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Richard White (2) (1947–)

Teoksen The Native Americans: An Illustrated History tekijä

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Tietoja tekijästä

Richard White is an historian of great originality, range, and authority. Winner of a MacArthur award and the Parkman Prize, he is the Margaret Byrne Professor of American History at Stanford University.
Image credit: Stanford University

Tekijän teokset

The Frontier in American Culture (1994) 72 kappaletta
Power and Place in the North American West (1999) — Toimittaja — 13 kappaletta

Associated Works

Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature (1995) — Avustaja — 378 kappaletta
The New American History (1990) — Avustaja — 154 kappaletta
Trails: Toward a New Western History (1991) — Avustaja — 67 kappaletta
Native Americans and the Early Republic (1999) — Avustaja — 33 kappaletta

Merkitty avainsanalla




Chapter 1 gives some intriguing connections between the work done by the river, and the work done by men to navigate the river, and the social organization necessary to perform the work. Work is the defining force.

This environmental history crams a great deal of social activity and conflict into it’s 113 pages of text. (The rest of this 130 page print edition is back matter.) It chronicles the change of the Columbia River from a salmon spawning and fishing ground, into what it is now, highly altered by man over the course of decades into something quite different, but still organic in ways we can only partially control and only partially understand.

The parties involved, their interests, understanding, and conflicts are identified. Results were quite different from what they claimed and expected.

Table of Contents
1. Knowing Nature through Labor
2. Putting the River to Work
3. The Power of the River
4. Salmon
* Biographical Essay
* Index

“The building of a dam did not produce a better world. The machine made new modes of life possible, but unless humans were already ‘better than the machine,’ they would be reduced to its level: ‘dumb, servile, abject, a creature of immediate reflexes and passive unselective responses.’” (Page 68)

“WPPSS was an astonishing failure, an amazing exercise in irresponsibility. But ... there was apparently no such thing as responsibility for failure. Donald Hodel, the head of the BPA, having left the agency in financial shambles and the power system in chaos, went on to become Secretary of Energy in the Regan administration.” (Page 80-81)

“The thyroid gathers up iodine 131. Arsenic 76, chromium 51, copper 64 and neptunium 239 gravitate to the lower large intestine. Manganese 56 goes to the upper large intestine. phosphorus 32 to bone marrow, sodium 24 to the bone surface in particular and the whole body in general; zinc 65 too, goes to the whole body.” (Page 87)

As always, man in his economic interest often does things that have unintended consequences that are quite different than the expectations of the conflicting parties. We don’t know what we are doing, but we do it with great passion anyway.
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bread2u | 3 muuta kirja-arvostelua | May 15, 2024 |
As I began reading Richard White’s “The Republic for Which it Stands: The United States during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896,” I glanced over to a brief review of the book by another Goodreads reader. He thought the book good, but nowhere near James M. McPherson’s “Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era,” the volume immediately preceding this one in the Oxford History of the United States, but one that was written many years ago.

On one level I perfectly understand the sentiment. I read that book, too. McPherson’s study was dramatic, covered many perspectives of a single conflict, and was marked with many colourful characters. And what could be more dramatic, or consequential, than a civil war this bloody, this intense over four gruelling years?

But if I thought the Civil War was consequential, White paints Reconstruction as equally consequential. America was not at war with anyone but itself. Vigilante warfare against innocent, poor, illiterate black citizens. Armed cavalry against starved, frightened, aboriginal women, children, the elderly, and the infirm. Riot police against skilled and unskilled industrial workers of dark, dangerous, and polluted factories and mines.

Nothing in this book resembles the “reconstruction” of anything worth keeping. There is nothing nice in Smallville.

Reconstruction of the south began with extreme violence against the black population to prevent them from improving themselves, or voting, or holding public office. Once northern Republicans tired of marshall rule in the south, they permitted white supremacists to return to the leadership roles they held before the conflagration. Southern states wrote new constitutions for themselves that built the Jim Crow south. Then they systematically built rules for preventing blacks from exercising their new rights under the 15th Amendment.

Lynching moved from being a staple of the new West to a staple of the South. Southerners invented rationalizations for their behaviour. They claimed the blacks insulted their women and mocked the rule of law. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Whites hauled blacks out of their homes and businesses to degrade and murder them. Lynchings became community entertainment. The witnesses laughed, took pictures, and in some cases took gruesome souvenirs.

I was hoping for a better illumination of the behaviour of postbellum whites against blacks in White’s volume. Why so many people behaved so badly against people who only a few years before made their businesses thrive, acted as collateral against loans, cleaned their homes, suckled their children, made their meals, and in which whites raped their women who bore their children under conditions of sexual slavery.

Guilt? Fear? Loathing?

Where does such hatred come from?

I’m still not sure.

Corruption which is everywhere is in the settled east. It moves west with the belligerent army commanders President Grant assigns to the Indian lands along with incompetent, venal, and corrupt government officials.

Corruption is more than a minor theme of this book. Hostility to the corrupt political “machines” of Democrat Tammany Hall in New York, to state-wide graft by Republicans, to the enormous subsidies granted the railroads in the form of 100,000,000 acres of land grants; to the fee-based systems of governance across the new and old territories.

Even the famed Sheriff Wyatt Earp and his brothers cashed in. When the Sheriff called with a fine for misbehaviour, he took half, and the state took the other half. This is how America moved west, one hand on the gun and the other on the pocketbook.

More horrifying also was the system whereby jails leased out prisoners to private business for as little as eight cents a day. And in the south, this was a significant way to lock up blacks and return them to slavery sanctioned by the state. Prisoners could be whipped or even killed for misbehaviour.

Western expansion not only was marked with massive government subsidies and an unrelenting war against aboriginal peoples, it was hugely wasteful: west of the 100th meridian the lack of rain made homesteading pointless. The states around the Mississippi grew. The western states languished.

Farming was most often below subsistence, and the vaunted cattle drives of Texas longhorn cattle belied a suicidal business model. An 800-pound steer yielded eight pounds of hamburger meat, after months of herding them across the grasslands, and a couple of years of feeding.

And the self-reliant cowboy of western lore most often was an employee of a large, faceless corporation.

Good history tells us the unvarnished truth.

White then takes his unvarnish brush to capitalism.

Was Andrew Carnegie the self-made multi-millionaire of legend? Well, not quite. Carnegie Steel was one of the big winners of the tariffs Republican administrations levied against foreign steel. Carnegie was also not above trading on insider knowledge with the Pennsylvania Railroad with whom he was allied for so many years.

According to White the railroads were barely if ever profitable. Industrialists used them to offload watered stock to naive investors and award their own construction companies overpriced construction contracts. They even used bankruptcy to invoke the power of the federal government to break union strikes.

Industrialists had little time for organized labour. In the famous Homestead and Pullman strikes, organized labour, though locally quite popular, were squashed with the help of government.

Those millions of European immigrants must have wondered what in the heck they were expecting when they landed in the good ole US of A. Apparently, many only stuck around to earn enough money to return home or support their families abroad. This story about immigration was one among several that forced me to race forward to today for parallels.

Opponents of Trump today criticize the Republicans for wanting to turn off immigration from so-called dangerous elements. This is not so far removed from the electorate of the 1890’s during a terrible depression.

Today’s Republicans want to punish foreign nations with punitive tariffs, again not so different from Republicans of yesteryear.

When we look back to the Republican Party of Lincoln, the party that freed the slaves, how could that party be one and the same as today’s Republican Party that gerrymanders congressional districts away from the voting power of blacks in North Carolina.

Well, actually there are some very real ties to that old party, says White. The Radical Republicans of yesteryear were liberal in the original sense of the word: free speech, free labour, freedom to contract labour, sanctity of property, and self-determination were bedrocks of this party. Today we call this conservatism. They called it liberalism.

The neoliberal ideology some of us criticize today is the natural inheritance of that party.

Some of White’s harshest criticism is saved for the Supreme Court which used the 14th Amendment to spoil legislation aimed to regulate the workplace with a concept called substantive due process.

The US’s weak administrative apparatus could have taken a more progressive track earlier if it were not for a regressive Supreme Court employing outdated liberalist philosophy in the absence of explicit direction in the Constitution. What an ironic turn that is, in hindsight, given the originalism bent of today’s US Supreme Court majority.

And here it is we come to the nub of the problem. The electorate of those days viewed the world Lincoln left behind. Innovation sprung from small workshops and tinkerers. Businesses were small. People were generally able to moderate their income and their working conditions.

When big business came competition came with it. Carnegie, Morgan and their ilk hated competition. It just drove profits into the ground.

Scientific Taylorism was just around the corner, and titans like Carnegie and Frick were fighting wages down to spoil their competitors. They didn’t take adequate measure of the working conditions or the needs of their workmen to manage the workplace.

It wasn’t just that big business made life intolerable. International finance, capital sloshing from Europe to North America and back again, farmers tied to harvests and the growing season. Not to mention the progress in transportation and communications.

And then as now America worries that it has become a plutocracy controlled by the top 1%.

White ties the disparate strands of his story together with the development of ideas and ideology. William Dean Howells is the weathervane, and other intellectuals of the period make an appearance.

White argues that the ideology of the home as a safe haven is what soldiers took home from the battlefields of Virginia. That is what motivated them and that is how they viewed the polity. If you served the home life you were good for the country. If you disrupted the home — and suffragettes fell in this category — you were not good for the home.

Americans even way back then just didn’t trust their own government to improve things, and sometimes it was for good reason. No good public work went untarnished. That doesn’t mean that government has to be small and purposeless. It means Americans should recognize and be more attentive toward collective action. It is as critical to the peace of the people as constitutional freedoms.

The rising temperance movement was part of that and so was the organization of labour. Perhaps that is the source of hatred toward the blacks as well. I don’t know.

One of the inescapable conclusions of a book like this one is that when you give good men a republic they will find ways to subvert its good intentions. Monarchies and autocracies aren’t necessarily functions of history as much as natural creations of the species. That’s a pretty harsh conclusion. Berkeleyan.

I have one word of warning for anybody embarking on this book: keep pen and paper handy for the Adams’s and Addams who pop up in the story. There are a lot of them and they occasionally had me scratching my head: which Adams are we talking about now?

Thanks also to the author for introducing me to the Mugwamps. If there’s one thing I like about American political history it’s all those crazy fringe groups. Copperheads, barnburners, nativists (who don’t seem to like natives much), and now Mugwamps.
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MylesKesten | 11 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Jan 23, 2024 |
I have read A LOT of history. I’ve read a lot of VERY LONG non-fiction works. By and large, they are among my favorites. I say that in the event that some may think I didn’t like this book because it didn’t contain cartoons or pictures.

This is among the most unreadable books I have ever tried to read, and I’ve read Dostoevsky. I made it through about 400 pages, realized I had about 500 more to go and said, “why?”. Dense economic theory coupled with virtually incomprehensible political analysis, made even more unpleasant by a staccato writing style that simply state fact after fact, little of which registers.

I can count on one hand the number of books I have started and not finished. That is unfortunate, because the period between the end of the Civil War and World War I is conspicuous in the paucity of works which document it. There is seldom covered history here and a good treatment would be well received. Unfortunately, this is not it.

Unless you are a doctoral candidate, I doubt you will benefit from trying to read this book.
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santhony | 11 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Dec 28, 2023 |
A moderately interesting murder mystery that is not that much of a mystery…an obvious archive lover, Mr. white, but tedious to read. The actually story of what happened and why could have been a good New Yorker article. But a whole book, told to excruciating detail was too much and actually made the story boring.
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BookyMaven | 4 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Dec 6, 2023 |



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