Noel J Kent America in 1900

ISBN 13: 9780765605955

America in 1900

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9780765605955: America in 1900

Many of the key issues concerning the United States as we enter the 21st century were already taking shape as we entered the 20th century. Business mergers, U.S. military intervention (in the Philippines), trade disputes with China and Europe, racial violence, high levels of crime, rising income gaps between rich and poor, volatile stock market prices, homelessness in the cities, the dangers of immigration, and the domination of money in elections -- all these major national issues in 1900 are familiar in some form to Americans today. The nation grappled for the first time with a series of complex new challenges: distribution of wealth and economic opportunity; the form race and ethnic relations should take in a country of increasing diversity; the relationship between big business and government; how the United States, as a new world power, should act overseas; and a host of others. Written in a fluid and highly readable style, Kent's ten chapters comprise a colorful narrative history of the major events of this pivotal year that continues to resonate a century later.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

A sharp, wide-lens snapshot of American society 100 years ago."Turn-of-the-century America," a phrase newly applicable to our own time but long meaning the US around 1900, is the subject of this timely account. Kent characterizes the nation then as many would portray the US today: world power, economic markets, and the problems of diversity were its basic challenges. Although the nation's economy was "invincible," empire bred its discontents. Citizens hotly debated the day's great disparities of wealth, and many people offered self-serving justifications for the fortunes amassed by the trusts or held by too few individuals. In fact, the 1900 presidential contest was the last to challenge the influence of the corporate elite-who, with the election of William McKinley, came out on top. White Americans were in the driver's seat, and the nation's "genuine moral center could never be located." It's not surprising that this all sounds suspiciously like our own time. In fact, Kent gives the game away by asserting that "the America of 2000 first became distinctly visible a century ago." But historical arguments that find the future in the present are always dangerous; so, too, is the assumption (which Kent never argues) that history comes in 100-year chunks. If comparisons are to be useful, they must be justified. Might not a comparison of today's society with that of, say, 1917 be more illuminating? There's no way to tell from this otherwise sound, solid, readable general history of a time that had its own character and integrity-whatever that history might mean to us.A deftly rendered portrayal of the US at the turn of the century. -- Copyright © 2000 Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

The year 1900 may well seem like another era: Men wore top hats, women endured whalebone corsets, and the marches of John Philip Sousa were all the rage. But as Kent (a historian at the University of Hawaii) argues in this astute snapshot of America at the turn of the last century, such differences are merely superficial: the most profound characteristics of that time closely mirror those of our own. Most obviously, the United States in 1900 was something of an economic miracle. "New industries emerged based upon products patented in the nineties," writes Kent, implicitly drawing parallels to the Internet boom of our own '90s. Long before Bill Gates, there was John D. Rockefeller, whose Standard Oil ruthlessly crushed all competition. Long before AOL and Time-Warner merged (or even existed), J.P. Morgan was buying out Andrew Carnegie's steel interests to form the world's first $1 billion corporation. Kent argues that the age of robber barons is still with us. A hundred years ago, he writes, the top 1% of families owned 50% of the wealth; in 2000, the richest 1% own 40%. Kent draws similarly incisive parallels in other areas, including foreign policy, where he finds echoes of 1900-style imperialism (then in Cuba and the Philippines) in recent U.S. military actions in Serbia and Sudan. The central conceit of this book is, of course, a gimmick, but it allows Kent to shed new light on both past and present. Readers may not agree with all of his arguments, but they will find irresistible Kent's assertion that the events of 100 years ago resonate with us today. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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