The Hour of Fate: Theodore Roosevelt, J.P. Morgan, and the Battle to Transform American Capitalism

Susan Berfield. Bloomsbury, $30 (400p) ISBN 978-1-63557-249-0
Journalist Berfield debuts with a vivid account of the early 20th-century battle of wills between President Theodore Roosevelt and financier J.P. Morgan that led to the breakup of the Northern Securities railroad company. After highlighting the parallels between Morgan and Roosevelt’s early lives (both were born into the upper class, both had childhoods marked by illness), and documenting their divergent political and economic beliefs (Roosevelt became a progressive trust-buster; Morgan believed capitalism should be “orderly and concentrated, directed from above by powerful men”), Berfield expands the story to include labor leader John Mitchell, a driving force behind the 1902 United Mine Workers strike, which threatened both the railroad industry and America’s heating supply and led to the federal government’s first intervention in a labor dispute. Weaving together the perspectives of labor, capital, and government, Berfield documents the origins of reforms including the eight-hour workday and worker’s compensation; she finds drama in complex and potentially dry business transactions, and makes insightful comparisons to today’s progressive movement. This entertaining account will resonate with American history buffs and those who agree with Berfield that “the battle to make American capitalism more fair rages just as furiously” today as it did at the turn of the last century. (May)
Reviewed on : 03/10/2020
Release date: 05/05/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 416 pages - 978-1-63557-844-7
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