I know Upton Sinclair was not a Historian, however his work The Jungle has had a significant impact on how society views industry standards, regulations, government agency's, etcetera. There are broad historiographical trends that his novel might fit in, like New Social History, New Left, and maybe Marxism. However does anybody know the specific implications that his work had on Historiography?

2 Answers 2


It has been said that Sinclair's "Jungle" was "aimed for the [American] public's heart and hit it in the stomach." That is to say that the main result was widespread calls for a reform of food processing practices, and the creation of the Food and Drug Administration to oversee this

Sinclair was decidedly left of center, probably socialist, and his book may have contributed to the mid-Western based "Progressivism" of people like Robert LaFollete of Wisconsin. But the main impact of this work was not "political," but rather "regulatory."

While regulation has a political component, it is the province of centrist "good government" types, rather than radicals on either side. Sinclair's book did only a little to wins socialist converts, but a lot to win reform of food processing, and contributed to the beginning of the environmental movement. (The book was published during the Presidency of Teddy Roosevelt, a leading, and early, environmentalist.)

  • How are you defining politics, and regulation? Given the Platonic definition of politics, then Sinclair's book had a profound impact on not only government politics (like enacting the FDA), but also public politics. He shoved the atrocities of the blue collar working conditions in the bourgeois life. The question asks weather The Jungle contributed to how people wrote history. Marx's Communist Manifesto was published about 40 years earlier which had a massive impact in historiography. Did Sinclair's work contribute to a Marxist understanding of history? If so, how did it contribute? Commented Apr 22, 2016 at 17:56
  • @SamanthaHutto: To use Dukakis' framework, I link "politics" to ideology, and "regulation" to "competence." tt's true that regulation has a political component, but this was the province of more "centrist" political policy makers. Sinclair was more of an "extremist," that is "socialist" rather than liberal or even "progressive." In this regard, his book failed to win many converts to socialism, but instead, became a rallying point for centrist "good government" types.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Apr 22, 2016 at 20:50

Upton Sinclair's work put him in the vanguard of several historiographical movements: people's history, muckraking, and undercover journalism. His attention to common people's experiences seems to be overshadowed by the memory of his seminal acts of journalism.

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