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Authors: Milov, Sarah
Advisors: Kruse, Kevin M.
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: agriculture
political economy
southern history
Subjects: American history
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: During the twentieth century, tobacco farmers in rural North Carolina quietly changed the relationship between the government and citizen in America . Flue-cured tobacco growers produced not only the finest cigarette leaf, but also new systems of marketing, regulating, and talking about their crop. This dissertation follows the ambitions and achievements of tobacco farmers during the height of the cigarette's popularity, 1920-1965. From being buffeted about a marketplace they barely understood, let alone controlled, producers of flue-cured tobacco ultimately came to define, expand, and defend a global market for their crop. They did so, I argue, by becoming a part of the government. I characterize the tobacco economy as corporatist--a term more frequently and comfortably invoked to describe state-society interaction in Europe and Latin America. This framing suggests vocabulary through which we might understand American political economy, the power of producers in the era of the consumer, and the persistence of regionalism in the Sunbelt. "Little Tobacco: The Business and Bureaucracy of Tobacco Farming, 1920-1965" takes farmers' own organizations as its primary focus. Through sources that capture what historian Anthony Badger has described as the "topsoil" of active farmers, this dissertation seeks, on one level, to understand how farmers sought control of their economic horizons. They became incorporated into the government through the New Deal's policy of acreage-reduction, which farmers themselves ratified and administered. Farmers were then able to use such administrative empowerment to expand the market for their crop, courting foreign buyers. Finally, as the cigarette began to face increasing medical scrutiny, tobacco growers assumed a defensive posture, rhetorically distancing themselves from industry even as their economic interests drew them closer. The tripartite structure of this dissertation maps onto the evolving organizational abilities of tobacco farmers, with particular attention to how they understood the tobacco manufacturers and the federal government. On another level, therefore, this dissertation gives voice to how farmers viewed themselves and their relationship to government, consumers, other economic sectors, and knowledge-producing institutions. I conclude that farmers' unique position betwixt and between the government and private interest groups allowed them to speak with the prestige and authority of the insider, but in the defiant tones of the outsider--a particularly effective rhetorical mix that I term "the politics of umbrage."
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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