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Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power
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Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  792 Ratings  ·  67 Reviews
Throughout time, from ancient Rome to modern Britain, the great empires built and maintained their domination through force of arms and political power. But not the United States. America has dominated the world in a new, peaceful, and pervasive way -- through the continued creation of staggering wealth. In this authoritative, engrossing history, John Steele Gordon capture ...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published October 25th 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published October 1st 2004)
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Feb 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
If you're looking for a book on the history of American economics, then look no further. John Steele Gordon takes two subjects that don't exactly arouse the most excitement in people--economics and history--and creates an informative, page-turning collaboration on United States economic history dating back to colonial times. Mr. Gordon gives us an insightful look into the economics of the colonial era, how the nation's fiscal structure was established following the Revolutionary War, the effects ...more
John Maniscalco
Mar 30, 2009 rated it did not like it
I only finished half of this book, it was all I could take. Not that there aren't some interesting facts in the book, it is just not what I expected. To be fair, this book is quite ambitious to attempt to cover 400 years of economic history in as many pages and it does do a good job explaining how technology facilitated economic growth (not exactly a great discovery) and how Americans have a particular ability to create develop new technologies and methods that allowed economic growth to progres ...more
Jul 07, 2008 rated it liked it
A good quick overview of the economic history and development of the United States. Beginning with the colonial days and early enterprises to the breaking of the millennium, this easy read introduces the reader to the hows and whys of what made the American economy what it is today. Although very optimistic about the history of the stock market and the economy in general, this book at least does give a good argument for an open capitalist and free market system. Along with the reader's knowledge ...more
Randall Secrest
Aug 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Randall by: Mr. Jim Wilkerson
Excellent writing until the final twenty percent, no appreciable mention of Jack Kennedy and the one line mention of the 9-11 tragedy ended the book? Perhaps two books would have been better than one? Otherwise a fine story of a bigger than life country.
Sep 25, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: recently-read
I really enjoyed the book. It was an easy read, though it took me a long time to finish it because of my school obligations. The book gave good general overview of how the U.S. came to be the hegemon that it had, starting from the colonial time. I found it quite gripping... the boom and bust periods resonated our current financial situation. This included people who had visions and great ideas that pushed the market forward.

It wasn't terribly complex, which I didn't think it could be considering
Aug 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
I found this book to be very informative. I'm really not good with the whole 'What percentage of what equals what' stuff on the stock market. But this book really didn't go into that - it was very conceptual. As such I feel as though I understand the general ideas behind what goes on much more than I ever did before. If you want to learn about the financial systems of the world without getting lost in exchange rates and whatnot, this is a great book to start with.

My boyfriend told me that this
Oct 14, 2010 rated it liked it
Proves economic history can be enjoyable to read in the hands of a talented writer. Filled with interesting facts and asides, and insightful about specific industries (e.g., whale oil and steel). The book has a cheerful boosterism about the U.S. economic system that is somewhat infectious, even if its largely uncritical support for American exceptionalism is somewhat troubling.

In addition, the author's conservatism comes annoyingly to the forefront as the book progresses. Page 395, on the late-7
Benny Kjaer
Jan 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone history buffs.
Shelves: january-18-2016
In Gordon's own words: " the writing of (financial) history...the result is often stupefying boring."
This book is NOT boring. It's the financial history of the United States of America, and it contain no statistics, no charts.
From the Puritans, through our various wars and conflicts, and up till today, this is the fascinating, easily to read tale of how this country came to be what it is. Money, greed, guts and incredible adventure and inventions shaped the USA and its people into what we
Lisa Lawless
Feb 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
This books tells the history of the American economy from the time of the first settlers before this was the United States until 9/11. It's a very fair telling, as far as I know, without political bias. Technological advances, improvements in productivity, wars, world events, and the beginning of US currency and banking systems are all discussed. There are some great trivial facts mentioned such as that the creation of US time zones was to simplify railroad schedules and that the first use of th ...more
Caeser Pink
Aug 07, 2016 rated it liked it
The historic part of the book was pretty good, but when it came to the last 50 years his analysis was clearly partisan to his belief in conservative supply side economics. When raving about the great business success of Wal-Mart he never once mentions the poorly paid workers. And from Reagan onward the rise if income inequality is never discussed.

I did find it interesting what an important role transportation played in economic growth: canals, roads, and eventually railroads, made the market ec
Margaret Harris
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
This is among the most enjoyable books I have ever read. It is a large story, told in a compelling series of smaller stories, about how a nation of people's liberty happened to create a shared wealth greater than that of any government of central control that ever came before it. When the English of the seventeenth century called the land across the Atlantic a New World, they could not have imagined how true would be the description. John Steele Gordon shows us how economic ingenuity led to pros ...more
jason l white
May 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book

Good balance of story telling, presenting the facts, and providing context. Look forward to reading other books by him. Enjoyed it and highly recommend it.
Harsh Thaker
Dec 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gives an account of transformation of USA from a colony to worlds largest economy
Lee Holz
Oct 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
An Empire of Wealth is a comprehensive but highly readable economic history of the United States from the colonial era through 2001. Its highlight is the penetrating yet balanced and fair analysis of the effects of government policies over that period of time both successes and failures.
It’s too bad the book couldn’t cover the last eleven years. We’ve had the bursting of the real estate bubble created by the federal government’s inane subsidizing of home ownership through the tax code and such m
May 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history
Gordon takes his readers on a whirlwind tour of American economic history, from the very first tobacco farmer of Virginia to the dawn of the Digital Age.
There is simply too much to capture in one review. Some might argue Gordon actually skips over a lot, and fails to provide in-text citations, but as an overview for someone with little economic perspective, it was a great introduction.

The Constitution, the cotton gin, the Erie Canal, the steamboat, the telegraph, the railroad, the automobile a
James Hatton
Dec 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The more I read about America's history, the more I despise the myth of America--that a few great, wise men bestowed freedom on some poor, tyrannized colonists. That's bullshit! We made this country! You and me! Our ancestors! The family that arrived last week, even yesterday! Immigrants all! We, The People! One brick, one board, one nail, one sail, one rail, one trail, one dream at a time! We do not have opportunity because we're free, we're free because we have opportunity. This book shows why ...more
Nov 25, 2008 rated it liked it
As a one-volume economic history of the United States, it is amazing. While there are a few areas I wish he explored in greater depth (the New Deal, the development of arcane financial products) and some areas where he could use greater clarity (the post-"greenback" standardization of currency, the bailiwick of the Federal Reserve Board), the breadth of the book more than makes up for its faults. Of particular genius is his discussion of the early colonial economy, and the pervasive theme of tec ...more
Feb 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Slowly rereading this one. It's interesting since I have read a lot more US history since I first read this, and I enjoy reading the reviews below of people who have very different takes on this one than me. This does rush sometimes, but the overall thesis of innovation and the spread of economic prosperity is very persuasive. I read Gordon's other book, Hamilton's Blessing to get further info on his opinions on taxes, debt, the central bank, and economics in general. These two books have shaped ...more
Aug 18, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: economics students
I used this book in my economic history book. It doesn't have all the graphs and econometrics that some text books have, but it reads so much better. It is also a lot cheaper than a text book. By using this as the main text, I was able to have the students read several other trade publications.

Students could read the other books (Chernow's Alexander Hamilton, Hummel's Enslaving Freemen, and Rothbard's America's Great Depression.) becaus they had all the information quickly and were able to go o
Jul 16, 2015 rated it did not like it
I hated this book so much. I had to read it for APUSH which is the worst class I have ever taken. I tried so hard to read this book. I opened it every day and tried to get a little farther, and every single time I would read the same sentence over and over and over and not even notice. I think you could only really enjoy this book if you can enter a state of pure mental numbness which can not be penetrated by human emotions like love and excitement. This book is waiting for me with the devil in ...more
May 28, 2013 rated it did not like it
While doing a good job explaining the development of the American economy up until the mid 19th century, he gets sloppy after that. From the second world war it gets just irritating. Spending lots of time explaining things like how the computer has developed during the last 50 years is nothing but sidetracking when you write as good as nothing about how and why the Asians have influenced the economy among other things.
Jun 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: world-history
A good book. Contains a lot of information about American economy since its birth. It talks about major economic and political events that transformed the American economy. The narration style was good as well. A couple of things that I dint like about the book. Sometimes it covers a lot of things and it becomes difficult to keep track. Secondly, it doesn't cover some major economic events in enough detail. Overall, a good book to understand the evolution of the American economy.
Sep 09, 2007 rated it really liked it
Well-written, interesting U.S. economic history. Worth reading for the history, but beware the slant: he's obviously a monetarist with a strong bias towards the Anglo liberal economic model. Lots of emphasis on individuals as the key actors (Carnegie, Rockefellar, Mellon, etc.) who shaped America, rather than ideas, community, society, etc. Also, the last chapter is rushed, politically slanted, and ends abruptly.
Apr 30, 2009 rated it really liked it

A review of the big breakthroughs and milestones in the US economy from independence to post-WWII. Focus on people and events rather than numbers and dates.

Liked: Story-telling aspect of economic history, livened up a dry subject that could have just been graphs and numbers.

Disliked: Author's bias shown through just a little too much, perhaps should be read with some Zinn for balance :)

I'm stuck 1/3 of the way through this because of school starting again, but so far it's a pretty easy read, a sort of novelized, non-academic piece about the history of exploitation (in a non-judgmental sense of the word) of American ingenuity and luck. But - ha ha! - this was first published in 2004, so I'd be curious to know what kind of prologue would now grace a book subtitled "The Epic History of American Economic Power."
Jul 16, 2008 rated it liked it
Still working on it. It's an engaging read. Did you know that the word "dollar" comes from the German word "Thaler" which means "From the valley?" That's cause of the silver deposits found in the valleys of what is now the Czech Republic. Seems to have a slight bit of those "rah-rah, I have a boner for Abe Lincoln" historian romantics. Unless the Freemasons are in charge of it all...this seems to fill in the blanks that we were too dumb in high school for them to teach us.
Jul 24, 2011 rated it liked it
The US government was able to become the most powerful organization in history due to the nation’s wealth-creation, so it’s worthwhile to focus on that aspect of history, as this book does. There are a lot of parallels with today: the similarity between the US economy’s rise (using British technology, intellectual property, & capital) in the 19th Century & China’s recently; previous booms, busts, & bailouts; the old empires exhausting themselves through war, etc.
Oct 30, 2011 rated it liked it
This book was loaded with information about the economic growth and development of our country. Reading this made me proud to be American and in my view reinforced why our country has the best economic structure to ensure prosperity for her residents. My only concern with this book was that the timeline seemed to jump around too much. A historical storyline would progress and cover a span of a few decades, then jump back several years. This practice threw off the flow of the storyline.
Jun 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Great book on American history told from an economic perspective. Gives interesting insights into how and why many laws, infrastructures, financial systems, etc. came about. Covers about 400 years, so it has a broad view, but flows well and provides fodder for additional areas of interest. As with all history books, the subject matter takes on the tone and bias of the author, which in this case is a positive one.
Jul 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics, history
Engaging read, with fascinating details about historically important infrastructure (Erie Canal) and industries (passenger steamboat, ice). One theme was the development of banking, capital investment, and regulation of the monetary supply. Judging from this book John Steel Gordon is a sure Hamiltonian, and no fan of Jefferson.
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