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Age of Betrayal: The Triumph of Money in America, 1865-1900
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Age of Betrayal: The Triumph of Money in America, 1865-1900

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  62 ratings  ·  20 reviews
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...more
ebook, 528 pages
Published April 10th 2007 by Vintage
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David Buckley

Beatty's book is certainly combative enough and "passionate" enough to warrant some of the praise showered on it by media reviewers. But "passion" is too often a codeword for "bias," and congenial though Beattty's view of the Gilded Age may be, there is no denying its lopsidedness.

In his opening sentence Beatty throws down the gauntlet: "This book tells the saddest story,"he writes. "How, having redeemed democracy in the Civil War, America betrayed it in the Gilded Age."

This is certainly high-mi...more
Joe Hack
History repeats itself, and the history the United States is repeating here in the early 21st Century is the period from 1865 to 1900 that historians often refer to as the Gilded Age. All the rights and freedoms promised by Abraham Lincoln were thrown into the dustbin of history by the alleged losers of the Civil War. Corporations became the beneficiaries of the war's only victories (the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments) and the reaper of America's new industrial fortunes at the expense of the peo...more
Jerry Landry
While I think this book had some really fascinating facts and analysis in it and helped to improve my knowledge of the time between 1865 and 1900 in the US, I almost feel that it would have been better served to have had its subject matter divided up into a few books. As a reader, I felt disoriented jumping from two chapters about the Supreme Court to two chapters about Tom Scott and the Pennsylvania Railroad to a chapter about Populism and so on and so forth. The transitions between topics were...more
Erwin
Mar 12, 2008 Erwin rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Reconstruction deconstructionists (?!)
Jack Beatty's 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 o...more
David Monroe
Beatty's focus is on tracking the transformation of the late 19th Century through an in-depth examination of key events and representative biographies that highlight the alliance between government and business, including the Supreme Court's infamous Santa Clara decision (effectively extending equal protection rights to corporations), the bloody suppression of the Homestead strike, and the rise (and fall) of the Populist movement. This is the story of "political capitalism": "government favors t...more
Michael
Conservative historians like to complain that histories written with the present in mind results in bad history. This book proves that old saw to be, well, old. This book is a well written, carefully detailed (sometimes too detailed) and powerfully relevant history of the Gilded Age - the period of American history from the end of the Civil War to the Assassination of William McKinley. This was an era of unrestrained capitalist growth, the creation of huge personal fortunes (including John D. Ro...more
Zack Anchors
All those people chattering so much about "populist rage" these days need to read this book, a history of late 19th century populist uprising and related events. Then, as now, vigorous debate over substantive economic issues became watered down by the infusion into the political discourse of completely phony issues -- most notably the "currency question". Ultimately, whether the US used silver or gold as the standard for its currency didn't matter all that much. But the choice was rife with symb...more
Brandon
This is a first-rate history of the Gilded Age that shows very clearly the betrayal Beatty's title refers to -- how special interests managed to corrupt the government and one of its noblest achievements (the 14th Amendment) to empower corporations. It's a searing book about how the system once worked against the very people government is supposed to protect -- we the people -- and instead became an instrument for the wealthy and powerful to protect themselves. One nit I would pick is Beatty's h...more
Todd Thompson
The period of 1865-1900 in America is the subject of this book, characterized by the author as a betrayal of a higher moral longing in American culture after a hard-fought and bloody period of civil war. Described in great depth, Beatty tells the stories of the building of the railroads, the incumbent risk and eventual wealth of those who built them, along with the empires created around them, subjecting this Gilded Age accomplishment to a critical analysis and showing convincingly the social an...more
Bill
I think the late 19th century is very interesting... especially compared to the current politics. This is a very liberal biased look at that time but, being very liberal, I found little that was amiss!

It was the gilded age - the time of the Robber Barons - the civil war was over and the United States were becoming the dominant power in the world....if not in military strength at least in economic reach.

Slavery had all but returned in the South with the death of Reconstruction and the deal with t...more
Sabrine Faragallah
Fantastic read, especially for anyone interested in a true, un-filtered understanding of the Reconstruction Era of US history and what the start of industrialization really looked like in the US.

Another great takeaway was insight to the modern day foundation of the Democratic and Republican parties, and the Populist and Progressive undercurrents that were disruptive forces and shaped our history and the ideals of each of the parties.

A great find on the internet is Jack Beatty himself giving a le...more
Toothy_grin
A most impressive piece of Gilded Age scholarship (The end notes are amazing.) conveyed in a dismal style of writing. Gratuitous over-usage of obscure words sent me to the dictionary too often, and numerous sentences took multiple readings to parse their meanings. That said, it's an important book on one of the crucial eras of American history: read it, but keep your dictionary at hand.
B
This seems to be a common theme among books arguing that there was a particular time when business became more powerful in American society: They always seem to hint at an alternative but don't really seem to have it.

At any rate, this book is full of interesting statistics and stories. They may not all add up to anything in particular but they certainly add color
Anthony Vivirito
I knew nothing in detail of "standardized time" and the true impact of the rail system on our emerging economy and clas at the turn of the century. Beatty writes with a certain fluidity that makes this book less of a hisotry lesson and more like a travel guide through the preindustrialized U.S. I recommend it highly!
Paula
Not an easy read (too many quotes, too much material to synthesize) but a most interesting look at the economic and political history of the "Gilded Age". It doesn't sound much different from the way things are today, unfortunately--entirely too much corporate influence.
Jack
I generally agree with Jack Beatty's interpretations and judgments on the topic. However, this book suffers from poor organization, lack of focus, and truly opaque writing. Regrettably it's one of the very few nonfiction books that I consider "unreadable".
Sean Chick
Disorganized, ham-fisted, and supported by a poor use of source. Oh, and he gets lots of basic facts wrong. But hey, when you are part of the intellectual elite, you get a free pass to fail. What is true has become true on Wall Street is true in scholarship.
Christopher
Great economic and political history of the Gilded Age. Highly relevant the present era.
Rebecca
Such an interesting topic....presented in the most boring possible way.
Sicarii
Too much about modern issues, rather than the period covered.
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