Frontiers of Wealth and Populism in America's First Gilded Age
Harvard University Press 2017
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in EconomicsNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in the American WestNew Books Network May 30, 2019 Ryan Tripp
Tracking the movement of finance capital toward far-flung investment frontiers, Noam Maggor, Lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, re-conceives the emergence of modern capitalism in the United States. Brahmin Capitalism: Frontiers of Wealth and Populism in America’s First Gilded Age (Harvard University Press, 2017) reveals the decisive role of established wealth in the transformation of the American economy in the decades after the Civil War, leading the way to the nationally integrated corporate capitalism of the twentieth century.
Maggor’s provocative history of the Gilded Age explores how the moneyed elite in Boston—the quintessential East Coast establishment—leveraged its wealth to forge transcontinental networks of commodities, labor, and transportation. With the decline of cotton-based textile manufacturing in New England and the abolition of slavery, these gentleman bankers traveled far and wide in search of new business opportunities and found them in the mines, railroads, and industries of the Great West. The East Coast elite’s investments spawned new political and social conflict, in both the urbanizing East and the expanding West. In contests that had lasting implications for wealth, government, and inequality, financial power collided with more democratic visions of economic progress. Rather than being driven inexorably by technologies like the railroad and telegraph, the new capitalist geography was a grand and highly contentious undertaking, Maggor shows, one that proved pivotal for the rise of the United States as the world’s leading industrial nation.
Ryan Tripp is adjunct history faculty for Los Medanos Community College as well as the College of Online and Continuing Education at Southern New Hampshire University.