Blood, iron and Gold.

Author:Gourdin, Kent N.
Position:Bookshelf Ideas - Book review
 
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blood, iron and Gold by christian wolmar; public affairs, 2010; ISBN-13:9781586488345; hardcover, 376 pages; $28.95

This spirited, dramatic history of "the most important invention of the second millennium" celebrates railroads as the central innovation of the industrial revolution, releasing economic and social energies on a stupendous scale. Historian Wolmar chronicles the heroic age of railroad construction in the 19th century, with its mix of epic engineering and horrible exploitation. Riding the early railroads, the author notes, was almost as harrowing as building them, as passengers braved engine cinders that set their clothes on fire and sometimes had to get out and push underpowered locomotives up steep grades. The railroads' social impact was equally breathtaking, in Wolmar's telling: it brought dry folk fresh milk, out-of-season produce, and commutes to the suburbs; spawned monopolies and spectacular corruption scandals; and played a crucial role in enabling the world wars and the Holocaust. Wolmar explores this fertile subject with a blend of lucid exposition and engaging historical narrative.

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