Social classes, like fortunes, are made and remade, and invariably the two are linked. Tracing the shifting fortunes and changing character of New York City's economic elite over half a century, this book brings to light a neglected—and critical—chapter in the social history of the United States: the rise of an American bourgeoisie.
How a small and diverse group of New Yorkers came to wield unprecedented economic, social, and political power is the story that Sven Beckert pursues from 1850 to the turn of the nineteenth century. Blending social, economic, and political history, his book reveals the central role of the Civil War in realigning New York City's economic elite, as merchants began to shed their old allegiances to slavery and the Atlantic economy, and to cede a greater share of economic power to industrialists. We then see how in the wake of Reconstruction the New York bourgeoisie reoriented its ideology, abandoning the free labor views of the antebellum years for laissez-faire liberalism. Finally, in the 1880s and 1890s, we observe the emergence of a fully self-conscious and inordinately powerful New York upper class.
Drawing on a remarkable range of sources from tax lists to personal papers, credit ratings to congressional testimony The Monied Metropolis provides a richly textured historical portrait of society redefining itself. Its reach extends well beyond New York, into the most important issues of social and political change in nineteenth-century America.