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The Gilded Age Books

Sean Dennis Cashman, America in the Gilded Age: From the Death of Lincoln to the Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (1984)

This is a very accessible, well written, and colorful overview of the Gilded Age. It is aimed at a general audience but the scholarship is sound. There are no footnotes but there is a useful bibliography. Readers interested in an intelligent overview of the period with a strong narrative should start with this book.

Charles Calhoun, ed., The Gilded Age: Perspectives on the Origins of Modern America (2007)

This handy collection of essays provides a nice introduction to various aspects of the Gilded Age. Written by scholars, the essays are authoritative. But they are written for students—not other academics—and therefore provide the necessary narrative coverage as well as analysis.

Jackson Lears, No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and Transformation of American Culture, 1880-1920 (1981)

This fascinating book explores the multifaceted critique of American culture constructed in the closing decades of the nineteenth century and the various ways in which Americans sought to restore more intense and "authentic" experience to their "weightless" lives. It is a difficult book but well worth the reading. Lears's analysis sheds light on contemporary concerns regarding American society as well as late-nineteenth century critiques.

William L. Riordan, Plunkitt of Tammany Hall: A Series of Very Plain Talks on Very Practical Politics (1905)

Plunkitt's blunt discussion of his political philosophy is simultaneously funny, infuriating, and provocative. His views on public service, his advice to would-be politicians, and his description of his own political rise and methods provide a fascinating and shockingly honest contrast to conventional political autobiographies.

Charles Postel, The Populist Vision (2007)

This award-winning book offers a fresh take on the farmers' movement of the late nineteenth century. Differing from other studies that have tended to treat Populists as either unrealistically utopian or hopelessly nostalgic, Postel's book suggests that the Populists offered a realistic and modern approach to politics and government. The book is not a quick read, but those interested in the Populists, or what they might offer to contemporary social reform movements, will find this useful.

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