Cover for BRØNDAL: Ethnic Leadership and Midwestern Politics: Scandinavian Americans and the Progressive Movement in Wisconsin,  1890-1914

Ethnic Leadership and Midwestern Politics

Scandinavian Americans and the Progressive Movement in Wisconsin, 1890-1914
Awards and Recognition:

Named a Wisconsin Historical Society Book Award of Merit, 2005.

How Scandinavian immigrants entered the American world of politics in search of a Scandinavian-American identity

Ethnic Leadership and Midwestern Politics investigates the notion of ethnic identity as it relates to Scandinavian Americans and political affiliations in Wisconsin, from 1890-1914. Jørn Brøndal traces the evolution of their political alliances as they move from an early patronage system to one of a more enlightened social awareness, prompted by the Wisconsin Progressives led by Robert M. La Follette.

Brøndal's exceptionally thorough research and cogent arguments combine to explain the workings of a political system that accorded nationality a major role in politics at the expense of real political, social, and economic issues in the early 1890s, and how (and why) the Progressives determined to change that system. Brøndal explains the change by looking at several important Scandinavian-American institutions, including the church, mutual aid fraternities, the temperance movement, the Scandinavian-language press, political clubs, and labor and farmer organizations, showing how these institutions impacted the construction of a nascent sense of Scandinavian American national identity and made a lasting mark on the Scandinavian-American role in politics.

"There is not a single relevant source that he has not consulted and used to maximum profit. . . . None of the many works on Wisconsin progressivism or Robert La Follette has been based upon more research in those sources."--John Milton Cooper, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison

"[A] clearly written, closely argued, and impressively researched book. . . .To the extent that some ethnic leaders linked Scandinavian-American identity with progressivism, did La Follette's push to redefine politics around progressive issues attract Scandinavian voters precisely because they read his appeals through an ethnic lens--as perfectly compatible with their ethnic identity? That Brondal's work can spark such questions is a testament to the historical imagination behind this rich, deeply researched, and intriguing book."--Russell A. Kazal, University of Toronto at Scarborough


Jorn Brondal teaches history at the University of Southern Denmark.

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