Gilded age start and end
The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896 by Richard WhiteThe Oxford History of the United States is the most respected multivolume history of the American nation. In the newest volume in the series, The Republic for Which It Stands, acclaimed historian Richard White offers a fresh and integrated interpretation of Reconstruction and the Gilded Age as the seedbed of modern America.
At the end of the Civil War the leaders and citizens of the victorious North envisioned the countrys future as a free-labor republic, with a homogenous citizenry, both black and white. The South and West were to be reconstructed in the image of the North. Thirty years later Americans occupied an unimagined world. The unity that the Civil War supposedly secured had proved ephemeral. The country was larger, richer, and more extensive, but also more diverse. Life spans were shorter, and physical well-being had diminished, due to disease and hazardous working conditions. Independent producers had become wage earners. The country was Catholic and Jewish as well as Protestant, and increasingly urban and industrial. The dangerous classes of the very rich and poor expanded, and deep differences-ethnic, racial, religious, economic, and political-divided society. The corruption that gave the Gilded Age its name was pervasive.
These challenges also brought vigorous efforts to secure economic, moral, and cultural reforms. Real change-technological, cultural, and political-proliferated from below more than emerging from political leadership. Americans, mining their own traditions and borrowing ideas, produced creative possibilities for overcoming the crises that threatened their country.
In a work as dramatic and colorful as the era it covers, White narrates the conflicts and paradoxes of these decades of disorienting change and mounting unrest, out of which emerged a modern nation whose characteristics resonate with the present day.
During this era, America became more prosperous and saw unprecedented growth in industry and technology. But the Gilded Age had a more sinister side: It was a period where greedy, corrupt industrialists, bankers and politicians enjoyed extraordinary wealth and opulence at the expense of the working class. In fact, it was wealthy tycoons, not politicians, who inconspicuously held the most political power during the Gilded Age. Before the Civil War , rail travel was dangerous and difficult—but after the war, George Westinghouse invented the air brake, which made braking systems more dependable and safe. Soon, the development of Pullman sleeping cars and dining cars made rail travel comfortable and more enjoyable for passengers. In , the Transcontinental Railroad was finished and led to rapid settlement of the western United States. It also made it much easier to transport goods over long distances from one part of the country to another.
This article appears in the Spring issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here. Celebrate our 25th Anniversary with us by clicking here for a free download of this special issue. Rising inequality seems to pose an insurmountable political problem. If the underlying causes are technological change and globalization, the forces appear to be unstoppable. Alternatively, if the causes are primarily political and involve the power of corporate and financial interests, the forces driving inequality may also appear to be overwhelming. Some people may conclude in despair that, for all practical purposes, nothing can be done.
America's Slide Back Toward Oligarchy
The term refers to the gilding of a cheaper metal with a thin layer of gold. Many critics complained that the era was marked by ostentatious display, crass manners, corruption, and shoddy ethics. Historians view the Gilded Age as a period of rapid economic, technological, political, and social transformation. This transformation forged a modern, national industrial society out of what had been small regional communities. In the process, there was much dislocation, including the destruction of the Plains Indians, hardening discrimination against African Americans, and environmental degradation. Two extended nationwide economic depressions followed the Panic of and the Panic of The Gilded Age saw impressive economic growth and the unprecedented expansion of major cities.