H. W. Brands – American Colossus


From best-selling historian H. W. Brands, a sweeping chronicle of how a few wealthy businessmen reshaped America from a land of small farmers and small businessmen into an industrial giant.

The three decades after the Civil War saw a wholesale shift in American life, and the cause was capitalism. Driven by J. P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and others like them, armies of men and women were harnessed to a new vision of massive industry. A society rooted in the soil became one based in cities, and legions of immigrants were drawn to American shores.

H. W. Brands American Colossus portrays the stunning transformation of the landscape and institutions of American life in these years. Brands charts the rise of Wall Street, the growth of a national economy, the building of the railroads, and the first sparks of union life. By 1900, America was wealthier than ever, yet prosperity was precarious, inequality rampant, and democracy stretched thin. A populist backlash stirred.

American Colossus is an unforgettable portrait of the years when a recognizably modern America first took shape.

Author: H. W. Brands
Narrator: Robertson Dean
Duration: 23 hours 29 minutes
Released: 10 Dec 2010
Publisher: Random House Audio
Language: English

User Review:

progressive ardent

I chose this book because I wanted a history of the U.S. between the Civil War and the modern age (ca. 1920). Surprisingly, there isn’t much to choose from. I’m eagerly awaiting the book covering this period in the Oxford Univ. Press History of the U.S. series, but I have no idea when it’s going to be published.

This book tells you what happened, but not much else. H.W. Brands is a prolific author of American history of many periods, from the early years of the republic to Reagan. He’s an academic, but I don’t know what his specialty is–to judge by his output, he doesn’t have one. And that may be the problem.

American Colossus struck me as both superficial and quirky. Brands just doesn’t have a very interesting mind, and his take on events is never striking. What he has to say never made me think. The way he looks at the rapidly changing American society of the period is also idiosyncratic. He discusses gays, for instance, but not women and the rise of feminism and the suffragist movement. Often he just disappoints, as in his discussion of immigration.