Review: America in the Gilded and Progressive Era, Edward T. O’Donnell

Rating: 2 out of 5

Mr O’Donnell’s scholarship for this work is impressive, no doubt, but I found the presentation complex and illogical. The problem, in some ways, is that even though the age that the author wants to consider only spans a few decades, it was still a time of such unprecedented change in American society that it cannot be done justice topic-by-topic.

The author’s approach sees the listener given a few tantalizing hints at progress here and there, and then the full topic treated some five lectures later or vice versa. While it is my sense that Mr O’Donnell wanted to simplify his subject by sectioning it, the result is that interlinked fields are treated alone, depriving the listener from valuable detail.

Nevertheless, there were many good historical descriptions here—and I appreciated the author’s sense of reverting to primary sources whenever possible. If it were nothing else, this would still serve as a very good starter on where to find more in-depth sources for the innumerable subject fields.

This wasn’t what I expected, but it was a decent history—even if I disagree with its internal logic. It will definitely serve as an okay primer for late 19th and early 20th century US history.

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