The perils of prosperity, 1914 – 1932 by William Leuchtenburg covers the 1920s, one of the most controversial periods in the history of the United States of America. Leuchtenburg’s book can be defined as an overview of the historical period of fundamental changes in America caused by the shift from rural to urban system of values.
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The main theme of the book is the challenges for the rural way of life and the growing significance of metropolis and its inhabitants. Most historical events are viewed through the lens of this shift from the rural towards urban dominance on the state level.
Exploring the wide range of subthemes, including the rejection of the League of Nations, consequences of the World War I for the country and main preconditions of the market crash in 1929, Leuchtenburg emphasizes the revolution in the system of values as an important underlying factor.
The author explores the issue of political fundamentalism, discussing the anxieties of citizens who had lost their confidence in the power of American democracy, the Ku Klux Klan and immigration restriction. Shedding light upon the 1925 trial, the author implies the struggle between country and metropolis as the main conflict which caused the trial.
“The campaign to preserve America as it was, to resist the forces of change, came to a head in the movement of Protestant fundamentalism climaxed by the ScopesTrial” (Leuchtenberg, 2010, p. 214). Developing the main themes of the book, Leuchtenburg focuses on city-country animosity, trying to get to the roots of the problems instead of providing the detailed description of particular events.
Understanding of Leuchtenburg’s main points requires profound background knowledge of the historical epoch, main tendencies of country’s development, major events and personalities. The title of the book can be helpful for guiding readers in understanding the primary line of the author’s argumentation.
The author emphasizes the consequences of flourishing and ideological shift in America. Leuchtenburg tried to establish the cause-and-effect relations between the economical prosperity of the country at the beginning of the twenties and the market crash in the end of the described period. Though the historical period under Leuchtenburg’s consideration is not that broad, it can be defined as a turning point in the history of the country.
For this reason, for understanding the main points made by the author, readers are expected to read between the lines and use their background knowledge and skills of analytical thinking. To understand Leuchtenburg’s main point concerning the inner conflict within the country as the precondition of the economical crash, readers need to use their background knowledge.
Working on The perils of prosperity, 1914 – 1932, Leuchtenburg pursued the goal of getting to the roots of the processes and explaining the preconditions and consequences of the described events. Thus, the author pays special attention to the historical context of every illuminated issue, not separating it from the rest of the processes but rather viewing it as an integral element of the course of history.
Providing only a brief overview of the events, Leuchtenburg does not simplify the processes and views the phenomena in their complexity. On the one hand, this briefness can be explained with the author’s intention to support the main point of the importance of the ideological shift from the rural to urban dominance within the society for.
On the other hand, Leuchtenburg’s manner of presentation of the historical materials requires readers’ background knowledge and awareness in the field. Thus, the main goal of the author of The perils of prosperity, 1914 – 1932 was to analyze the historical period under consideration in its complexity and taking into account the historical context of the events and their impact on the following course of history.
Leuchtenburg’s purpose of defining the underlying processes and the major shifts which preconditioned the crisis in the end of the twenties was successfully achieved in The perils of prosperity, 1914 – 1932. Using the description of the major historical events as weighty arguments for supporting the main idea, the author did not miss any significant information.
Thus, the establishment of the cause-and-effect relations between the discussed processes did not prevent Leuchtenburg from providing historically accurate overview of the period. Defining the inner conflict between the various strata of population of Americans as the main driving force regulating the following development of the events, the author managed to express his views concerning the major tendencies in the country which had a significant impact upon the following development of events.
In general, the author’s main goal of a complex analysis of the period in its historical context has been successfully achieved in The perils of prosperity, 1914 – 1932 through using the specific manner of presentation of the materials and establishing the cause-and-effect relations between the depicted events.
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Like any other historical book, The perils of prosperity, 1914 – 1932 and its historical accuracy depend upon the author’s personal views and biases. It is possible that focusing on ideological shifts in the American society of the depicted period, Leuchtenburg could underestimate other significant tendencies. Thus, it is noticeable that the author’s perspective for illuminating the events is removed towards the animosity between the rural and city lifestyles.
Major historical events are viewed through the lens of this inner conflict which is defined as the main precondition for the organization of the Ku Klux Klan, the immigration restriction and other political processes. Another significant source of the author’s bias can be defined as insufficient time lag for evaluating the historical events of the past. Therefore, disregarding the historical values of Leuchtenburg’s work, it can contain particular author’s biases and personal views.
The perils of prosperity, 1914 – 1932 by Leuchtenburg contains valuable information which can be helpful for deepening readers’ knowledge of the historical processes of the twenties. Requiring background knowledge, this book is insufficient for creating the awareness and focuses mainly upon the ideological shifts in America as the main explanation of the historical processes.
Still, particular author’s biases do not reduce the value of his work which sheds light upon of important aspects of the historical development of the United States during a controversial and complex period of the twenties. The historical work under consideration can become a source of additional materials for enhancing the readers’ understanding of the underlying processes which had impact upon the course of American and world’s history.
The manner of presentation of the historical materials and the author’s analysis of the epoch in The perils of prosperity, 1914 – 1932 can be explained with Leuchtenburg’s main point in writing the book. Describing the most significant events, the historian focuses on the shift from rural to urban system of values as the main explanation of the processes.
Leuchtenburg, William. 2010. The perils of prosperity, 1914 – 1932. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.