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1 The Collision Of Cultures
2 Britain And Its Colonies
3 Colonial Ways Of Life
4 The Imperial Perspective
5 From Empire To Independence
6 The American Revolution
7 Shaping A Federal Union
8 The Federalist Era
9 The Early Republic
10 Nationalism And Sectionalism
11 The Jacksonian Impulse
12 The Dynamics Of Growth
13 An American Renaissance: Religion, Romanticism, And Reform
14 Manifest Destiny
15 The Old South
16 The Crisis Of Union
17 The War Of The Union
18 Reconstruction: North And South
19 New Frontiers: South And West
20 Big Business And Organized Labor
21 The Emergence Of Urban America
22 Gilded-age Politics And Agrarian Revolt
23 An American Empire
24 The Progressive Era
25 America And The Great War
26 The Modern Temper
27 Republican Resurgence And Decline
28 New Deal America
29 From Isolation To Global War
30 The Second World War
31 The Fair Deal And Containment
32 Through The Picture Window: Society And Culture, 19451960
33 Conflict And Deadlock: The Eisenhower Years
34 New Frontiers: Politics And Social Change In The 1960s
35 Rebellion And Reaction In The 1960s And 1970s
36 A Conservative Insurgency
37 Triumph And Tragedy: America At The Turn Of The Century

The Progressive Era - Document Overview

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The capitalists and entrepreneurs who built the United States into one of the world's leading economies took full advantage of America's free enterprise culture to launch an industrial revolution of unprecedented scope. With few state or federal laws to hinder them, many used questionable tactics to drive out competitors and establish monopolies or near-monopolies in their respective industries. Along the way they cajoled, bribed, or blackmailed political leaders to facilitate their efforts.

To address such excesses, a diverse group of reformers set about trying to gain political power and public support. Progressivism, as historians have come to label this movement, found its support primarily in urban areas among the middle and upper-middle classes—business executives, professionals, teachers, and government workers. They promoted greater efficiency in the workplace and in government. Their fervent hope was to restore democratic control of the economic and political sectors.

There was no all-encompassing progressive organization, agenda, or motive. The movement cut across both political parties, appeared in every geographic region, and contained many conflicting elements. Some activists were spurred by strong religious convictions while others were animated by secular ideals. Some were earnest humanitarians and others were more concerned with issues of efficiency and productivity. Prominent men such as Robert La Follette, Theodore Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson are most often associated with the Progressive movement, yet women were disproportionately involved in the array of "progressive" causes and issues.

While incredibly diverse in motivation and mission, Progressives tended to believe that government should take a more active role in promoting the general welfare. More specifically, this meant the passage of laws breaking up the huge trusts, regulating child and female labor, promoting better working conditions, and conserving the environment. In addition, Progressives supported voluntary associations such as settlement houses and other charitable organizations intended to help immigrants, the poor, and the disabled.

Progressivism changed the social and political landscape of American life by enlarging the sphere of government action. New laws, regulations, and attitudes resulted from the efforts of self-styled progressives to deal with many persistent social ills. The glaring failure of the Progressive movement was its unwillingness to address racial injustice. For the most part, progressivism was for whites only. African Americans in the South were increasingly victims of disfranchisement, Jim Crow laws, vigilante assaults, and poverty.


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