AMERICAN COLOSSUS by H.W. Brands

AMERICAN COLOSSUS

The Triumph of Capitalism, 1865-1900

KIRKUS REVIEW

A loosely themed survey of 35 years of American history.

Eminent historian Brands (History/Univ. of Texas; American Dreams: The United States Since 1945, 2010, etc.) elucidates the tension between the U.S. brand of democracy and its version of capitalism through anecdotes starring politicians, diplomats, judges, union leaders and corporate tycoons, with an emphasis on the tycoons. He singles out Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller as deserving special attention because of their dominance over vital industries and their unprecedented personal wealth. The narrative is organized somewhat chronologically from the end of the Civil War to the early years of the 20th century, emphasizing corporate growth, geographical expansion, increasing urbanism, government intervention and various forms of inequality. Within each section, Brands does not always provide smooth transitions. For example, he jumps from the U.S. government's purchase of Alaska to the rise of Social Darwinism among American intellectuals without overtly signifying why one follows the other. Further, the author relies too heavily on previous histories and biographies, including some of his own. The recurring theme of the tension between capitalism and democracy is most stark in Brands’ coverage of U.S. expansion beyond natural boundaries. For example, the capture of the Philippines by American troops could have set the stage for colonial endeavors on every continent. It did not, however, because colonialism nagged at the consciences of many Americans, who believed that democracy should be about a population's self-determination, not about imposing foreign domination on behalf of capitalists lining their bank accounts. After the capture of the Philippines, never again would the United States seek to own another nation.

An educational, briskly written pseudo-textbook aimed at readers outside university classrooms.

Pub Date: Oct. 12th, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-385-52333-2
Page count: 624pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2010




2010 TEXAS BOOK FESTIVAL AUTHORS:

Children SHARK VS. TRAIN by Chris Barton
by Chris Barton
Children ZOMBIES VS. UNICORNS by Holly Black
by Holly Black
Nonfiction AMERICAN COLOSSUS by H.W. Brands
by H.W. Brands
Children TORTILLA SUN by Jennifer Cervantes
by Jennifer Cervantes

MORE BY H.W. BRANDS

NonfictionTHE MAN WHO SAVED THE UNION by H.W. Brands
by H.W. Brands
NonfictionTHE HEARTBREAK OF AARON BURR by H.W. Brands
by H.W. Brands
NonfictionGREENBACK PLANET by H.W. Brands
by H.W. Brands