Progressivism: A Very Short Introduction

Overview

After decades of conservative dominance, the election of Barack Obama may signal the beginning of a new progressive era. But what exactly is progressivism? What role has it played in the political, social, and economic history of America?

This very timely Very Short Introduction offers an engaging overview of progressivism in America—its origins, guiding principles, major leaders and major accomplishments. A many-sided reform movement that lasted from the late 1890s until the ...

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Progressivism: A Very Short Introduction

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Overview

After decades of conservative dominance, the election of Barack Obama may signal the beginning of a new progressive era. But what exactly is progressivism? What role has it played in the political, social, and economic history of America?

This very timely Very Short Introduction offers an engaging overview of progressivism in America—its origins, guiding principles, major leaders and major accomplishments. A many-sided reform movement that lasted from the late 1890s until the early 1920s, progressivism emerged as a response to the excesses of the Gilded Age, an era that plunged working Americans into poverty while a new class of ostentatious millionaires built huge mansions and flaunted their wealth. As capitalism ran unchecked and more and more economic power was concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, a sense of social crisis was pervasive. Progressive national leaders like William Jennings Bryan, Theodore Roosevelt, Robert M. La Follette, and Woodrow Wilson, as well as muckraking journalists like Lincoln Steffens and Ida Tarbell, and social workers like Jane Addams and Lillian Wald answered the growing call for change. They fought for worker's compensation, child labor laws, minimum wage and maximum hours legislation; they enacted anti-trust laws, improved living conditions in urban slums, instituted the graduated income tax, won women the right to vote, and laid the groundwork for Roosevelt's New Deal. Nugent shows that the progressives—with the glaring exception of race relations—shared a common conviction that society should be fair to all its members and that governments had a responsibility to see that fairness prevailed.

Offering a succinct history of the broad reform movement that upset a stagnant conservative orthodoxy, this Very Short Introduction reveals many parallels, even lessons, highly appropriate to our own time.

About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195311068
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 12/16/2009
  • Series: Very Short Introductions Series
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 506,113
  • Product dimensions: 4.40 (w) x 6.80 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Walter Nugent is a former President of the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era and former president of the Western History Association. He has taught history at the University of Notre Dame and at Indiana University. He is the author of many books, including The Tolerant Populists; Into the West: The Story of Its People; and Habits of Empire: A History of American Expansion. He lives in Highland Park, Illinois.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Introduction 1

1 The predicament: the discontents of the Gilded Age 6

2 The crisis of the nineties, 1889-1901 16

3 Progressivism takes shape, 1901-1908 35

4 The high tide of Progressivism, 1908-1917 74

5 Calamities: World War I and the flu epidemic, 1917-1919 108

6 Ebb tide, 1919-1921 120

References 129

Further reading 133

Index 136

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 22, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Introduction to the early 20th century progressive politics

    "Progressive" is a term that has recently come to be used as a synonym for "liberal" or "left wing" in the US politics. However, this is not a book about current liberal politics not even about progressivism in general. This book deals with a very particular period in US history when progressivism was a major political force that more or less straddled political demarcation lines. The progressive moment coincides with the first two decades of the twentieth century, and the two presidents that it's most closely associated with are Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. The Progressive Era was marked by some major shifts in the ways that the capital was treated, and with the increasing regulation of many industries. There were also major social changes, many with decidedly mixed legacy. This was the period when women were finally allowed to vote, but the end of the period was also marked with the introduction of prohibition. The race relations were also not exactly an unmitigated success story of this era: while many blacks improved their lot in life (primarily by moving north), this is also the period that witnessed the resurgence of the Klan.

    This book is an informative and interesting expose of one of the most important periods in the twentieth century US history. Many of the ideas and policies that had been first discussed then had a major influence on many of the subsequent politicians and presidents. Their impact is still being felt today, and anyone who wants to understand more about what is really meant by progressivism ought to read this book.

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