Amrys O. Williams F'11
Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships 2011
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Cultivating Modern America: 4-H Clubs and Rural Development in the Twentieth Century
This project explores the history of development in the twentieth century, using the rural youth clubs known as 4-H as a lens for understanding the rural dimensions of development on the American model. It argues that 4-H implemented progressive, biological ideas about the proper development of youth, crops, livestock, landscapes, and societies to create a way of life that was both modern and rooted in the countryside--a “rural modernity.” 4-H was both the means by which reformers implemented this distinctly rural vision of the future, and a site for rural people to contest and shape that modernity moving forward. Examining 4-H domestically and internationally from the 1910s through the 1970s, the dissertation traces the formulation, implementation, revision, and eclipse of rural modernity in development efforts.