The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 77, July 1973 - April, 1974

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

candidate. His own findings suggest, however, that Hayes was more effective
in the crisis than his Democrat counterpart.
Beyond its discussion of this particular election, The Politics of Inertia
presents a general interpretation of public life in the Gilded Age that recog-
nizes the democratic quality of politics, the strong voter interest, and the
high electoral turnout but downgrades the importance of these phenomena.
"Because the stakes involved were more symbolic than substantial, much
like the outcome of the Army-Navy football game a century later, politicking
served as a way of transcending the dull routine of everyday life, a means of
identifying with the distinctive democratic greatness of the United States
while socializing with like-minded men" (pp. 321-322). This view of poli-
tics as spectacle, with its apparent analytic detachment, enables its advocates
to reach familiar conclusions about the irrelevance and inertia of Gilded
Age affairs while appearing to assert a new interpretation. The historian
does not have to agree with all the views of his subjects to take seriously their
interest in the public questions of their time. If late nineteenth-century
Americans devoted so much attention to the tariff, civil service, and the
currency, it is more profitable to ask why they did so than to construct
elaborate explanations -for their failure to deal with questions that animated
policies in subsequent generations. For all its fealty to older views of this
period, Polakoff's book is a worthy contribution. Taken in tandem with
Woodward, it presents as sound a picture of the partisan struggle in 1876
as the historical profession is likely to need for the immediate future.
University of Texas, Austin LEWIs L. GOULD
Book Notes
A History of Waller County. By George R. Woolfolk, et al. (Waco: Texian
Press, 1973. Pp. viii + 719. Illustrations, notes, index. $Io.)
This volume is a typical county history designed to provide the local reader
an interesting but somewhat incomplete look at a narrow portion of the past.
It combines the usual background history (gathered from unusually strong
secondary sources) with legends and local interest stories. It covers the govern-
mental, agricultural, scholastic, economic, and cultural history of the county.
A History of Waller County is the work of several writers and the quality
varies with individual talents. No scholarly editing is evident and the various
sections are left to stand on their own merits. No attempt is made to recount
the political history of the county. Primary sources (extremely hard to uncover
on the local level) are not used extensively. The sections on agriculture, govern-
ment, and schools deal mostly with recent history and have little historical im-

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 77, July 1973 - April, 1974. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117148/. Accessed May 24, 2015.