American Colossus by H.W. Brands

American Colossus

American Colossus captures the decades between the Civil War and the turn of the twentieth century, when a few breathtakingly wealthy businessmen transformed the United States from an agrarian economy to a world power.

In this grand-scale narrative history, H.W. Brands portrays the emergence, in a remarkably short time, of a recognizably modern America. Brands charts the rise of Wall Street, the growth of a national economy, the building of the railroads, and the first sparks of union life.

He paints a broad picture, putting the growth of the American economy firmly in the political and social context of the time. The book is a first-rate overview of one of the most important periods in American history, one without which the American Century could not have happened.

Main Themes:

  • The transformation of America from an agrarian economy to a world power
  • The rise of Wall Street and the growth of a national economy
  • The building of the railroads and the first sparks of union life
  • The emergence of a recognizably modern America
  • The contest between capitalism and democracy

What I Liked

This book (along with all the books in the Oxford History of the United States) are brilliant, detailed, and sweeping. They are written to be the history of the United States – and the book definitely achieves that bar.

What I Did Not Like

The book is an absolute doorstop. It’s almost hard to physically hold – I ended up switching to the audiobook halfway through.

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