Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History



First Reader/Committee Chair



This project aims to examine the causes for the recent ascent of populism in the West during the last dozen or so years with a lens focused on the United States and France. The primary area under observation is both the historical and contemporary role that populism and its adherents have played within our cultures. I aim to address the following: What is populism, how has it been broadly understood and how do its adherents regard it and what causes populist movements to develop. Academics in the field have produced a rich historiography that reveals a divided discourse. Previously analysts have debated over foundational definitions, the broad tenets, its connections to existing ideologies and various other topics. The subject is of importance because populism plays a highly consequential role in modern political systems which seems unlikely to dissipate soon. My aim in this is to re-examine the historical role of populism and clarify if its presence reveals any inconvenient truths about our contemporary political systems. The analysis uses primarily a social and economic examination with an occasional cultural glance to keep it appropriately grounded to the topic. The document produces a series of sources ranging from cartoons, statistics, polling, film, songs, speeches and other matters to hopefully provide a comprehensive examination that leaves few stones unturned. My conclusion draws that populism is an inevitable result of the inequities produced by the historical liberal capitalist modes of economy and politics that it was formed in. They reveal that populism is an inescapable component of modern democracy that affects the language and habits of even its opponents who humor it due to its essential efficacy. The dominant significance of this is to not consider populism merely a fringe inconvenience but rather fully regard it as perhaps the primary competing mode of political action both now and for the presentable future as its driving components only become starker if exceptional action is not taken.