The turmoil that attended America's shift from a rural, agrarian society to an urban, industrial one, described with a highly-readable combination of scholarly thoroughness and stylistic verve. Taking a subject of what must have been daunting complexity, Painter (Exodusters, 1977; The Narrative of Hoses Hudson, 1979) has organized her material with exemplary skill, clarifying the convolutions of the period's turbulent worker-management, black-white, male-female relations. Along the way, the growth of expansionist sentiments among many American leaders and the flowering of socialist ideals among relatively large segments of the American work force are examined with an astute eye. Painter is especially effective in pointing out ironies. Hers is a bracingly iconoclastic vision, especially when, for example, she comments on such matters as the disparity between Wood-row Wilson's idealistic pronouncements concerning ""the rights of small nations"" and his bellicose actions defending American business interests in Mexico. She is equally adept at limning the uneasy alliances and emotional confrontations that developed while workers, blacks, and women were attempting to establish their own hegemonies within the rapidly changing society. The text is enlivened by Painter's inclusion of such colorful details as the fact that Jacob Coxey, the social activist best remembered for his March on Washington in 1894, named one of his children ""Legal Tender."" A consistently engrossing, occasionally irreverent, always smoothly written history of America's painful entry into the modern age.