For much of the twentieth century, scholars treated the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era as starkly contrasting phases in the unfolding of the American story: the post-Civil War dark ages followed by the bright light of the early twentieth century. More recently, historians have recognized the oversimplification if not downright wrongheadedness of that dichotomy. The past few decades have witnessed an explosion of studies on a variety of topics with coverage dates roughly from the 1870s to the 1920s. Most of these newer works underscore the continuities between the two periods and the relatively seamless evolution of forces and institutions.
Charles W. Calhoun is Professor of History at East Carolina University. His latest book is The Human Tradition in America from the Colonial Era through Reconstruction. He is also a past president of the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.