Miller Center

Tore Olsson

History, University of Georgia

Agrarian Crossings: The American South, Mexico, and the Twentieth-Century Remaking of the Rural World

Olsson photo

Tore Olsson has been selected as the Ambrose Monell Foundation Funded Fellowship in Technology and Democracy.

Tore Olsson is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Tennessee.  Olsson's teaching and research examine the twentieth-century United States in global perspective, with an emphasis on agriculture, food, environment, rural history, and Latin America, particularly Mexico.

He is currently working on his first book, titled Remaking the Rural World: The American South and Mexico in the Twentieth Century (under contract, Princeton University Press), which weaves together the agrarian history of two places seldom discussed in common context: the American Cotton Belt and Mexico. On one hand, it illustrates how U.S. southerners and Mexicans in the first half of the twentieth century confronted similar problems in their countrysides, particularly uneven land tenure, racialized labor regimes, and plantation monoculture. More importantly, however, it reveals how cosmopolitan rural reformers in each place acknowledged their common struggle and fostered a lively transnational dialogue on questions of land, agriculture, and rural life. The book makes two primary arguments: first, it demonstrates how the American South served as the domestic laboratory for the Green Revolution, the most important Third World “development” campaign of the twentieth century. Secondly, it argues that the rural New Deal in the United States was radicalized by observations of Mexican revolutionary rhetoric and action. Rather than a comparative history, Remaking the Rural World is a history of comparisons and the way that comparison impacted policy, moved people, and remade landscapes.

Olsson’s book is based on his 2013 dissertation, which was recently the winner of the Oxford University Press USA Dissertation Prize in International History, granted by the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, and the Gilbert C. Fite Dissertation Award for best dissertation in agricultural history from the Agricultural History Society. His research for the dissertation and manuscript has been funded by the Social Science Research Council, the Miller Center, and the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, and several others.

At the University of Tennessee, Professor Olsson teaches courses on food and agriculture, U.S. foreign relations, and U.S. and Latin American social and political history.

Fellowship year: 2013

Mentor: Sarah T. Phillips, Boston University

Selected Recent Publications

Remaking the Rural World: The American South and Mexico in the Twentieth Century (in progress, under contract in Princeton University Press’s “America in the World” series).

Sharecroppers and Campesinos: The American South, Mexico, and the Transnational Politics of Land Reform in the Radical 1930s.” Journal of Southern History (August 2015).

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