1898 by David Traxel


The Birth of the American Century
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A narrative history of the watershed year of 1898, when a previously self-absorbed, isolationist America suddenly turned outward, becoming an exuberant player on the world stage. Traxel (An American Saga, 1980) argues persuasively that during 1898 the US —advanced from being viewed as a country of sharp-dealing businessmen with a second-rate military to acknowledgment as a respected member of the imperialists’ club.— This was in large part because of America’s swift victory in the Spanish-American War. There were, however, other elements at work. By 1898 a number of industries began to turn outward in search of new, large markets for American goods. American technology, after a period of experimentation following the Civil War, had hit its stride. The work of Edison, Ford, Taylor (the father of assembly-line efficiency), Armour, Westinghouse, and many others profoundly (and permanently) altered American life. Admiral Mahan’s persuasive study, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, published in 1890, reshaped American thinking about the military, arguing that a great nation needed foreign markets, and that the competition for such markets would be won by the nation with the most efficient naval power. These were matters well understood by Theodore Roosevelt, the first —modern— president and the man who spurred the creation of a new American fleet. At the same time, on the homefront, many women were leaving the security (and restrictions) of the home to pursue higher education, jobs, and, of course, the right to vote. Unions, their growth spurred by often atrocious working conditions, found themselves in pitched battles with corporations. At the same time reformers (such as Jane Addams in Chicago), achieved a new visibility in American life, initiating crusades for better housing, better education, and job safety. A lively survey, rich with anecdotal material, of the year that witnessed the combustion of the forces that were to make America a dominant power. (8 photos, not seen)

Pub Date: May 14th, 1998
ISBN: 0-679-45467-5
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1998


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