failure is also instructive, specifically the doomed Populist reforms of the 1890s. Although Bryan failed to gain the presidency and the Populists produced negligible immediate legal reform, Magliocca (Indiana Univ. School of Law) claims that the movement’s effects were dramatic, though unintended. Constitutional doctrine changed radically, becoming more reactionary because of anti-Populist backlash. Virtually all of Magliocca’s contentions will invoke sharp controversy, especially his reliance on a cyclical/generational theory of US politics, yet his sober although provocative assessment of failed reform is powerful and original. Joining the fray concerning realignments, Magliocca shares with Walter Dean Burnham, Critical Elections and the Mainsprings of American Politics (1970), a defense of realigning elections as the motors of political change and an assessment of 1896 as a pivotal, realigning election. Magliocca, however, contributes new dimensions to the literature by highlighting the huge constitutional changes produced by the “system of 1896.” A good read for undergraduates and the general public as well as advanced scholars, this history of politics in the Gilded Age presents crucial background for contextualizing contemporary constitutional debates. Summing Up: Recommended. All readership levels. — A. B. Cochran, Agnes Scott College

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2 Responses

  1. Dan Cole says:

    Great review, and well deserved. Congrats Gerard.

  2. Joe says:

    Good review — the quick and easy read makes it broadly approachable while not being dumbed down or anything.