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Standing at Armageddon: The United States, 1877-1919 Paperback – April 17, 1989

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"Fear of working-class violence," the author comments in the preface, "explains much of what has been called progressive reform." In this excellent illustrated survey of American labor radicalism and political reaction from the end of Reconstruction to the end of World War I, Painter concentrates largely on the struggle between "partisans of democracy" and "protectors of hierarchy" during a 42-year period when the country was evolving from an agrarian to an urban industrial society. Her major theme is the public's identification of organized labor with incendiary radicalism. She notes that the years of greatest unrest inspired ever more violent "red scares" during which the restoration of law and order meant using whoever could be defined as "reds" as the scapegoats. The author is a history professor at the University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This book offers general readers and students a fresh introduction to the United States during the Gilded Age and the progressive era. Painter has relied on the latest biographies and monographs to write her descriptive synthesis. She gives attention to blacks, women, and immigrants as well as the industrial and political elite, combining social, economic, and political history. The author concludes that the strong pressures of the agricultural and industrial laborers forced the passage of progressive reforms in the early 20th century. Painter's narrative joins other worthwhile surveys of the era, e.g., S.D. Cashman's America in the Gilded Age ( LJ 12/15/83) and Ray Ginger's standard treatment Age of Excess (1975, rev. ed.). Joseph G. Dawson III, History Dept., Texas A&M Univ., College Station
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (April 17, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393305880
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393305883
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,281,349 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nell Irvin Painter is the award-winning author of many books, including Sojourner Truth, Southern History Across the Color Line, Creating Black Americans, The History of White People, and Standing at Armageddon. She is currently the Edwards Professor of American History, Emerita, at Princeton University and lives in Newark, New Jersey.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 56 people found the following review helpful By William L. Grabow on April 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
Standing at Armageddon, by Nell Irvin Painter, covers American history from Reconstruction to the end of World War I, outlining American progress many fronts. At different times, it works as pieces of social, political, and economic history. Painter's attention to detail informs the reader with razor-sharp accuracy, but also at times provides too much information, revealing Painter's personal biases. In outlining this period of American history, Painter asserts that America was performing a tight-rope walk on the brink of destruction. America's omnipresent danger of collapse is portrayed through looks at social, economic, and political history, but the three are sometimes interconnected and some are presented more than others. In the mix, reform and inequality are paramount. Painter belabours the plight of women and blacks especially, devoting a chapter to each. Using many resources, Painter explores the aspects of social reform, including comprehensive reports of the working class, and the struggle for reform, this book is easily called social history, perhaps at the expense of political and economic history. Painter discusses the plight of women with especial detail, showing all sides of suffrage and oppression. Her female subjects range from Jane Addams to Emma Goldman, displaying convictions, goals, and accomplishments of each. Her thoughtfulness in this type of integration shows she has a flair for demonstrating societal matters. As a work of political history, SAA is fine. Important acts of legislation and politicians are not left out of the mix, and are integrated well with social aspects. With regard to legislation, no important bill is left out.Read more ›
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By J. Grattan VINE VOICE on November 4, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a commendable look at a very contentious period in US history. At the start of this period, the nation, even so-called radical Republicans, had lost tolerance for Reconstruction, essentially turning the South over to the Redeemers, that is, the old oligarchy, which essentially restored ante-bellum race relations. The story of this period involves far more than simply the dramatic rise of large enterprises and super-rich entrepreneurs. Of concern to this author are the social divides in the nation that revolved around agrarian vs. industrial interests, economic class, political effectiveness, religion, mode of production, reform vs. standpattism, native born vs. immigrants, ethnicity, and race. Farmers, artisans, and laborers usually found themselves on the wrong side of many of those divisions; attempts at amelioration were often inadequate and fleeting. The US joined the Europeans in carving up the world through imperialistic ventures based on an ideology of Anglo-Saxon racial superiority. The US certainly emerged after WWI as the world's dominate power, but most of the cracks in the foundation of American society remained.

The author's principal focus is on the so-called "labor issue," as the elites of the times referred to it, that is, workers and their jobs and actions in the context of the larger society. The nature of work underwent vast changes in the decades after the Civil War. Much of independent artisanship was swallowed up by the de-skilled, corporate machine-tending mode of production. Easily replaced and therefore essentially powerless, workers found it extremely difficult to counter the squeezing of their wages to subsistence levels in a time of over all deflation with significant economic downturns occurring at least once a decade.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mark bennett on October 23, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is a good general history of a deliberately overlooked period in American history. It is an era of economic turmoil, the failure of reconstruction, social ferment and political corruption. This is mostly not a happy political era, but its an important era to understand in terms of the history of the country. The history of the period is especially important in terms to understanding the reality of American history and the fact that there was no golden age of business-led prosperty at any point in the past.

The only flaw of the book is its reach. 1919 is too far. The book should have stopped at the election of Teddy Roosevelt or even the spanish American war breaking out. The progressive era and the world war one era are too much for a book like this to cover. It would have been better with the scope cut back. But all in all a decent book of history.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Crawford on October 7, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you think that the present era is bad, all you need to do is read about the Reconstruction to see America at its absolute worst. This book covers the close of Reconstruction, into what has long been portrayed as an era of explosive "progressivism", but it is a kind of people's history as well as covering the leaders. The result is a brilliant and dense tableau by a first rate historian and writer.

At the beginning of the era, the government has been thoroughly corrupted by the "robber barons", who have essentially turned the Republicans into defenders of capital over labor: they essentially made it illegal, in some cases even treasonous, to strike or even speak out, followed by executions on trumped up charges after violent confrontations. To the 1880s, as the industrial revolution was gaining momentum and resulting in vast fortunes and power, the conditions of work were often of an unimaginable brutality: 7-day work weeks, child labor, virtual imprisonment of laborers in shabby industrial complexes at dirt-low pay, etc. Unions were not recognized as legitimate representatives of labor and hence not allowed to negotiate collectively, workers could not feed their families, and education was largely unavailable. With all three branches of the government completely in the pocket of the "capitalists", the working class felt as if it was disenfranchised and without any means of effecting change. Then there were terrible economic downturns that thrown millions into the streets without any government social safety net.

The result was a build-up of anger that reached revolutionary proportions, ready to burst forth in the most violent confrontations - industrial, racially motivated, etc. - that America had seen since the Civil War.
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