Tracking the movement of finance capital toward far-flung investment frontiers, Noam Maggor reconceives the emergence of modern capitalism in the United States. Brahmin Capitalism reveals the decisive role of established wealth in the transformation of the American economy in the decades after the Civil War, leading the way to the nationally integrated corporate capitalism of the twentieth century.
Maggor’s provocative history of the Gilded Age explores how the moneyed elite in Boston—the quintessential East Coast establishment—leveraged their wealth to forge transcontinental networks of commodities, labor, and transportation. With the decline of cotton-based textile manufacturing in New England and the abolition of slavery, these gentleman bankers traveled far and wide in search of new business opportunities and found them in the mines, railroads, and industries of the Great West. Their investments spawned new political and social conflict, in both the urbanizing East and the expanding West. In contests that had lasting implications for wealth, government, and inequality, financial power collided with more democratic visions of economic progress.
Rather than being driven inexorably by technologies like the railroad and telegraph, the new capitalist geography was a grand and highly contentious undertaking, Maggor shows, one that proved pivotal for the rise of the United States as the world’s leading industrial nation.