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Gail Bederman

Power to the People? William Leach’s Land of Desire and Problems in Gilded Age Historiography

In Land of Desire: Merchants, Power, and the Rise of a New American Culture (New York: Vintage Books, 1993), William Leach tackles a two-fold problem confronting historians of the period we have identified (infelicitously, in Rebecca Edwards’s estimation) as the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.[1]   First, historians face the problem of how to adequately convey the sheer scale and scope of the thoroughgoing transformations in practically every facet of American society during this period.   Second, historians face the problem of how to explain these changes.  This latter task is always tricky for historians (or at least it should be), and Read more