Industrializing America 1877–1900: "Rags to Riches?"
When we asked Professor Richard White what he considered to be a key question about United States history since the Civil War, he replied that it "is how a country so utterly transforms itself." Throughout the course, you will hear many other historians raise questions that help direct our study of "how we got from there to here" and remind us "to remember the very vital presence of the past in contemporary American life." Keep these questions in mind as we survey the economic, political, social, and diplomatic transformation of America.
What are the key questions we should be asking about American history since 1877? An array of prominent American historians set the stage for the course by offering questions to think about before beginning the study of American history after the Civil War.
One of the most significant outcomes of the Civil War was the triumph of northern industrial capitalism. During the late nineteenth century, the American people experienced what that meant as the nation underwent a remarkable transformation. Corporate America, with all of its promises and shortcomings, emerged to become the driving force in shaping an America that was quite different from that of pre-Civil War America but quite familiar to those of us living today.
Increasing numbers of people, including immigrants, moved off the land and went to work in the cities. Americans shared the joys of their daily lives and coped with their hardships. Minorities of all sorts found it particularly difficult to pursue the American Dream of rags-to-riches. Toward the end of the century, frustrations prompted both workers and farmers to challenge the power of the political and economic elites. Meanwhile, by the late 1890s, the industrial nation stretched its influence well beyond American boundaries. The nation and the world would never again be the same.
America at the Crossroads
In American history, the principles of freedom and equality have a tense relationship. What did it mean to be an American in 1876 in terms of freedom, identity, and equality? What evidence do you see that these concepts continue to be contested today? These questions are explored as we begin our study of America after the Civil War.
Timeline: 1877 to 1900
The United States history timeline organizes topics in chronological order from 1877 to 1900. It provides quick and easy access to events, people, and places that relate to the time period you are studying and to the recurring themes of American identity, freedom, and equality.