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This turned out to be one of the best audiobooks I???ve bought. A popular history, it covers the McKinley presidency, beginning with the crucial defeat of the agrarian-labor populist Bryant by means of a truly paradigmatic coalition of the country???s capitalists (including unprecedented fund-raising, advertising, and even threats by owners to close factories and eliminate jobs en mass if Bryant won). As the author rightly argues, the subsequent years of the McKinley administration present modern America in prototype. With technology, finance, and industry expanding to the point of overproduction, the nation bungles its way into the Cuban revolution and then the Spanish American War, which ineluctably evolves into an explicit grab for the markets and resources of our own backyard empire. This shift from a traditional isolationism erupts with an alarming outpouring of jingoism, mass enthusiasm, military opportunism, and patriotic fervor. The song ???Stars and Stripes Forever??? and the Pledge of Allegiance (written by a magazine PR copywriter) are among the artifacts of this period. While the author is sympathetic to the amiable McKinley in many ways and alert to the complexities of American expansionism, he is equally lucid about the labor and racial issues of the day. The best and most interesting part of the book is his treatment of McKinley???s assassin as a second protagonist with nearly equal time. This allows a fascinating history of turn-of-the-century labor anarchism and urban ???terrorism,??? from the Haymarket Seven to the heirs of Emma Goldman. There???s a bit of whiplash as sections move back and forth between the two protagonists and narrative lines. But it is easy to follow, rich with anecdote, and holds together a remarkable amount of historical material. While I am not judging the book???s scholarship or originality, it makes an excellent, informative, and even suspenseful history in audio form, and very well read.
15 of 15 people found this review helpful
When one looks at the main title, much of the book is missed. Yes, this is a book about the assassination of President William McKinley, but the author places that event into a very complicated geo-political context. When the sub-title is considered, the book is aptly named. I've read two other books that are similar in style and scope: "The Big Burn" by Timothy Egan and "Destiny of the Republic" by Candice Millard. Both of these books also place one event into a very large context. The author examines the relationship between labor and business owners, which influences the movement knows as anarchism. Most readers will associate anarchism with Emma Goldman, but the author goes much beyond that and shows how the movement used terrorism in Europe to further their goals. Ultimately, it was shown that the president's assassin was an anarchist. The author also gives a fine history of the Spanish American War and all it entailed with American possessions. Almost all the material the author used was new to me. I learned a lot from the book and I really liked the narrator's style. Most importantly, I finally learned how to pronounce the assassin's name!
6 of 6 people found this review helpful