Too much corporate influence in politics; the specter of socialist policies undermining capitalism and individual freedoms; a middle class in apparent decline; waves of immigration which threatened to alter the character of American society; new technologies which introduced new social problems as well as offering new opportunities; and a general sense that the common people had lost control of their government: To a sometimes surprising degree, the issues which troubled Americans in the last quarter of the nineteenth century resembled our own. The past often loses much of its vigor and tumult as it becomes codified as history, and it can be difficult at times to understand how truly revolutionary—tranformative, disruptive, unprecedented, and divisive—an event such as the Industrial Revolution was for the people who lived through it.
To better understand this turbulent period, review the major economic and social changes of the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Illustrate the revolutionary character of this period by describing the rise of Big Business and identifying the particular forms new corporations assumed. Identify the social problems and opportunities which economic changes created in the cities, the New South, the farmlands, and the West. Explain the role of state and federal governments in these developments. In your response, explain how socioeconomic changes affected the following groups, and how those groups responded to these changes:
Summarize your responses to the prompts above by responding to the following questions:
What were the most revolutionary social and economic developments of the last quarter of the nineteenth century?
How did different groups of Americans respond to those changes and how effective were their responses?
What role did government play in these developments?
When composing your initial post and your responses to your classmates, draw from the material in at least THREE of the following primary sources:
Cross of gold speech
Chief Joseph speaks: Selected statements and speeches by the Nez Percé chief
Our immigrants at Ellis Island
Letter on labor in industrial society to Judge Peter Grosscup
Populist Party platform
What’s the matter with Kansas?
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