Group A: (Choose one) A1: Many people refer to the three decades following the Civil War as the Gilded Age. Define the meaning of this term and, using specific examples, discuss whether you believe that this term is an appropriate descriptor for this period.

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PART 1

Group A: (Choose one) A1: Many people refer to the three decades following the Civil War as the Gilded Age. Define the meaning of this term and, using specific examples, discuss whether you believe that this term is an appropriate descriptor for this period.

The period after the American Civil War is regarded as the Gilded Age in many books of history. Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner were the first to use the words “gilded age” in their satirical novel that had been inspired by what they saw as rampant corruption in the national politics of this country, greed and speculative frenzy of the market place (Shrock 41). This novel satirized a society whose issues they felt were veiled by a thin coating of gold covering the greed and the hypocrisy on the American society after the civil war. According to Ferguson, (72)the terminology “gilded age” primarily referred to  the experiences of the middle class in America during this time for they rushed to obtain all materials that were considered as signs of good taste at the time such as dresses and home décor.

History shows that the gilded age was characterized by rapid industrialization which transformed the country from rural and agricultural based republic to an industrial and urbanized nation whose values had started changing. This was more so due to newly obtained wealth, and partly due to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. This was more so because Americans started looking at individuals such as steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie and oil magnate John D. Rockefeller as “self-made man” even bring the spirit of property acquisition to more light (Arneses et al 183). The terminology “gilded age” has now stuck and it is mostly used to refer to the period between the elections of Ulysses S. Grant in 1868 to when Theodore Roosevelt rose to power. During this time, the economy of the newly re-united United States grew at an extraordinary rate which led to the generation of unprecedented levels of wealth. There was construction of railroads, telephone lines and other industries that stretched throughout the country, leading to creation of new opportunities for entrepreneurs as well as cheaper goods for consumers (Grant1 07). However, a country that had always perceived itself as a nation of craftsmen and small farmers was soon confronted by the emergency of a society that continued to be increasingly divided between haves and have-nots.

In this society, many poor workers just struggled to survive while the emerging financial and industrial aristocracy class started living in palatial homes and mansions, and also indulged in opulent amusements. While most of the Americans celebrated the newly found wealth, other lamented it. This is because it caused greed among many people and abandoned their humanity, and the whole country was in agreement that profound changes were taking place in this nation (Shrock 70). This is not forgetting that this was also the time when slaves from the Africa were shipped to the Americas in large numbers following a promise of good jobs only for them to be subjugated in new and more cruel and subtle ways. The Supreme Court also allows the Jim Crow laws that sanctioned legal segregation (Arnese 80). These laws against the black Americans were enforced with torture and violent methods that sometimes even included lynching especially if one had run away from their masters.

History also portrays the politics of this country during this time as extremely exciting and dynamic. This was more so because voter participation rates at this time were extraordinary high as compared to the recent times (Ferguseon 183). These politics were also exciting because at the time national and even statutory elections were decided by razor-thin margins, although they were significantly plagued by corruption. As a matter of fact, the Ulysses Grant administration is portrayed as on of the most corrupt government to have ever led the United States for he was constantly accused of Graft and maladministration. That is why when Theodore Roosevelt campaigned under a slogan of transparency, he was viewed as a revolutionary president. The administrations that followed Roosevelt were also less corrupt, although the development of this period left a mark on the American public life. This was also where the influence of corporation in the American politics started as powerful oil, textiles and steel industries highly influenced the finances of the campaigns, so that policies that favored them could be addressed by the governments (Arnesen 98). This was because the governing American philosophy was rooted in the premise that this economic elite were allowed to pursue their economic endeavors with little to no government interference.

Looking at the activities that took place in the Americas at this time, I find myself in no other corner than to come to a conclusion that the term “Gilded Age” was the right term to define what was going on in America at this time. Otherwise, forgetting it or stopping using it would be a perfect description of what happened during this age just because the country experience massive socioeconomic developments.

Works Cited

 

Shrock, Joel. The gilded age. ABC-CLIO, 2004.

Arnesen, Eric, et al. “The Gilded Age.” Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 5.4 (2006).

Ferguson, David. “The Gilded Age.” (1996).

 

PART 2

B2: The 1920s is considered a decade of great change in American society. Discuss three of the most important social and/or political changes

The 1920s is considered a decade of significant change in the American history. This was more so in the social and political arena in this country. This paper discusses three phases; the reconstruction era and its legacy to the United States, the social economic impact of the rise of industry in the U.S and the contributions of the progressive movement and the legacy that it left in the American history.

Abraham Lincoln directed the Presidential Reconstruction. It began with the Emancipation Proclamation and its goal was to reunite the country quickly. The Congressional Reconstruction emphasized voting and civil rights for the emancipated slaves. Reconstruction occurred in three distinct phases. It had started when Presidents Andrew Johnson and Abraham Lincoln directed the Presidential Reconstruction. It began with the Emancipation Proclamation and its goal was to reunite the country quickly. The Congressional Reconstruction emphasized voting and civil rights for the emancipated slaves (Grant 105). The Redemption phase was characterized by the victory of the Southern Democrats over the Republicans in the Southern States, ending the Reconstruction.

The legacy of Reconstruction includes the transformation of the lives of southerners, particularly the many slaves who first felt freedom during this time. The Southern society adjusted to cope with the reality of emancipation. Nonetheless, the former slaves still experienced political, social, and economic restrictions of their rights. Following the Reconstruction, the South became firmly Democratic. The Democrats reduced taxes, abolished social programs, restricted the rights of sharecroppers and tenants, and cut back expenses (O’ Connor 194).Following the American Civil War, the U.S. became superior to other nations due to the sprawling industries. Old industries were expanded and new ones were forming. These included the steel manufacturing, petroleum refining, the generation of electricity. There was also the expansion of railroads, which led to the connection of remote parts of America into the national market economy. The railroads revolutionized transportation in the United States, interconnecting the country in ways never imagine possible.

Mass immigration during this period of industrial growth led to the participation of immigrants in the Country’s economy. It led to the swelling of the U.S. population. This growth in population provided the factories with not only a steady supply of labor but also a market for their manufactured goods (O’Connor 185). In addition, the immigration into America by individuals from different nations made the United States one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse nations. The large wave of immigration also led to waste disposal and overcrowding problems. Housing problems led to the development of tenement housing, which led to the outbreak of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, typhoid, and cholera. The population became more vulnerable to diseases.

The progressive movement played a big part in shaping the modern America. Many new innovators, inventers, and ingenious ideas brought about the kind of lifestyle experienced today (Grant 182). The progressive movement focused on exposing the perils of corporate greed, curbing the dread of immigrants, and encouraging Americans to mull over the real meaning of democracy. The progressive movement was victorious partly because it was able to convey their ideas on reform to a good part of the American population. The movement led to the obliteration of the monopolistic tendencies of banks and key corporations in the United States. It also led to a more representative government at the national, state, and local level as well as establishing the right of labor to negotiate and secure a decorous salary and proper working conditions. In addition, a graduated income tax was enacted that fell hard on the rich but was lenient on the poor.

Works Cited

Grant, Scott Geoffrey. History lessons: Teaching, learning, and testing in US high school classrooms. Routledge, 2014.

O’connor, Alice. Poverty knowledge: Social science, social policy, and the poor in twentieth-century US history. Princeton University Press, 2009.

 

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