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1. An Economic History of the United States 1900–1950

Eric Rauchway

Subject History » Economic History
Literature » American Literature

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

Key-Topics novel and novella

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631206873.2009.00004.x


In 1900 Americans still counted as a country people, and for most of them the rhythms of rural life shaped their ideas about past, present, and future. They shared memories of cultivation and scheduled their work in anticipation of the seasons and obedience to the weather. But before the twentieth century had half passed, the American city grew to overshadow the farm. Business cycles displaced seasons at the center of Americans' forecasts, and while weather still played its capricious part in determining how fully an investment might come to fruition, a host of other factors, epiphenomena of the industrial world, joined storm, drought, and flood as the unpredictable masters of fate. Americans who lived through this shift from rural to urban life often complained that the regimentation and complexity of the industrial world robbed them of their independence. At the same time, the shift to modern modes of production turned the United States into the most nearly independent national actor on the world's stage, at the center of an international economy Americans had little experience managing or even imagining. Only through the wrenching of war and depression did they come even to a tentative reckoning with the way the world worked now, and their place in it. The shift from farm to city occupies a central place in the developmental theories of economists and the developmental histories ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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