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America in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era

Witness the transformation of the United States from a war-torn nation to a global leader in this fascinating overview of six profoundly innovative decades.
America in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 94.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from PROGRESSIVISM, BUILDING OF A CORPORATOCRATIC STATE Prof O'Donnell says "Following the excesses of Capitalism in the Guilded Age in the late 19th century, Progressives of the early 20th century had done a great deal to empower the federal government (to) control large corporations." If we then jump forth to the 21st century, that control has morphed into the system under which we in America are subjected today, in which we the people have simply become the means to keep the corporations running. We don't live in a republic, nor a democracy, nor in a Soviet or Chinese style Socialist state. Rather we live in a corporatocracy regime, an economic, political and judicial system controlled by business corporations or corporate interests. How we got to this form of government control can largely be explained in AMERICA AND THE GILDED AGE. As a core belief the Progressives of the early 20th century held a worldview that science, using (credentialed) experts staff a compartmentalized (unelected) bureaucracy would create a "rational" social order. They would be able to eliminate poverty, with the emphasis on efficiency, all actions justified by the Socialist's Utopian "common good." The Progressives' goal was similar to the Marxists', to gain control of the means of production. This control has been achieved incrementally by building an ever-increasing bureaucracy. O'Donnell is apparently quite sympathetic to this Progressive point of view, which has become the Globalists worldview as well. Whatever his bias, he does an excellent job of presenting how corporate socialism has gained control over us.
Date published: 2024-05-01
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Worth a listen The professor manages this course with a very liberal bent. That’s okay if he had also balanced that prospective with some of the many benefits derived by common folks of the era. And there were many. However, that aside, I enjoyed the course and feel I benefited and expanded my knowledge of this interesting period.
Date published: 2023-11-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Mixed Review The content of this course is excellent. It a period that often skipped for other seemingly more important eras. But this era is crucial for understanding the whole narrative of American history. Unfortunately, Professor O'Donnells deliver was choppy to distraction. I he was reading, he is a bad reader. If he wasn't, he is a bad speaker. Tough to take.
Date published: 2023-08-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative I chose this course because I knew very little about the period. It was informative, surprising, and entertaining. It enlarged my view of American history. Prof. O’Donnell held my attention throughout.
Date published: 2023-03-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from very entertaining. My husband and I started watching this and instantly became addicted. Professor O'Donnell's in depth explanation refreshed my memory and taught me so many things I have forgotten when learning it in school. So appreciate all of these. I especially liked the early episodes describing the West and its urbanization.
Date published: 2023-02-15
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Progressive bias ruins history course From the start, the lecturer frames the discussion as a struggle between good and evil, with the progressive side identified as the nation's savior. From a history course I expect a discussion of the past with no obvious bias toward one side or another. This is the only course out of many that I have purchased from Great Courses that I am totally disappointed with.
Date published: 2022-12-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from All I could ask from a history course Each of Professor O'Donnell's lectures was well organized, well presented, and thoroughly interesting. I especially liked his occasional use of examples from contemporary popular culture to help illustrate a point. It made him seem personable and down to earth and made the material that much easier to understand and retain. Indeed, I retained so much information from each lecture, and was fascinated by so much of it, that I often found myself doing further research into some of the points that had been discussed. A professor who can awaken and firmly hold my interest in a topic, giving me a good grounding in it while stimulating me to explore the subject still further on my own, is giving me all I could ask from a professor and a history course. I could not recommend Professor O'Donnell's Gilden Age/Progressive Era Course more highly.
Date published: 2022-12-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well Organized, In-Depth, and Stupendous "America in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era" surpasses Professor O'Donnell's previous course "Turning Points in American History" and that is saying something since that was one of my favorite courses. This series cements his status as an all-time great in TGC pantheon. This is a well-organized and in-depth stupendous survey of how big business and economic inequity grew to mind-blowing heights in America during the Gilded Age (1865-1900) leading to reformation and regulatory response in the Progressive Era (1900-1920) that touched everything from politics to urban living standards to labor conditions to civil rights to trust-busting to conservationism. This period really comes alive as a result of the professor's brilliant exploration of every aspect of American society including class structure, art, technological innovation, big business, everyday life, extravagance of the super wealthy, politics, labor strife, conservationism, and civil rights to name a few. I can't see how any other professor or course could do a better job of making you feel like you've been transported to this time period...there at Mrs. Vanderbilt's ball. Present for the debates on how Civil War Reconstruction should be carried out. Experiencing life in a major city at the turn of the century. In front of the White House participating in a rally for women's right to vote. This is the mark of a great teacher. On top of that I was very impressed with his organization of the lecture discussions. Professor O'Donnell will often list 4 to 6 reasons behind (or consequences of) a specific event or movement and then take the time to perform deep dives into each one individually. I can't recall one lecture that was uninteresting but the following were the most riveting: 2 (Civil War Reconstruction), 5 (“Self-made man”), 6 (Big Business), and 15 (US imperialism). Two minuses to call out: 1- While the professor is generally a good presenter, he does stumble over his words often causing him to stop in mid-sentence and restart. We have all been there before but the frequency can become distracting and can take away from the profoundness of a big point he may be making. 2- Though it isn’t all that common in the course (thankfully), there are occurrences of an odd practice in which voices other than the professor’s narrate specific quotes. This seemed out of place and a bit hokey. I highly recommend this course to all those with an interest in history. Even those without such an interest should consider taking this course if for no other reason than to experience a great teacher in action. He just might spark something inside you. He covers such a wide swath of areas of American life I feel safe enough to say there is something for everyone here regardless of which topic interests you the most. And if you haven't yet taken his "Turning Points in American History" course...well all I can say is it is THE definitive history of the United States in my book. Imagine how much you will learn spending 36 hours with one of the best history teachers out there.
Date published: 2022-08-19
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Step back in time with America in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. Over six innovative decades marked by economic, political, social, and technological upheavals, the U.S. went from an agrarian, isolationist country to the greatest industrial power and a nascent geopolitical superpower. Meet inventors, conservationists, robber barons, civil rights activists, and industrialists, who together forged a new nation.


Edward T. O'Donnell

One central idea I try to communicate in my courses is that history is the study of choices. It follows no predetermined script. History is determined by the choices made by people both famous and unknown.


College of the Holy Cross

Dr. Edward T. O'Donnell is Associate Professor of History at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. He earned his Ph.D. in American History from Columbia University. Since 2002 Professor O'Donnell has worked extensively with the federal U.S. Department of Education program Teaching American History. He has served as the lead historian for several grants and has led hundreds of workshops and seminars and delivered multimedia lectures designed to help teachers devise innovative methods for teaching American history. Active in the field of public history, Professor O'Donnell has curated major museum exhibits on American history and has appeared in several historical documentaries. He has also provided historical commentary and insight for The History Channel, ABC, PBS, the BBC, and the Discovery Channel. A popular public speaker, he has delivered more than 100 invited talks and conducted more than 2,000 walking tours of various historical American neighborhoods. Professor O'Donnell is the author and coauthor of several works dealing with a broad range of American history, including Visions of America: A History of the United States and 1001 Things Everyone Should Know about Irish American History.

By This Professor

America in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era
America in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era



01: 1865: "Bind up the Nation's Wounds"

Begin to investigate the key historical forces that characterized the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era, and the competing ideals that defined these eras. As a starting point, take account of the U.S. in 1865, and the extraordinary social, political, and economic changes unleashed by the devastation of the Civil War....

32 min
The Reconstruction Revolution

02: The Reconstruction Revolution

The era of Reconstruction following the Civil War was a turbulent and divisive period in American life. Learn about governmental policies and legislation that were enacted to safeguard the welfare of former slaves and average citizens, and how these policies were then progressively dismantled, ultimately returning the South to white-dominated rule....

30 min
Buffalo Bill Cody and the Myth of the West

03: Buffalo Bill Cody and the Myth of the West

Examine the complex and fascinating story of the conquest of the American West. First, assess key myths surrounding the West and how it was settled. Explore the motives and realities of westward migration, the components of the western economy, and the conflicts with Native Americans that led to violence and tragedy....

29 min
Smokestack Nation: The Industrial Titans

04: Smokestack Nation: The Industrial Titans

Trace the process by which the U.S. rose from developing nation status in 1865 to become the world's greatest industrial power by 1900. Study the unfolding of the American industrial revolution; the advent of big business in the railroad, steel, and oil industries; and the concurrent explosion of consumerism and advertising....

30 min
Andrew Carnegie: The Self-Made Ideal

05: Andrew Carnegie: The Self-Made Ideal

This lecture examines the notion of the "self-made man" as it pervaded Gilded Age America. Investigate why this idea took on unprecedented popularity in the 19th century, how it was strongly promoted by figures from Horatio Alger to Andrew Carnegie, and explore how the ideal became entwined with social Darwinism. ...

30 min
Big Business: Democracy for Sale?

06: Big Business: Democracy for Sale?

In the late Gilded Age there was wide agreement that troubling trends threatened the young republic. Explore rising public anxiety over the power of big business and the era's economic inequality, governmental corruption, and violent conflict between labor and capital. Take account of how business leaders responded to critics and reformers....

29 min
The New Immigrants: A New America

07: The New Immigrants: A New America

Here, learn how widespread immigration during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era transformed U.S. society. Delve into the diverse factors underlying immigration, and the perceived threats and social problems posed by immigrants. Observe how society at large reacted to the influx, and grasp the ways in which immigrants fundamentally changed the nation....

34 min
Big Cities: The Underbelly Revealed

08: Big Cities: The Underbelly Revealed

The huge growth of cities was a hallmark of the Gilded Age. Study the forces leading to massive urbanization, such as industrialization, migration and immigration, and revolutionary technologies. Then track the serious social problems that resulted, from crime and disease to political corruption, which spurred intense scrutiny from reformers. ...

31 min
Popular Culture: Jazz, Modern Art, Movies

09: Popular Culture: Jazz, Modern Art, Movies

Take a wide-ranging look at the transformation of American art and entertainment during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. Chart the accomplishments of the Ashcan School of painting and realist fiction. Witness the birth of ragtime, blues, and jazz, and the rise of spectator sports, stage entertainment, and the new medium of film....

30 min
New Technology: Cars, Electricity, Records

10: New Technology: Cars, Electricity, Records

Technological changes in late 19th-century America radically changed the country and the world. Track the evolution of electrical power, and the impact of both electric lighting and electrified machinery. Grasp the economic and social changes brought about by the automobile and the cultural effects of recorded music as big business....

31 min
The 1892 Homestead Strike

11: The 1892 Homestead Strike

Travel into the world of American workers, and view the poignant social problems that accompanied industrialization. Learn how technological changes in industry affected living conditions for workers, and follow the rise of labor movements, violent strikes, and intense conflict between labor unions and management. ...

32 min
Morals and Manners: Middle-Class Society

12: Morals and Manners: Middle-Class Society

Discover how the American middle class was a direct product of industrialization and the new employment categories it created. Investigate the key features of the new middle class lifestyle, encompassing suburban living, consumption, and leisure. Also identify defining middle-class values, from respectability and manners to personal hygiene and the "cult of domesticity."...

29 min
Mrs. Vanderbilt's Gala Ball

13: Mrs. Vanderbilt's Gala Ball

Take the measure of the new breed of multimillionaire industrialists that emerged in the Gilded Age as a visible public presence. Contrast the earlier American mindset of republican simplicity with the new rich who displayed and flaunted their wealth through vast estates and European-style aristocratic living. ...

30 min
Populist Revolt: The Grangers and Coxey

14: Populist Revolt: The Grangers and Coxey

Follow the dramatic rise of the Populist movement, which aimed to address broad economic suffering. In particular, study the phenomenon of the People's Party, a political party that demanded major governmental changes to curb injustice and oppression, lighting a fire that lived on in the reforms of the Progressive Era....

30 min
Rough Riders and the Imperial Dream

15: Rough Riders and the Imperial Dream

Delve into the complex process by which the U.S. reversed its longstanding policy of isolationism to become actively involved in global affairs. Investigate the core ideas that built a case for American internationalism, as they manifested in the events of the Spanish-American War and the building of the Panama Canal....

31 min
No More Corsets: The New Woman

16: No More Corsets: The New Woman

The lives of American women changed in far-reaching ways during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. Trace late-19th-century social trends that led to more public roles for women and emerging ideas of women's rights. Learn about the women's suffrage movement and its embattled crusade to gain voting rights for women. ...

31 min
Trust-Busting in the Progressive Era

17: Trust-Busting in the Progressive Era

Witness how the Progressive movement took shape in the late 19th century, fueled by alarm over the unbridled power of large corporations. Grasp the era's new definition of American economic freedom, and examine actions taken under presidents Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson to dismantle railroad, meatpacking, and oil trusts, and to reform banking and taxation....

32 min
The 1911 Triangle Fire and Reform

18: The 1911 Triangle Fire and Reform

Learn about reformers' efforts to address the miserable living and working conditions of industrial workers, and new labor laws that followed the galvanizing events of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and the Bread and Roses Strike. Also study the movements to eradicate child labor and to federally regulate food and medicines....

30 min
Theodore Roosevelt, Conservationist

19: Theodore Roosevelt, Conservationist

Trace the origins of the conservation movement in the 19th century, and its early initiatives to establish federal protection of wilderness in the face of staunch opposition from commercial interests. Grasp the astonishing conservation record of President Theodore Roosevelt, whose efforts created a wide spectrum of national parks, wildlife preserves, and national forests....

29 min
Urban Reform: How The Other Half Lives

20: Urban Reform: How The Other Half Lives

Study how progressive reformers responded to the troubles of big cities through urban planning, new thinking about poverty, and the establishment of "settlement houses" and social work to aid the urban poor. Also learn about activism to address alcohol abuse and prostitution, as well as governmental actions to reform housing, urban sanitation, and public health....

30 min
The 17th Amendment: Democracy Restored

21: The 17th Amendment: Democracy Restored

Sweeping progressive reforms changed the face of American politics. Observe how initiatives at the city level began the eventual transformation of urban political machines into players in political reform. Examine major political reforms at the state and federal levels, culminating in the civil service system, popularly elected senators, and voting rights for women....

28 min
Early Civil Rights: Washington or Du Bois?

22: Early Civil Rights: Washington or Du Bois?

Discover how African Americans fought racism and violence in the early 20th century. Study the system of white supremacy called Jim Crow, and its economic, social, and political oppression. Review significant civil rights activism and legal victories that laid the groundwork for the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s....

29 min
Over There: A World Safe for Democracy

23: Over There: A World Safe for Democracy

As the Progressive Era ends, follow the complex events that led the United States into World War I. Learn how an initial federal policy of neutrality changed to one of "preparedness" and then intervention, amid conflicting public sentiments and government pro-war propaganda. Also trace the after-effects of the war on U.S. foreign policy....

31 min
Upheaval and the End of an Era

24: Upheaval and the End of an Era

Finally, take account of the period of national turmoil that followed World War I. Study the wave of labor strikes, anti-radical hysteria, and race riots of the early post-war years. Grasp the economic, political, and social factors that gave way to a climate of renewed isolationism and conservatism during the Roaring 20s....

32 min

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