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The People's Tycoon: Henry Ford and the American Century Paperback – October 10, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From The New Yorker
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Steven Watts has organized this book so that it flows more or less chronologically in the broad sweep, but each chapter is really a different topic that exemplifies a certain stage in Henry Ford's life. Within each chapter, the author feels free to swing into the past and recapitulate events that he has discussed previously but now fleshes out or to take us into the future to see how a certain aspect of his life played out in Ford's later life.
One of the important reasons to read these kinds of histories is that without them our past becomes flattened and we lose the sense of what happened when and why. We tend to remember a couple of events that we think are important because we remember them, but we have no context and often jumble their actual historical context and meaning. For example, the famous $5 a day is easy to misunderstand unless you also add in Ford's starting an organization that worked with his workers and their families (or intruded on them, depending on your position) to make sure they were using all that money properly. Also, not every worker was eligible for that wage. Single women without dependents could not sign up for that program.
Ford also was a master of publicity. He kept himself in the limelight, partly as a way of not having to pay for advertising.Read more ›
Unfortunately, this was his zenith of creativity. As he aged, he refused to change with the passage of time and stayed stuck with his outdated concepts. He remained a control freak for the rest of his life which stunted the growth of his children and of the Ford Motor Company. His anti-Semitism colored his isolationist views and led to his endorsement of the "America First" movement for neutrality during World War II.
Mr Watts tells his sad tale with the right mixture of admiration for his professional contributions and disdain for his personal failings. He places Henry Ford within the culture of his times and how he altered Americvan society. For the reader desiring further information, Robert Lacy's "Ford: The Men and The Machine" (1986) portrays the story of the Ford family until the mid-1980's.
Much of the vast literature about Ford has a partisan slant, either glorifying or condemning him. Steven Watts, a history professor at the University of Missouri, has tried in this book to find a middle ground. His verdict acknowledges Ford's genius at industrial organization and celebrates the populist rural idealism that motivated him, but faults him for inability to change with the times, unwillingness to let others make decisions, and general anti-intellectual stubbornness. Ford's brilliant ideas and his childish follies thread through the book like Wagnerian leitmotifs, reflecting on and influencing each other.
Watts's subtitle is important. At every stage of Ford's career Watts tries to relate him to the wider currents of American experience, showing how in his early years he understood what sort of country he was inhabiting and capitalized on that knowledge -- but then foolishly refused to change his ways as the social and political ground shifted, allowing his great company to slide into a long decline.
This sociological slant gives THE PEOPLE'S TYCOON considerable depth, but it also makes the book a bit ponderous and slow-moving. Watts has mined the vast Ford archives in Dearborn, Michigan, deeply --- too deeply, in fact.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An entertaining book that has an incredible amount of automotive history.Published 2 months ago by Peter Northup
A well-balanced and captivating history of one of the most interesting and influential characters of the early 20th century. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
First, the biggest problem with this book is that the print is about 1-2 font sizes smaller than any book you will read. Read morePublished 11 months ago by William Richards
Decided to read up a bit about the man who created my 1929 Model AA truck. VERY interesting book that gives an insight to a very interesting man! Read morePublished 12 months ago by Mrguy