101 More Things Every College Graduate Should Know About American History

PrintPrintEmailEmail

23 The Influence of Sea Power upon History

(1890), by Alfred Thayer Mahan. Captain Mahan argued that nations with powerful navies and the overseas bases to support them were victorious in war and prosperous in peacetime. The book had a wide influence among American military and political leaders.

24 Wealth against Commonwealth

(1894), by Henry Demarest Lloyd. This powerful, if somewhat exaggerated, attack on the Standard Oil monopoly attracted wide attention. In addition to denouncing Standard’s business practices—Lloyd said that the trust had done everything to the Pennsylvania legislature except refine it—he denounced laissez-faire economics and the application of Darwinian ideas about survival of the fittest to social affairs.

25 The School and Society

(1899), by John Dewey. In this book the author developed the basic ideas of what was later to be known as “progressive” education. Schools should build character and train children to be good citizens, not merely provide them with new knowledge. They should make use of the child’s curiosity, imagination, and past experience, not rely on discipline and rote memory to teach.

26 The Jungle

(1906), by Upton Sinclair. Sinclair’s story of the life of a Chicago stockyard worker described both the filthy conditions under which cattle were slaughtered and the ways in which the meat-packers exploited their workers. The novel was a best seller and led, partly because President Theodore Roosevelt reacted to it by setting in motion a government investigation, to federal meat inspection and the passage of the Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906.

27 The Other America

(1962), by Michael Harrington. This book was a major force behind the so-called War on Poverty of the Lyndon Johnson era. Harrington called attention to what he called the “invisible land.” Forty or fifty million souls, “somewhere between 20 and 25 percent of the American people,” were living below the poverty line, he claimed. Most of them were crowded into inner-city slums, “invisible” to the middle class.

28 Silent Spring

(1962), by Rachel Carson. By showing how pesticides such as DDT affected birds and other animals, and indirectly humans, too, Silent Spring caused a public furor that led to the banning of many such substances and to the modern attack on all forms of pollution.

29 Sexual Behavior in the Human Male

(1948), by Alfred C. Kinsey. This study, based on more than five thousand interviews with men of all ages, and a similar volume on women, published in 1953, demonstrated that people of all kinds engaged in a great variety of sexual practices. The books had an enormous influence on public attitudes toward human sexuality.

30 The Feminine Mystique

(1963), by Betty Friedan. If this work did not give birth to the modern feminist movement, it surely raised it to maturity. Friedan argued that most of the opinion-shaping forces of modern society were engaged in a witless effort to convince women of the virtues of domesticity. By so doing, they were wasting the talents of millions. Women should resist these pressures. “The only way for a woman…to know herself as a person,” wrote Friedan, “is by creative work.”

ROCKEFELLERS

31 John D. Rockefeller

(1839–1937), organizer of the Standard Oil trust, principal benefactor of the University of Chicago, billionaire, bête noire of the antimonopolists. Also founder of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, the Rockefeller Foundation “to promote the well-being of mankind,” and other charitable organizations, and longtime Baptist Sunday school superintendent of Cleveland.

William Rockefeller

(1841–1922), brother of John D., oilman, Wall Street promoter, a director of the National City Bank, public utility magnate and railroad man, bon vivant.

John D. Rockefeller, Jr.