420: Paper 2

History 332: Essay #2 on Gilded Age Political Ideologies

Write a 750-1000 word argument essay on one of the following prompts (your heading should include a word count and your section number).

Option 1

During the Gilded Age, radical political parties (like the Socialists and the Populists) won few elections and unions never organized more than 10 percent of the workforce. Why didn't these radical movements do better? (The cartoon below by Thomas Nast offers one perspective. Engels another. Frame your essay as a conversation with one of these observers of Gilded Age politics.)


Option 2

This cartoon, published by Thomas Nast in 1874, reflects the pro-business view of the relationship between labor and capital. To what extent does the history of the Gilded Age confirm the accuracy of that view? (Frame your essay as a conversation with Nast's American Twins cartoon, or William Graham Sumner)

You should use evidence from the history of the Gilded Age to answer one of the above questions. The first question will require you to examine strengths and weaknesses of the various movements and the political system's resistance to change. The second will require you to determine how well the economic system of the period benefited different groups of Americans and to assess the conservative pro-business ideology espoused by Sumner, Carnegie, and others. Use both primary and secondary sources to develop your point. It is important that you consider these question within the context of the Gilded Age, 1870 to 1900, that you do not argue, for instance, that everything that happened in that period is worthwhile because of how things turned out in some future time. In other words, do not be a Whig:

Whig history: "Any portrayal of the past that makes the present seem foreordained and natural" (Loewen, 113). See also, Presentism and Historicism. The whole point of studying history, according to the Whigs, is to understand how we got to this exalted point of development—the present. All of history has been leading up to the creation of where we are now. The suffering and maybe even atrocities of previous generations are just bumps on the road leading to a worthy destination (Butterfield). Go here for more terms for thinking historically and to find the full citations referenced here.

Include citations to identify the sources of quotations and factual information. Go here for information about proper citation formatting.