Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America (Paperback)

Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America By Richard White Cover Image

Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America (Paperback)

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A Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize



"A powerful book, crowded with telling details and shrewd observations." —Michael Kazin, New York Times Book Review


The transcontinental railroads were the first corporate behemoths. Their attempts to generate profits from proliferating debt sparked devastating economic panics. Their dependence on public largesse drew them into the corridors of power, initiating new forms of corruption. Their operations rearranged space and time, remade the landscape of the West, and opened new ways of life and work. Their discriminatory rates sparked a new antimonopoly politics.


The transcontinentals were pivotal actors in the making of modern America, but the triumphal myths of the golden spike, Robber Barons larger than life, and an innovative capitalism all die here. Instead we have a new vision of the Gilded Age, often darkly funny, that shows history to be rooted in failure as well as success.



Richard White is the author of many acclaimed histories, including the groundbreaking study of the transcontinentals, Railroaded, winner of the LA Times Book Prize and a Pulitzer Prize finalist. He is Margaret Byrne Professor Emeritus at Stanford University, and lives in Los Angeles, California.
Product Details ISBN: 9780393342376
ISBN-10: 0393342379
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: April 23rd, 2012
Pages: 720
Language: English
Required reading for anyone interested in the history of American railroading…This is an exciting story and well told.
— John Steele Gordon - Wall Street Journal

A model of narrative skill and [an] insightful reinterpretation of the Gilded Age. It is easily the best business history I have read.
— Donald Worster - Slate

A scathing and wonderful new book. [Railroaded] will entertain and outrage readers.

— Buzzy Jackson - Boston Globe

An acute analysis that in failure came success and in many ways the map of the nation.
— Scott Martelle - Washington Post

Imaginative, iconoclastic, immensely informative and mordantly funny.
— Glenn C. Altschuler - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A different and provocative view of the role of the transcontinentals in developing the American West. Railroaded will no doubt spark lively debate and become required reading for those seeking an insightful and recast history of the transcontinental railroad saga.

— Walter R. Borneman - San Francisco Chronicle

Richard White is one of those rare historians with an unfailing ability to transform any topic he writes about, no matter how familiar that topic might seem. In Railroaded, he tells the story of the western transcontinentals as it has never been told before, with insights that speak as much to our own time as to the nineteenth-century era he explores with such wit and intelligence.

— William Cronon, author of Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West

When it comes to the American West, there is no other writer like Richard White, a serious scholar with a highly original take on familiar subjects and elegant prose besides. His subject, the making of the transcontinental railroads, is perhaps the pivotal story of the West, but it’s not the one we know from movies and myth. It’s about the birth of all those things that most trouble us nowadays, a genesis story in which the serpent in Eden is the railroad itself writhing across the continent.
— Rebecca Solnit, author of Orwell's Roses

This brilliant book will forever change our understanding of the great railroad projects of nineteenth-century America.
— William Deverell, director, Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West

Excellent big-picture, popularly written history of the Howard Zinn mold, backed by a mountain of research and statistics.
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)