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Age of Betrayal: The Triumph of Money in America, 1865-1900 Hardcover – April 10, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (April 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400040280
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400040285
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.6 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,443,121 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

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This is a classic, and worth the time to read.
K. Hughes
This is a superb book, with the kind of historical information from which American history should be taught at the college level.
Stan Kravit
I was very interested in the topic and the author has done very in-depth research to support the book.
Gregg

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on June 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
"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 By Utah Jack Squint on June 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover
_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 By Stan Kravit on 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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