New Book: Sean Scalmer, “On the Stump”

Associate Professor Sean Scalmer is the author of a new transnational history of the “stump speech”: On the Stump: Campaign Oratory and Democracy in the United States, Britain, and Australia (Temple University 2017).

“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.

An excerpt from the book can be accessed online at the publisher's website.