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Atlantic Crossings

Atlantic Crossings

Social Politics in a Progressive Age

Daniel T. Rodgers

ISBN 9780674002012

Publication date: 05/19/2000

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"The most belated of nations," Theodore Roosevelt called his country during the workmen's compensation fight in 1907. Earlier reformers, progressives of his day, and later New Dealers lamented the nation's resistance to models abroad for correctives to the backwardness of American social politics. Atlantic Crossings is the first major account of the vibrant international network that they constructed--so often obscured by notions of American exceptionalism--and of its profound impact on the United States from the 1870s through 1945.

On a narrative canvas that sweeps across Europe and the United States, Daniel Rodgers retells the story of the classic era of efforts to repair the damages of unbridled capitalism. He reveals the forgotten international roots of such innovations as city planning, rural cooperatives, modernist architecture for public housing, and social insurance, among other reforms. From small beginnings to reconstructions of the new great cities and rural life, and to the wide-ranging mechanics of social security for working people, Rodgers finds the interconnections, adaptations, exchanges, and even rivalries in the Atlantic region's social planning. He uncovers the immense diffusion of talent, ideas, and action that were breathtaking in their range and impact.

The scope of Atlantic Crossings is vast and peopled with the reformers, university men and women, new experts, bureaucrats, politicians, and gifted amateurs. This long durée of contemporary social policy encompassed fierce debate, new conceptions of the role of the state, an acceptance of the importance of expertise in making government policy, and a recognition of a shared destiny in a newly created world.


  • Rodger's title, Atlantic Crossings, suggests his purpose, which is to argue that reform efforts in the United States were part of a broader and connected attempt in France, Germany, Denmark, and Britain to respond to the intertwined dilemmas of explosive urban growth, growing poverty, and mass migration...Rodgers demonstrates more clearly than any previous historian how literally hundreds of American activists pounced upon the pilot projects and settlement houses of the suddenly innovative Old World and attempted to transplant them to native grounds. The depth of research, in three languages, conclusively establishes the shared response to what contemporaries called the "social question."

    —John T. McGreevy, Commonweal


  • Daniel T. Rodgers is Henry Charles Lea Professor of History at Princeton University.

Book Details

  • 648 pages
  • 6-3/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press

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