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"Getting the Gilded Age All Wrong"



At American Heritage, business historian John Steele Gordon is unimpressed with a new history in which Atlantic editor Jack Beatty pursues an ain't-capitalism-awful theme in tub-thumping style:

This anger that the people of the latter half of the nineteenth century often did not run their world as Jack Beatty thinks they should have permeates what is a remarkably old-fashioned book. From its tone (utterly unforgiving of human nature and an earlier generation), style (orotund, what William Jennings Bryan might have written had he been better educated), and historical perspective, Age of Betrayal might have been written 80 or even 100 years ago, when the Victorian world was deeply out of fashion.

While the author relies extensively on such ancient books as the highly tendentious History of the Great American Fortunes by Gustavus Myers (1910) and the flatly dishonest The Robber Barons and The Politicos by Matthew Josephson (1934, 1938), he often ignores the work of later historians, especially those of the last 30 years, who have brought a different and far more balanced perspective to the age of the �robber barons� and to the often remarkable characters who dominated it.

 

 


Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy
rmangual@manhattan-institute.org

Katherine Lazarski
Manhattan Institute
klazarski@manhattan-institute.org

 

Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.