- Paperback: 720 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (April 23, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780393342376
- ISBN-13: 978-0393342376
- ASIN: 0393342379
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.4 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 62 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #96,441 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America Paperback – April 23, 2012
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About the Author
Richard White, winner of a MacArthur Fellowship and the Parkman Prize, is the Margaret Byrne Professor of American History at Stanford University.
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There was much more involvement by the government than I had realized in the promotion of the railroads. If it had not been for the government financing the railroads growth would have been at a much slower pace.
There was an incredible amount of greed and corruption involved.
This was a well-researched and well-written book about that historical period of westward expansion.
This is a fundamental flaw of railroaded. To say a railroad was to be a transcontinental but be built where it was not needed makes for a paradox. To be transcontinental a railroad has to traverse land that is not well suited for rail traffic. This is a fact of western United States geography. The Rocky Mountains or the Great Basin need to be crossed to get from the west coast to the Midwest. I do agree with White's assessment that the transcontinentals were not truly transcontinental, but rather half way continentals, often terminating in Chicago. But to say the roads were not built where they were needed could have been better stated as being built where there was no need but to cross a certain region. In other words to capture California rail traffic the Great Basin needs to be crossed, but in and of itself the Great Basin has limited need for rail transport.
White's book does a better job in explaining how the federal (and state) governments teamed with the railroads to crush the worker's rights movement. In this respect, Railroaded is a good commentary on labor relations, particularly on how the Pullman Strike of 1894 was crushed and how the strikers found regional or local strengths based on local situations. Another good commentary is the racism of the Chinese Exclusion laws of the 1880s and 1890s. Too many people in this country are unaware of the incident at Rock Springs, Wyoming.
But all in all Railroaded is a bit of a letdown. Other reviewers have written that White has an axe to grind and I see that in many of his pages where he is critical of the ineptness and corruptness of the primary railroad players (Huntington, Hill, Villard, Adams, etc.). This is more of a distraction to the reader and is perhaps the main reason it took me so long to read this book. I'd pick it up and wonder what White would be whining about in today's pages. But Railroaded is still worth reading as it offers a critical view of the 19th century industrial leaders in a light they are rarely shown in. It may take you a while to read it though.