F305 Spring 2019 Modern America Begins: The Gilded Age and the Progressive Era
Wednesdays, 11:50–1:15, Apr. 24–May 15
Instructor: David Heymsfeld
The so-called Gilded Age, from 1865 to 1900, transformed America from an agricultural country of scattered farms and communities east of the Mississippi into the world’s largest industrial power, with major cities and a population spreading across a continent. This explosive growth was accompanied by serious problems of corruption, economic inequality, inhumane working conditions, urban squalor, major depressions, racial segregation, and rural poverty. The course will discuss the positive and negative aspects of the Gilded Age and two political movements which attempted to limit its excesses. First, the populist movement of the 1890s embodied the politics of resentment of farmers and workers against powerful elites. The populists were succeeded by the progressive movement (1900-1920) led by middle- and upper-class professionals who believed that expertise and efficiency could develop policies that served the needs of all. The differing attitudes and approaches of populism and progressivism have continued to shape our political discourse to this day.
David Heymsfeld, an OLLI member, was a congressional professional staffer for 35 years. He has taught previous OLLI classes in history and social science and is a volunteer guide for the Newseum.