Skip to content

Your Cart


You have 0 items in your cart.

Register Sign in Wishlist

Representation and Inequality in Late Nineteenth-Century America
The Politics of Apportionment

$129.00 (C)

  • Date Published: October 2012
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107023000

$ 129.00 (C)

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:
Paperback, eBook

Looking for an examination copy?

If you are interested in the title for your course we can consider offering an examination copy. To register your interest please contact providing details of the course you are teaching.

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • This book demonstrates that apportionment, although long overlooked by scholars, dominated state politics in late nineteenth-century America, setting the boundaries not only for legislative districts but for the nature of representative democracy. The book examines fierce struggles over apportionment in the Midwest, where a distinctive constitutional and electoral context shaped their course with momentous consequences. As the major parties alternated in effectively disfranchising their opponents through gerrymanders, growing tensions challenged established patterns of political behavior and precipitated intense and even dangerous disputes. Unprecedented judicial intervention overturned gerrymanders in stunning decisions that electrified the public but intensified rather than resolved political conflict and uncertainty. Ultimately, America's political ideal of representative democracy was frustrated by its own political institutions, including the courts, because their decisions against gerrymandering in the 1890s helped parties and legislatures entrench the practice as a basic and profoundly undemocratic feature of American politics in the twentieth century.

    • This is the first book which examines the practice and significance of political apportionment and redistricting in state politics before the court-led 'reapportionment revolution' began in the 1960s
    • Demonstrates that apportionment was central to American politics in the late nineteenth century, perhaps more so than many of the other issues scholars have traditionally emphasized
    • Shows that in important ways America's political institutions impeded rather than implemented its political ideals
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    "Peter Argersinger knows more than anyone about the structures of electoral politics in the late nineteenth-century United States. Turning his attention to apportionment, he shows how Gilded Age leaders wrestled over representation and the raw shape of electoral power. This book illuminates the history of political inequality in new ways, and in doing so, helps us understand how politics got where it is today."
    Rebecca Edwards, Vassar College

    "Representation and Inequality in Late Nineteenth-Century America is a thoroughly researched and finely crafted account tackling the much neglected subject of legislative apportionment during the Gilded Age. Argersinger exposes the intellectual gymnastics and hardball politics of legislators, governors, and judges as they subverted the democratic process through partisan-inspired gerrymandering. In the process, they grappled with such fundamental concepts as representation, community, and political parties. Apportionment issues roiled politics across the Midwest as partisans indignantly railed against redistricting schemes that threatened to do to them what they were determined to do to their opponents."
    John F. Reynolds, University of Texas at San Antonio

    "In Representation and Inequality in Late Nineteenth-Century America, Peter Argersinger has rescued a veritable lost world of American politics. We see, really for the first time, the extent to which reapportionment and its politics structured everything: not just partisan control of the institutions of government, but the comparative power of the institutions themselves; not just the degree to which elections could determine policies, but ultimately the value of the vote and even the level of social unrest. Those seeking keys to the changing structure of American politics will be rewarded. Those harboring the illusion that apportionment politics has a uniquely modern character will be amazed."
    Byron E. Shafer, University of Wisconsin

    "This deeply researched and engaging study provides major insights into issues of representation and the political conflict in the Midwest during the 1890s. Deftly weaving the stories of different state struggles over apportionment, Argersinger carefully lays out the developing political and legal arguments and the various roles of legislatures, state officials, party leaders, and the courts. He adds significantly to our understanding of the watershed nature of the 1890s by showing the brutal political struggle that occurred over apportionment and explaining how and why the issue disappeared thereafter."
    Philip VanderMeer, Arizona State University

    "Manipulating the rules under which political representation operates for partisan advantage is one of the oldest, and most enduring, features of American politics. From Elbridge Gerry to Phil Burton and Tom Delay, controlling the apportionment of electoral districts has been central to American political conflict. Thus, Peter Argersinger’s fascinating and detailed study of the late nineteenth century will be of interest not just to political historians but to anyone concerned with how American democracy works."
    Alan Ware, University of Oxford

    "An important contribution to understanding the complexities of the US political system, not in the ideal, but in the gritty environment of men and parties struggling for political power. Highly recommended."

    "In this book, Peter Argersinger, a leading authority on the value of the right to vote in American history, demonstrates that not only has gerrymandering been a perennial issue in government, but that at one time it was a substantive policy issue in elections and in state-level courts of law as well."
    Lex Renda, Journal of Illinois History

    "This marvelous book will be a standard work for scholars interested in election law and representative government, and it should force a rethinking of the tumultuous politics of the 1890s."
    Paula Baker, Journal of American History

    "Peter Argersinger offers a powerful narrative, fortified by impeccable research, to show that, even though the battleground has changed, the wars politicians have fought to choose their voters have been going on for far longer than much contemporary scholarship acknowledges. Overall, Representation and Inequality in Nineteenth-Century America is an important and interesting read. The book is well-researched, well-written, and manages to make a topic as potentially dry as historical apportionment procedures into a compelling read … political scientists will take away a great deal from this book, [and] it could easily be read and appreciated by a much larger audience. It would be a valuable addition to any undergraduate or graduate level elections course syllabus.”
    Chad Murphy, Congress and the Presidency

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2012
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107023000
    • length: 352 pages
    • dimensions: 234 x 156 x 24 mm
    • weight: 0.72kg
    • contains: 12 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. 'Injustices and inequities': the politics of apportionment, 1870–89
    2. 'One irrevocable duty': democrats and reapportionment, 1889–93
    3. 'The time has come to make a precedent': Wisconsin, 1891–2
    4. 'Fought out in the courts': Michigan, 1891–2
    5. 'Partisanship has run riot': Indiana, 1892–4
    6. 'An ineradicable vice': Wisconsin, 1893–6
    7. 'The consequences of their own folly': Indiana, 1894–8
    8. 'A state of uncertainty': Illinois, 1893–8
    9. 'Our system of representative government': from chaos to control

  • Author

    Peter H. Argersinger, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
    Peter H. Argersinger holds a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. From 1971 to 1998, he was a professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and he held the distinguished position of Presidential Research Professor from 1995 to 1998. Since 1998, he has been a professor at Southern Illinois University, where he was named Outstanding Scholar by the College of Liberal Arts. He has also been a Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC, received an Andrew Mellon Fellowship from the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Helm Research Fellowship from Indiana University and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Historical Association. He has received the Binkley–Stephenson Award of the Organization of American Historians for the best article published in the Journal of American History. His work has appeared in the American Historical Review, the Political Science Quarterly, the Journal of Interdisciplinary History, American Nineteenth-Century History, Agricultural History, the Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era and other journals. He is the author of six books including Populism and Politics (1974); Structure, Process, and Party (1991); and The Limits of Agrarian Radicalism (1995).

Sign In

Please sign in to access your account


Not already registered? Create an account now. ×

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×

Find content that relates to you

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.