The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 85, July 1981 - April, 1982

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

reader to follow the maneuvering of forces without interrupting the
narrative. This well-researched, handsome volume belongs in the li-
brary of every Civil War historian.
University of Texas, Austin ALLAN R. PURCELL
Electricity for Rural America: The Fight for the REA. By D. Clayton
Brown. (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1980. Pp. xvi+ 178.
Preface, introduction, tables, bibliography, index. $22.50.)
Modern society takes electricity for granted. Today Americans are
virtually paralyzed when this vital energy resource is cut off even for a
few hours. Yet, just a generation ago, several million farmers lived
and died without having access to the multitude of benefits derived
from electricity. In this book Clayton Brown has brought us the story
of the struggle for rural electrification and how it was achieved.
Although farmers were eventually served primarily by public pow-
er, this book is not devoted to this subject, for Brown has written a
monograph that discusses "only those cases in which electricity for
agriculture was the central point of the argument...." (p. x) Thus,
he discusses the early history of rural electrification, the fight of farm-
ers to establish cooperatives, and the opposition from electric power
companies. After offering the reader this background, Brown plunges
into the heart of the matter: the birth of the Rural Electrification Ad-
ministration. Like any New Deal agency, REA built a bureaucracy
of civil servants. And like everything else created by the Roosevelt
administration it had both supporters and detractors. Logically a
certain amount of space is devoted to the resultant in-fighting among
politicians and bureaucrats. The last few chapters record the emer-
gence of the farmer into the twentieth century with .the postwar elec-
trification of the bulk of American farms. An assessment of the results
concludes the work.
Having lived in a rural home without electricity as a youngster, this
reviewer can well understand the magnitude of the achievement that
Brown has undertaken to chronicle. When one realizes that on the
eve of World War II only one farm in ten had electricity, the impor-
tance of this history of electrification becomes apparent. Despite the
fact that his topic lacks some of the intrinsic appeal associated with
presidential politics, foreign affairs, war, or sex, Brown, relying mostly
on primary sources, has produced an organized, interesting, and well
written book.

234

San Antonio College

LIONEL V. PATENAUDE

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 85, July 1981 - April, 1982. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101208/. Accessed July 11, 2014.