Much of a historian’s job is to read what their colleagues have written on their subject of interest at the moment. Often, they then go on to write their own opinions on the subject, thereby influencing the historians of the future. The famed historian and teacher Richard Hofstadter wrote The Age of Reform in 1955 about the late 19th century and early 20th century movement of Progressivism. In turn, other historians that include Paula Baker, Richard McCormick, and Peter Filene have written their opinion on what the movement we call Progressivism really was, and what its real significance is, or even if it really existed as a movement in its own right.
Richard Hofstadter’s book The Age of Reform was written in 1955 and influenced future historians in their studies on the progressive movement. Hofstadter argues that the progressive movement was due to the loss of status of the professional and gentry classes to the “new money,” for example, the Vanderbilts. “Progressivism resulted from attempts by the old urban middle class, whose status was threatened by the plutocrats above them and the workers and immigrants below, to restore their social position and to cure the injustices in American society” (Hofstadter 135-66). Hofstadter also attempted to explain the progressive movement by delving into the populist movement of the 1800s, which occurred mostly in rural areas where the farmer was beginning to lose status and money. He traces the origin of progressivism to the loss of status, or as he calls it, a “status revolution.”
Peter Filene’s paper, “An Obituary for the Progressive Movement,” contains a thesis very different from the other three works that address Progressivism. He argues ...
... middle of paper ...
... truly considered a movement if it is as disjointed as progressivism appears to have been. Instead of attempting to categorize something a time period as a movement that perhaps ought not to be categorized, historians should look for a deeper understanding of the time period between 1890 and 1920 by recognizing its quirks, inconsistencies, and complex causes and effects.
Baker, Paula, “The Domestication of Politics: Women and American Political Society,
1780-1920,” American Historical Review, 89 (June 1984): 620-647
Filene, Peter G, “An Obituary for the Progressive Movement,” American Quarterly 22 (Spring 1970): 20-34
Hofstadter, Richard. The Age of Reform.
McCormick, Richard L, “The Discovery that Business Corrupts Politics: A Reappraisal of the Origins of Progressivism,” American Historical Review, 86 (April 1981): 247-274.
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