According to some very influential historians, the major social and political movements of the late-19th century (1860-1910) were “revolts against organization.” That is, they were the last gasps of a pre-industrial society which was attempting, unsuccessfully, to resist the arrival of the modern world: a world national in scope, highly bureaucratic, and industrial. All (or most) social conflict was about a modernizing economy; all (or most) social conflict was between people who defended small “traditional” societies and people who advanced large “modern” systems.
In your essay, I’d like you to consider this view. How well does it describe American history from the 1860s to the 1910s? Is it, despite its obvious simplifications, a basically convincing interpretation of the industrializing USA in the late 19th century? Or do you think it fundamentally mis-characterizes the social and political conflicts we’ve studied in this class?
In your answer, please be sure to consider some of the specific regions, social groups, and conflicts we’ve discussed in this class: the Civil War, Reconstruction, the displacement of Native Americans, Homesteading, Populism, Jim Crow, the Industrial Revolution, Urbanization, Managerialism, and Progressivism. Obviously, you can’t discuss them all, especially not in depth. Nevertheless, please think about the advantages and disadvantages of interpreting American history according to the view given above. Your goal is not a long list of pros and cons, but a coherent essay which takes this interpretation seriously, and ultimately argues for, or against, its plausibility.
Details: You are to answer this question with reference to the lectures and reading materials of this course. Though there is not “minimum” number of sources, but major arguments should be supported by readings, with at least one or two a paragraph. Above all else, the essay should have a well-articulated thesis supported by evidence. The best essays will avoid cliché ideas, show considered thought about the subject, and cover a wide range of reading. Please do not use outside sources.
The paper should be 5 to 6 pages, double-spaced, in size-12 Times New Roman font. All sources should be cited Chicago-style, with footnotes. Lectures can simply be cited in the footnotes with my name, the lecture number, and title. Please provide a word count at the end of the paper. No end notes or bibliographical materials are necessary. Please don’t stress out too much about the citations: as long as we can see where you got the information from (aka titles of readings and page numbers of books), you’ll be fine.