Cover image for The monied metropolis : New York City and the consolidation of the American bourgeoisie, 1850-1896
The monied metropolis : New York City and the consolidation of the American bourgeoisie, 1850-1896
Beckert, Sven.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, UK ; New York, NY : Cambridge University Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xvii, 492 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HC108.N7 B343 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Tracing the shifting fortunes and changing character of New York City's economic elite over half a century, Sven Beckert brings to light a neglected--and critical--chapter in the social history of the U.S.: the rise of an American bourgeoisie. The Monied Metropolis is the first comprehensive history of New York's economic elite, the most powerful group in nineteenth-century America. Beckert explains how a small and diverse group of New Yorkers came to wield unprecedented economic, social, and political power from 1850 to the turn of the twentieth century. He reveals the central role of the Civil War in realigning New York's economic elite, and how the New York bourgeoisie reoriented its ideology during Reconstruction, abandoning the free labor views of the antebellum years for laissez-faire liberalism. Sven Beckert is the Dunwalke Associate at Harvard University. He is the recipient of several honors and fellowships, including the Aby Warburg Foundation prize for academic excellence, a MacArthur Dissertation Fellowship and a Andrew W. Mellon fellowship. This is his first book.

Author Notes

Sven Beckert was a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in History with his title Empire of Cotton: A Global History.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

By 1892, 27% of American millionaires resided in New York City, and the city's dominance as an epicenter for capitalist enterprise was so well established as to seem both natural and inevitable. Yet, as Harvard history professor Beckert demonstrates, New York's ascendance as the nation's most important hub of manufacturing and trade was less an inevitability than the result of a series of deft and determined maneuvers on the part of the city's economic elites (i.e., the aristocracy and the wealthy merchants). Despite having often divergent political and economic interests, the monied classes came, over the course of the second half of the 19th century, to recognize one another as allies in opposition to the lower classes, and consequently worked together to achieve a remarkable consolidation of power, with the result that "not presidents but prominent New York entrepreneurs... came to represent the age." Beckert examines the process through which this consolidation of power occurred, explaining how the responses of the city's most prominent merchants and manufacturers to national conflicts and crises, such as the Civil War and periods of economic depression and labor unrest in the late 1800s, enabled these bourgeois New Yorkers to wield progressively greater influence over the shape of both local and national economic policy. While Beckert's narrative suffers at times from the burden of minute detail, which may deter readers other than economic historians, this is, in general, a deftly told account of the Manhattan bourgeoisie's impressively shrewd negotiation of the ever-shifting terrain of the American political and economic landscape. As such, it yields thought-provoking insights into the ways in which power has been and continues to be acquired and exercised in the U.S. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

As broadcast by his title, Beckert (history, Harvard) locates the classical late 19th-century American capitalist coalition of major industry, big finance, and large-scale mercantilism securely in New York City. Beckert's ambitious history covers the Manhattan upper crust with the same thoroughness that Sean Wilentz's reserved for the pre-Civil War New York working class, but while Wilentz's brilliant Chants Democratic (LJ 3/15/84) displayed a singing prose style that has made him a celebrity intellectual, Beckert's flawlessly constructed treatise rewards only expert readership. The author demonstrates that the city's emergent industrial interests found common ground during the Civil War with the de facto pro-Southern mercantile elite and that the resulting alliance of Big Money and Big Manufacturing dominated national politics thereafter. Beckert's revisiting the private charity-public relief debate of the 1870s is a timely reminder that political discourse exists in a continuum. Academic libraries supporting the most serious research in modern U.S. urban, business, and social history will need this book for their collections, as will the major borough publics, but most general-interest libraries will want to pass. Scott H. Silverman, Bryn Mawr Coll. Lib., PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Beckert's study illuminates a three-fold process of cultural transition among New York City elites in the half-century after the Civil War. The first strand in this new weave was a political shift from the early Republican ideology of free soil and free labor to what might be termed laissez-faire finance capitalism. By the early 1870s, the protectionist tariffs of the first Republican administration had become enshrined as dogma and attacks on working men's rights to unionize emerged as a doctrinal point in the postwar Republican camp. The second strand Beckert (Harvard) describes was the coalescence of this newly emergent, highly successful entrepreneurial class (which he labels the bourgeoisie) into a self-conscious, organized, and articulate social group. In a short decade after the war, the physical confines of the nascent bourgeoisie, formerly scattered over the city, were as readily defined and eagerly defended as their economic interests and political identity. Finally, Beckert explores the shift from a local to a national perspective among the bourgeoisie. This transition embraced much more than the city's elite turning their gaze outward to Continental markets and national politics and also explains how they effectively became the nation's elite in social and political as well as economic matters. Recommended for upper-division undergraduate through faculty collections. J. Kleiman University of Wisconsin Colleges

Table of Contents

Part I Manners, Fortunes, Politics
1 Accumulating capital
2 Negotiating the New Metropolis
3 The politics of capital
Part II Reluctant Revolutionaries
4 Bourgeois New Yorkers go to war
5 The spoils of victory
6 Reconstructing New York
Part III
7 Democracy in the Age of Capital
8 A Bourgeois world
9 The rights of labor, the rights of property
10 The power of capital and the crisis of legitimacy