WEALTH OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE: A History of American Affluence by Oscar and Mary F. Handlin

WEALTH OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE: A History of American Affluence

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A disappointing business-economic history of the U.S., covering the colonial period, the frontier, Southern plantations and family farms, the rise of corporations and industry, and international trade. Much of it is simplistic, written in breathless prose. Railroad companies rather than reformers are given credit for their regulation and one is informed of the ""surprising"" extent to which many slave owners questioned their system. Company towns are portrayed as examples of ""benevolence turned into a mode of discipline"" and one chapter concludes, ""Industrialization increased theuurgency for developing a systematic alternative to state action."" Most historians would argue that it made state action necessary. ""Planned obsolescence,"" the Handlins say, was actually a step forward since it made the market ""predictable"" by permitting ""gradual alterations"" of design rather than drastic ones. The sections on the 20th century are the most flaccid, skethcy and confused. The Handlins make some good points about the importance of foreign investment in our economic development and the rich human resources that the U.S. has enjoyed. In questioning the early American grarian myth, they suggest that ""In the last analysis, love of the soil was less compelling than speculation."" But overall this is similar to the ""Great American Celebration"" histories of 20 years ago. From their past work, one would have expected more.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1975
Publisher: McGraw-Hill