Mark Lause’s The Great Cowboy Strike promises to reveal fascinating, hitherto unexamined connections between labor organizing among western US cowboys, oppositional politics, and the wrenching violence of the Reconstruction-era western range. Yet while the book proceeds to explore each of these themes to varying extents, it never manages to pull them together into a coherent narrative or compelling analysis. The result is a work that will undoubtedly interest some labor, political, and western scholars while leaving most other readers with their curiosity piqued but unrequited.

The strike of Lause’s title unfolded in 1883, just before the spring roundup, a season when large cattle operations in the Texas Panhandle were rendered especially dependent on skilled cattle workers. The cowboys’ strategy of withdrawing their labor during this critical period, Lause shows, helped many of them secure wage concessions. The “great cowboy strike,” in...

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