• 232 pages
  • 6 x 9
  • 8 halftones
  • Price: $27.95
  • EAN: 9781439915042
  • Publication: Sep 2017
  • Price: $89.50
  • EAN: 9781439915035
  • Publication: Sep 2017
  • Price: $27.95
  • EAN: 9781439915059
  • Publication: Sep 2017

On the Stump

Campaign Oratory and Democracy in the United States, Britain, and Australia

Sean Scalmer
  • New South Wales Premier's History Award in General History, 2018

"Stumping," or making political speeches in favor of a candidate, cause, or campaign has been around since before the 1800s, when speechmaking was frequently portrayed as delivered from the base of a tree. The practice, which has been strongly associated with the American frontier, British agitators, and colonial Australia, remains an effective component of contemporary democratic politics.

In his engaging book On the Stump, Sean Scalmer provides the first comprehensive, transnational history of the "stump speech." He traces the development and transformation of campaign oratory, as well as how national elections and public life and culture have been shaped by debate over the past century.

Scalmer presents an eloquent study of how "stumping" careers were made, sustained, remembered, and exploited, to capture the complex rhythms of political change over the years. On the Stump examines the distinctive dramatic and performative styles of celebrity orators including Davy Crockett, Henry Clay, and William Gladstone. Ultimately, Scalmer recovers the history of the stump speech and its historical significance in order to better understand how political change is forged.


“On the Stump is a pioneering study of politics in the emerging Anglo-American world of the nineteenth century. Scalmer amply succeeds in pulling together material from the national stories of America, Britain, and Australia to form a coherent and compelling argument in transnational history. At the same time, he is rightly alive to local contexts that ensured that the stump speech took a different form, and was perceived in a different way, in each society. The superb writing, the breadth of the study, and the serious engagement with what it means to write transnational political history should guarantee this excellent book a wide readership.”
Jon Lawrence, Associate Professor in Modern British History at the University of Exeter and author of Electing Our Masters: The Hustings in British Politics from Hogarth to Blair

“Offering a fresh appreciation of the way stumping developed in the United States and a fascinating comparison between the United States, Great Britain, and Australia, On the Stump makes a valuable contribution not only to these three national histories but to transnational history as well. With particular sensitivity to the subtleties as stumping developed and changed, Scalmer helps us understand how this technique grew and in turn helped American democracy grow. Impressively researched, well written, and authoritative, On the Stump is an insightful and illuminating book.
Gil Troy, Distinguished Scholar in North American Studies at McGill University and author of See How They Ran: The Changing Role of the Presidential Candidate

"Scalmer describes the development of stump speaking in America, Great Britain, and Australia.... The book is certain to become a basic source for the history of stump speaking in the three countries....Summing Up: Recommended."

"The transnational approach that Scalmer takes is particularly intriguing as it shows stumping as a practice that was adopted and adapted in different parts of the world at different times.... Overall this is a magisterial and always engaging account of nineteenth-century stump oratory in the US, Australia and Britain that is both entirely convincing and beautifully written. Anyone interested in nineteenth-century political culture will read it with great pleasure and benefit."
Australian Historical Studies

"On the Stump traces the evolution of popular political speech in the United States, Britain, and Australia. Sean Scalmer focuses on how certain savvy politicians—Davy Crockett and Henry Clay, Charles Gavan Duffy and Graham Berry, and William Gladstone—put powerful oratorical skills to effect to redefine elected officials’ relationship with voters.... (T)his innovative study confirms that while stumping’s meanings and criticisms changed, depending on time and continent...its history crossed nations and hemispheres."
— Journal of American History

"Scalmer does an admirable job of explaining the context of American stumping.... On the Stump is well organized and clearly argued. It helps explain not only why people of the nineteenth century came to accept stumping but also why we continue to see its use in familiar ways today."
— American Historical Review

"This is the first book to systematically analyze the origin and historical significance of the stump speech, an oration garnering support for a candidate or cause.... Using a performative, culturalist, transnational, and biographical approach, this study traces the movement of the stump speech, as it became associated by the 1850s with agitators in the British world. From the stumping of Davy Crockett to Henry Clay, this study argues for the historical importance of this genre, as it significantly altered democratic speech over the course of a century."
— American Literature

About the Author(s)

Sean Scalmer is an Associate Professor in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne, Australia. He is the author or editor of several books, including Gandhi in the West: The Mahatma and the Rise of Radical Protest; Activist Wisdom: Practical Knowledge and Creative Tension in Social Movements (with Sarah Maddison); and Dissent Events: Protest, the Media and the Political Gimmick in Australia.