- Print Length: 448 pages
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (August 11, 2020)
- Publication Date: August 11, 2020
- Sold by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
- Language: English
- ASIN: B07T1FT3D6
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Not Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #967,768 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
|Print List Price:||$30.00|
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Iron Empires: Robber Barons, Railroads, and the Making of Modern America Kindle Edition
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About the Author
Michael Hiltzik is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author who has covered business, technology, and public policy for the Los Angeles Times for twenty years. In that time he has served as a financial and political writer, an investigative reporter, and a foreign correspondent in Africa and Russia. He currently serves as the Times’ business columnist. His other books include Colossus, The Plot Against Social Security, Dealers of Lightning, and A Death in Kenya. He received the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for articles exposing corruption in the entertainment industry. Among his other awards for excellence in reporting are the 2004 Gerald Loeb Award for outstanding business commentary and the Silver Gavel from the American Bar Association for outstanding legal reporting. A graduate of Colgate University, he received a master of science degree in journalism from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in 1974. He lives in Southern California with his wife and two children.--This text refers to the audioCD edition.
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Hiltzik certainly could improve Iron Empires in some respects. While the personal narrative structure of the book make it popular and enticing to read, he foregoes the more analytical points that the narrative demonstrates. Hiltzik hints at critical historical processes such as the gravitas of railroad consolidation in transforming the movement of goods and people throughout the country and the effects that this wealth consolidation had on American labor movements, but he never explicitly states these points. Perhaps he understands that seasoned history readers know these points have been made elsewhere copiously, but it would balance his work to include them in Iron Empires. While Hiltzik intentionally frames his book as a counter to heavily analytical and structure-based works such as William Cronon’s Nature’s Metropolis, adding more analysis to his narrative would make his work more complete.
Author, Michael Hiltzik, has written a detailed accounting of the who, how, where, and what of all things related to the railroad business from directly after the Civil War thru the late 20th century. It’s well written and easy to read broken down into 3 sections:
PART 1 - The Age of Scoundrels - mini bios on the key railroad industrialists, building the base for the wheeling,
dealing and impact on the country for the future
PART 2 - Morgan & Harriman - a deep dive into these two key men and the expansion of both the railroad and the
industry. This is where the title comes in - “Iron Empires” are built and developed, showing the start of
and extent to the insidious business practices
PART 3 - The Ghost Dance - the ultimate reveal of monopoly & mayhem that permeated this industry. What is that
expression about learning from history? Not repeating or something?!?!? 🙄❓
Hultzik has included a wonderful array of photos, maps and newspaper clippings/art. His references are varied and numerous and organized by chapter at the end of the book. This is a big volume of just over 400 pages in the pre-pub copy I received for review.
All things considered, an interesting read from both an historical and business perspective 📚
About half way into the book, it becomes a labor history as well, since a lot of people were responsible for building those railroads and keeping them running. In order for the robber barons to make the most money, they had to keep wages low and not spend money on safe working environments. Eventually, the workers got fed up and started to demand better wages and conditions.
This is a factual account that doesn't take sides or include editorial comments. The notes are copious and the bibliography is comprehensive. This is an excellent reference, and some might enjoy it as a popular history if you are very interested in the ins and outs of business deals and business law of the late 19th century.