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Age of Betrayal [Kindle Edition]

Jack Beatty
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $18.95
Kindle Price: $11.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Age of Betrayal is a brilliant reconsideration of America's first Gilded Age, when war-born dreams of freedom and democracy died of their impossibility. Focusing on the alliance between government and railroads forged by bribes and campaign contributions, Jack Beatty details the corruption of American political culture that, in the words of Rutherford B. Hayes, transformed “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people” into “a government by the corporations, of the corporations, and for the corporations.” A passionate, gripping, scandalous and sorrowing history of the triumph of wealth over commonwealth.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Atlantic Monthly editor Beatty (The Rascal King) clearly invokes a comparison with the present in writing of how, he says, corporations, not the people, ruled America in the Gilded Age. He examines the role of the railroads as the engine of capitalism, the role of protectionist tariffs in raising prices for the common man and how "representative government gave way to bought government." But Beatty ignores the latest literature on that period by the likes of Charles R. Morris, Maury Klein, David Nasaw and David Cannadine. Instead, the post–Civil War industrial boom depicted by Beatty mimics that described by the now largely discredited Matthew Josephson—author in the 1930s of The Robber Barons—whose works Beatty cites. Beatty also references other now-marginalized class-warrior historians, such as Gustavus Myers, in portraying capitalism as a sort of zero-sum game where a dollar pocketed by one individual is inevitably a buck stolen from someone else, overlooking the notion of visionary entrepreneurs creating a surging tide of capital upon which all boats rise. Beatty's view of history seems guided by his liberal impulses and his disillusioned view of American democracy today—not the best way to approach history. B&w illus. (Apr. 16)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Indicting the Gilded Age, Beatty adopts an essayist's persona to flay iniquities of the period. Its mystery prompts the author to ask, "What reverse alchemy transformed mass enthusiasm [for politics] into policies disfavoring the masses?" Turning over explanations, Beatty gives extended play to the eminent historians of Reconstruction, C. Vann Woodward and Eric Foner, and delves into Civil War reforms, such as the Thirteenth through Fifteenth Amendments and the Homestead Act. However, such reforms were thwarted by atrocities against blacks and land-grant shenanigans that advantaged railroads over farmers. Also prevalent in this era was corporate buccaneering, which to Beatty is best represented by the Pennsylvania Railroad, Jay Gould, and Andrew Carnegie, and which flavors his wider account of depressions, strikes, and elections. Weaving episodes of corruption into his narrative, and culminating with the Populist Party of the 1890s, Beatty maintains an opinionated indignation throughout. The NPR pundit's lively interpretation of the era should engage those interested in social and economic history. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 1271 KB
  • Print Length: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1 edition (April 10, 2007)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000P28WV2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #204,373 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gilded Age One June 19, 2007
"This book tells the saddest story: How, having redeemed democracy in the Civil War, America betrayed it in the Gilded Age." That is that start of _Age of Betrayal: The Triumph of Money in America, 1865 - 1900_ (Knopf) by Jack Beatty. But Beatty, an author of previous histories of that age, isn't just sad. He is angry. It may be futile for a historian to be angry over the unchangeable actions of corporations, government, and citizens so long ago, but a reader cannot help but pick up on it and share the indignation. Beatty has packed one disappointment and betrayal after another into a big book thick with human folly and greed. He cannot help making comparisons with current times, although the comparisons are not pointed or emphasized. He does such things as quote President Hayes's diary about "the rottenness of the present system", "the excessive wealth in the hands of the few", or "This is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people no longer. It is a government by the corporations, of the corporations, and for the corporations." Beatty's case for this being true of the time about which he writes is overwhelming, and that can only increase suspicion that such forces are at work in our own time.

The great innovative industry of the time was railroading. The government made it easy for railroads by giving over 150 million acres in land grants, which the companies not only used but developed and sold. The corporate bosses and politicians enriched themselves, and kept themselves in power to continue to do so. The benefits handed out by government were not all directly to the railroads.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fables of the Reconstruction June 21, 2007
_Age of Betrayal_, I have to say, was a thoroughly enjoyable and engrossing read. Mr. Beatty, who demonstrates his probity, erudition and understanding time and again on NPR's _On Point_, easily imports these virtues into writing. His is politically inflected historiography in the best sense, comparing favorably to marxian British historians of previous generations like E. P. Thompson and Gareth Stedman Jones. For the author, what is past is incontrovertibly prelude, and his treatment of the Gilded Age offers the perceptive reader as many insights into his own historical moment as of historical ones.

To his credit Mr. Beatty wears his learning and convictions lightly; the polemic is always subtle, never heavy-handed, and is seamlessly integrated into the prose; the gusto with which he tackles his subject proves infectious. Some chapters, such as those treating the rise and spectacular collapse of the Populists, and the labor unrest at the Carnegie steelworks, have a tragic sweep to them that will leave only the most jaded eye unmoist. As one who studies late-nineteenth century British literature, I really have to credit the author with deepening my understanding of events on this side of the Atlantic during the same period.

I do, however, have two quibbles with the text. First, the author's prose style, while generally graceful, does show a proclivity toward terseness, as well as Chicago-Manual economy of punctuation, which sometimes make even more formidable the dense thickets of data the author frequently drops his reader into. Second, while in the main Mr. Beatty confines himself to the period stated in the book's subtitle, 1865-1900, he does at times look forward to FDR's New Deal, and offers as a coda some words of Woodrow Wilson's in 1913.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything old is new again March 7, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a superb book, with the kind of historical information from which American history should be taught at the college level. Although this book takes some work to understand, it is worth the effort for every citizen who would like to understand America. And the Author makes it possible to understand - the book's greatest virtue.

The research is meticulous and the Author's writing skills and analyses make it possible to see the real economic development of the United States. We get an understanding of the interplay between uncontrolled greed and corrupt government through which our railroads were built and other industries devloped. The endless advantages conferred upon private corporations, how investors were frequently swindled, how millions of acres of land were given away, the amazing scope of the fraud perpetrated, all in the name of the economic development of our nation. The growing nation needed railroads, of course, and unparalled economic growth was inevitable in a country as blessed as ours was with natural resources, technological advancement and unlimited territory. But this book raises the question of who this country is for. Lincoln's idea of government FOR the people was lost in an orgy of corporate fraud and favoritism that is still hard to believe.
The best thing I got out of this book is a perspective on what has been going on in our economy in the past decade. Banking and business is so in control of our government that now government just gives hundreds of billions away when modern versions of fraud threaten to virtually destroy the economy. A trillion dollars has been spent to bail out the banks and businesses that have failed us as a nation.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 5 months ago by Thomas Donahue
5.0 out of 5 stars Political Corruption
It's a hard read (reads like a tech journal, lots of footnotes) ,but the subject is fascinating to me. People have a hard time understanding political corruption. Read more
Published 8 months ago by David J. Cigler
5.0 out of 5 stars accessible and memorable
With a cover photograph that beckons closer inspection and a back-cover promise to reveal “a passionate, gripping, scandalous and sorrowful history,“ Jack Beatty, senior editor of... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Dawn Forward
5.0 out of 5 stars Current replay of past conservative drivel.
While I have yet to finish the book, I find disturbing similarities to the current drivel professed by the conservatives and turd (tea) party extremists. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Richard Borucki
3.0 out of 5 stars Incoherent writing
There is no doubt that Beatty has written an important book. The problem lies in his style of writing: In many places it is opaque, pure and simple. Read more
Published 15 months ago by L. Sive
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read
In these troubled times, no book provides a better explanation of why this is now the "Corporate Robber Baron" period by comparing he actions of the Robber Barons from 1865... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Emanuel Barling, Jr.
4.0 out of 5 stars Betrayal indeed..
It seems sadly contemporary, a reminder that "those who fail to learn the lessons of history shall be condemned to repeat them."
Published 20 months ago by White Lake 69
2.0 out of 5 stars Who's he
Some of the more-difficult to understand concepts of American history occurred during the second half of the 19th century. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Scrapple8
5.0 out of 5 stars Beatty's critique resonates in today's new Gilded Age
This is a great history about the betrayal of democracy that erased the democratic advances (emancipation, 13th-16th Amendments, Reconstruction) that the U.S. Read more
Published on October 30, 2012 by Craig R. Mccormick
5.0 out of 5 stars The People's Party
Within the "Gilded Age" (post Civil War; 1800s) there was a very impressive educational movement called the People's Party which sought to remedy the gullible and exploited with... Read more
Published on May 5, 2012 by safetybiz
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