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The Great Cowboy Strike

The Great Cowboy Strike

Bullets, ballots, and class conflicts in the American West
Mark A. Lause
Verso Books 2017

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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

Reviews

“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 U.S. historian most able to connect agrarian radicalism to union organizing. A stirring account of western labor radicalism and its limitsat times in the face of racism and of unity among settlers across class lines.”

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