The Historian's Wizard Of Oz

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The Historian's Wizard of Oz synthesizes four decades of scholarly interpretations of L. Frank Baum's classic children's novel as an allegory of the Gilded Age political economy and a comment on the gold standard. The heart of the book is an annotated version of The Wizard of Oz that highlights the possible political and monetary symbolism in the book by relating characters, settings, and incidents in it to the historical events and figures of the 1890s, the decade in which Baum wrote his story. Dighe simultaneously values the leading political interpretations of Oz as useful and creative teaching tools, and consolidates them in a sympathetic fashion; yet he rejects the commonly held, and by now well-debunked, view that those interpretations reflect Baum's likely motivations in writing the book. The result is a unique way for readers to acquaint themselves with a classic of children's literature that is a bit different and darker than the better-known film version.

Students of history and economics will find two great stories: the dramatic rise and fall of monetary populism and William Jennings Bryan and the original rendering of a childhood story that they know and love. This study draws on several worthy versions of the Oz-as-Populist-parable thesis, but it also separates the reading of Baum's book in this manner from Baum's original intentions. Despite an incongruence with Baum's intent, reading the story as a parable continues to provide a remarkable window into the historical events of the 1890s and, thus, constitutes a tremendous teaching tool for historians, economists, and political scientists. Dighe also includes a primer on gold, silver, and the American monetary system, as well as a brief history of the Populist movement.

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Editorial Reviews

Dighe (economics, State U. of New York-Oswego) began using the popular novel in his class on US economic history as an opening to the Populism of the 1890s, but found some problems with the notion of it as a political allegory relating to the gold controversy of the time. The core of his work is a highly annotated edition of pointing out political references that readers are left to interpret as they will. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
From the Publisher

[e]ven though the story does not really work all that well as an allegory, the allegory works well as a tool for teaching the history.


Science Fiction Studies

[a] useful resource for Oz scholars and teachers, with its helpful historical background information, bibliographic references, selection of contemporary images, and excellent overview of academia's Populist-parable theory.


Utopian Studies

[A] very useful and engaging book that introduces and explains the context under which Baum's book was written and provides some of the basis for the economic and political interpretations that have emerged over the years. The wonderful Wizard of OZ can be read for pure delight by a child or alternatively can become part of a scholarly debate over the events and significance of economic and public policy- a testimony to the power of words and the importance of metaphors to understanding complex relationships. For students and teachers, for novice and seasoned scholars alike, I heartily recommend Dighe's interesting and entertaining book.


EH.Net book Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780275974183
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/1/2002
  • Pages: 180
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

RANJIT S. DIGHE is Assistant Professor of Economics at the State University of New York at Oswego. His specialty is American macroeconomic history, and he has written extensively on American labor markets between the world wars.

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction: The Colors of Money 1
2 "If I Only Had a Brain": A Primer on Gold, Silver, and the American Monetary System 11
3 "Populism Will Put Them to Sleep": A Short History of the Populist Movement of the 1890s 27
4 L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, with Annotations 41
App. A Another Fiat-Money Metaphor, from The Marvelous Land of Oz 131
App. B William Jennings Bryan's "Cross of Gold" Speech 133
App. C The Quantity Theory of Money 141
Bibliography 143
Index 147
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