SSHA 1994 Conference Reports

18 Oct 1994

SSHA Session Report--"Institutional Intervention in Rural Society"

----------------------------Original message---------------------------- H-Rural colleagues:

I want to report to the list on the Social Science History Association panel "Institutional Intervention and Change in Rural Societies." This is an easy one for me, in part since I was the commenter and had advance access to the written versions. If you want to read the papers discussed below, I suggest you can write back to the list since all three are H-Rural members, or you can contact them directly at their institutions.

I invite the many other H-Rural members who were in attendance at SSHA to write in with their own reports about the papers they read and heard.

The paper-givers at "Institutional Intervention" were:

  1. Joyce Mastboom (History--Cleveland State Univ.) "From Wood to Grain: By-Employment and Agriculture in the Eighteenth Century Rural Netherlands"
  2. Wade Davies (History--Arizona State Univ.) "Public Health Care and Navajo Infant Mortality: the Indian Health Service, 1950-1990"
  3. Spencer Wood (Rural Sociology--Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison) "The Interaction of Political Consciousness: The Southern Elite, the Southern Tenant Farmers' Union, and the USDA, 1933-1937."

Mastboom's paper is based on an analysis of one family's account book over three generations. The entries in the book show the number of days that male members of the family spent on carpentry projects. Through careful study of labor in carpentry and in agriculture, Mastboom was able to show that the peasant family moved back and forth from by-employment in carpentry to a preferred concentration in agriculture. The times when by-employment was heaviest coincided with periods in the life cycle when the family was under greatest financial stress. Mastboom concludes by showing that after 1780 when grain prices rose that the family devoted more time to farming and less to by-employments.


Davies offers the hypothesis that the Indian Health Service has been a positive factor over the past four decades in improving the health of people on the Navajo reservation in Arizona and New Mexico. His study focuses on infant mortality rates on the reservation and he compares their trends to those on other Indian reservations and to rural counties with similar environmental factors. He finds that at the time the Indian Health Service was founded in the mid-1950s that a large gap existed in infant mortality rates between the Navajos and comparable rural non-Indian counties; that gap has not only been eliminated, but based on 1990 figures, the Navajos now have a lower infant mortality rate than comparable rural counties. Davies uses a variety of statistical techniques to show that the reason for this improvement in Navajo health was likely due to the intervention of the IHS.


Wood writes about the history of the Southern Tenant Farmers' Union with the explicit goal of applying new theory to understanding this fascinating chapter in southern rural labor relations. He uses the notion of "political consciousness" to describe the multiple roles that southerners played in the 1930s. He finds that consciousness of race worked against the class solidarity that the STFU employed, and that eventually the problems of conflicted political consciousness led to the downfall of the union. In addition, he introduces new theories about the state as an independent actor in looking at the role of certain "policy intellectuals" within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Respectfully submitted,

--Jim Oberly, H-Rural Co-Moderator JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU


  • 20 Oct 1994 From: sandra kathryn mathews-lamb <skmlamb@carina.unm.edu> Subject: SSHA Panel Report: A Potpourri of Spacial Analyses

----------------------------Original message---------------------------- Held Sunday morning, 10:45-12:45, the panel entitled "A Potpourri of Spatial Analysis" captivated the quality audience of historians.

Chaired by Laurence Malone of Hartwick College (Economics), the session got off to a rousing start. Jonathan Liebowitz, of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell (History), discussed his co-authored paper entitled "Draft Animals on the United States Frontier". Kyle D. Kauffman, of Wellesley College (Economics), was the co-author but did not attend the conference. A fascinating discussion of the spread of draft animals on the United States Frontier, Liebowitz's brought graphs to illustrate the co-authored research.

As the frontier moved West, the Liebowitz/Kauffman duo argued, draft animals followed clearly the same progression as the people. The clear choice of animals? Oxen. Although slower, they could live on grasses alone (horses needing grains). Less "delicate" than horses, oxen pulled further distances. An interesting point about the choice, he brought out in the discussion, was that frontierspeople could eat the oxen in times of great need -- but a taboo existed when it came to stir-fryin' a horse (my terminology).

Another reason, they argued, that oxen became a chosen beast of burden: Plains Indians would be more likely to steal (and get away with) horses. If Indians stole oxen, settlers could chase the Indian and recapture their oxen (due to their slow nature).

The next paper, entitled "Lands in Transition during New Mexico's Territorial Period", focused on a series of Spanish land grants to the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico referred to as the Cruzate grants (pronounced kroo sah' tay). Researched by Sandra Mathews-Lamb (Sam, a member of the H-Rural Editorial Board; dissertating at the U of New Mexico History Department), was (hopefully) an interesting discussion of how Pueblo Indian land ownership changed throughout the nineteenth century as a result of the three "foreign" governments which imposed their very different legal systems upon the Pueblos (Spain, Mexico, United States).

Using the Cruzate grants of 1689 as a structural component of her research, Mathews-Lamb showed how the attitude and understanding about land "ownership" was perceived by all three groups. Pueblo Indians did not believe land could be owned -- they belonged to the land. The concept of selling it or owning it was incomprehensible. Spaniards believed that to own land, one must continually utilize it (or, after a period of years, it would revert to the crown and could be regranted). During the Mexican period (1821-1846), Governors granted millions of acres of land to Mexican in hopes of warding off the impending onslaught of American land ownership. Americans seemed to believe that land was a commodity, to be bought and sold, used for profit, and otherwise not respected -- totally contrary to Pueblo beliefs about land.

The final paper was a late addition. Poor Jonathan Lietner (Wisconsin, Rural Sociology), stood up by his two panelists the hour before, was happily welcomed into the Spatial Analysis session -- and his paper added a wonderful dimension to the panel. Entitled "Staples Transport and Capital Conflict: The Timber Economy in the Chippewa Basin", Lietner discussed the conflicts arising in rural timber areas when more than one interest is involved.

Well-versed in the timber industry, Lietner's discussion -- complete with enough maps to make an Historical Geographer whistle with glee -- followed the rivers and tributaries leading into the timber zones. He explained the organization of timber industries, the economic principles under which the timber industry worked, as well as the complex issues of legal doctrines guiding the industry as a whole. A perfectly timed presentation, Lietner scored high marks with the discussant, Thomas D. Hall (DePauw, Sociology and Anthropology).

Hall jumped right in and began to comment on all three papers. Hall mentioned that not only one frontier existed in the United States. He went on to comment that all three papers were quite interesting, and that the panel ended the conference for him on an excellent note. The two graduate students, although their papers were much longer, kept well within the confines of time limitations and brought out the most important points in their papers..."an A+" for both presentations.

He suggested to Sandra that she include maps in future presentations -- too many people do not pay attention that New Mexico indeed was the first of the US to be colonized by Europeans (a topic dear to his heart, _Social Change in the Southwest_ being his publication). He also suggested that Sandra make contact with Tony Hillerman, as her research has the makings of a great mystery or two. Sandra invited all in the room to her first millionaire-debutant party. She was also asked to not forget her roots -- giving money to graduate student fellowship funds...

No time remained for discussion of Jonathan Lietner's paper. So the all present decided to reconvene for lunch. Although the lunchers included only the audience, Laurence Malone, Thomas Hall, and Sandra Mathews-Lamb, the meeting continued for another two hours.

A great panel and wonderful discussion was enjoyed by all. Don't'cha wish you were there?

Respectfully submitted (late at night and in a bit of a goofy mood): Sandra Mathews-Lamb History U of New Mexico skmlamb@carina.unm.edu


Information provider:
Unit: H-Net program at UIC History Department Email: H-Net@uicvm.uic.edu
Posted: 17 Jul 1995

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