Essay about Richard Hofstadter's The Age of Reform

Essay about Richard Hofstadter's The Age of Reform

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Richard Hofstadter's The Age of Reform


In 1955, Richard Hofstadter wrote his Pulitzer Prize winning book The Age of Reform, about the Gilded Age. Hofstadter’s arguments about the Populist and Progressive movements and their origins started debate and renewed scholarship on the Populist and Progressive movements. Many historians did not agree with Hofstadter’s arguments and published their own papers stating their conclusions based on their own research. This scenario occurs all the time in the history field. One historian writes a book or paper and other historians accept or reject his arguments by doing their own research and making their own conclusions. Many historians wrote about the Progressive era after Hofstadter did. Many historians did not accept his argument of a class revolution as the driving force behind the Populist and Progressive movements. Peter Filene in 1970, Richard L. McCormick in 1981, and Paula Baker in 1984 all wrote papers about the Progressive Movement. To understand the how each author has shaped the historical view of Progressivism, one must analyze the main points of each author, scrutinize their use of evidence and then decide if their argument is persuasive.

In 1955, Richard Hofstadter published The Age of Reform: From Bryan to F.D.R., his account of the Gilded Age and its two main movements, Populism and Progressivism. Hofstadter believed that Populism, Progressivism, and even the New Deal were all the same movement based on the same thing, reform. He said that reform is what tied all of these movements together. Each period in this grand movement had its own aims and agendas; however, they all flowed out of the same want and need to reform. He argues that this movement to ref...


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...r a very short period of time, specifically two years. He argues that the realization of the influence that corporations had on the government caused this movement and that the short attention span of the nation led to the rise of a bureaucratic system to regulate it. His argument answers questions left over from Filene’s article, particularly, with such divisions how was anything accomplished nationally. Paula Baker’s article in 1984 provides a look into the role of women in politics and the influence that women had in helping to launch the Progressive Movement. While her article is plagued by her inability to stick with one main emphasis, she does convey the point that women did influence the evolution of American politics. The evolution of the historical view of the causes of the Progressive movement or era has shown how history really is not set in stone.

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