John Steele Gordon received his bachelor’s degree in history from Vanderbilt University, and then served on the staffs of New York congressmen Herman Badillo and Robert Garcia. In 1988, he published his first book, The Scarlet Woman of Wall Street, a history of Wall Street in the 1860’s. He published several more books which covered various economic details in American history. His only qualifications for writing history books are his degree from Vanderbilt, and more than twenty years writing on the same subject matter. Though, the significant bibliography at the end of the book tells that he actually did research the topic thoroughly.
Range of the book
The book is arranged chronologically, beginning with the economic situation during the colonial period. It attempts to detail nearly every economically significant event through the 21st century, and closes after the September 11 terrorist attack in 2001. It is indeed a complete history of the United States, but from a strictly economic perspective.
Emphasis of the book
An Empire of Wealth emphasizes all the economic success that United States has had during its relatively brief existence. Gordon downplays much of the economic downturns, such as the Great Depression. Instead, he focuses on impressive statistics on how the United States is such an utterly dominant force. For instance, he states that with only six percent of the world’s land mass, the United States encompasses roughly thirty percent of the world’s GDP. Also, he covers his facts with layers of hyper-specific numbers. For example, Gordon cites numbers to the exact million. “The government had never spent more in one year than the $746 million it had spent in 1915”.
Point of view or bias
Gordon is heavily biased in his work. He is very optimistic on nearly every troubling event in US history. For example, take the September 11 terrorist attacks. Gordon stated that nearly everyone in the world thought that America would easily win the war on terror simply because of its economic might. He also has a sense of arrogance throughout the novel. He never touches on any external effects on economics. Since countries are very economically dependent on others, one would assume that foreign powers would be in the discussion of America’s rise to power. Gordon probably wrote the book to further entrench American economic superiority.
Contribution of the book
The book was written to provide a fairly detailed history of America’s rise to economic power. It skims over major events and instead just analyzes the significant economic impacts, which usually end up leading to increased economic power for America. For instance, he focuses on things that may have been briefly stated in modern history book, like inventions. Inventions, such as Watt’s steam engine, heavily alter the economic situation of the time. It allows for a more economic-centric...