in collaboration with The Spatial History Project

The Interviews

Richard White Covers Railroad's History (And Failures)

December 9, 2011 - KUOW

"Transcontinental railroads were a Gilded Age extravagance that rent holes in the political, social and environmental fabric of the nation, creating railroads as mismanaged and corrupt as they were long;" so says historian Richard White in his book "Railroaded: The Transcontinentals And The Making of Modeern America."  White argues that though the railroads are seen as a great success, it is actually the corrupt failures of the railroads that changed our country.  In a talk moderated by KUOW's Steve Scher, Richard White spoke about his findings at Seattle Public Library on December 9, 2011.



September 6, 2011 - KQED Forum

In his new book, Stanford history professor Richard White writes that some of the tycoons that built the transcontinental railroad system were corrupt, caused economic and environmental ruin and abused government subsidies.  White joins us to discuss his book, "Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America."


Railroaded: 19th Century Origins of Corporate America

2011 - The Burton Cohen Show on PRX

The Tea Party these days looks with fondness to the 19th century as a time of rugged individualism and unemcumbered free markets.  As with so many mythic images, reality is exceedingly different.  Like corporate personhood?  Thank the railroads.  Ever notice how, in labor strife the government generally takes the side against the workers?  Look to railroad history.  Appreciate the decision making process for nuclear plants?  Again, our friend that 19th century behemoth, the standard-setting machinations of the transcontinental railroads.  Tune in for an exciting hour.


Interview w/ Richard White

July 29, 2011 - The Gist Michelangelo Signorile

Richard White, the author of Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America, joins us this afternoon to explain how those involved with the railroad industry helped to shape America politically, geographically, and economically -- and how that industry was as "corrupt as they were long."


How Trains 'Railroaded' The American Economy

July 11, 2011 - NPR Morning Edition

There's no shortage of intrepid tales about the advent of the American rail system: starting in the 1860s, rail companies built one track after another, across mountains and deserts, from the Midwest to California. Brilliant engineering combined with the muscle of immigrant labor unified America -- or so the storygoes.  But that's not the story Richard White tells in his new book Railroaded.


Rail Chief Cries Over Bill for Train-Mangled Girl: Lewis Lapham

July 1, 2011 - 9:01pm with Bloomberg News "The World in Time"

Lewis Lapham speaks with Richard White on corruption and failure, government subsidies, "destroy when read," quazi-ponzi schemes, and animosity toward corporations.  Click here to listen to the podcast.


Richard White on the The Diane Rehm Show

June 13, 2011 - 11:06am on WAMU 88.5 | NPR

In a new book titled, Railroaded, historian Richard White says, "The transcontinentals of the 19th century transformed American life, but not because of their success."  He joins Diane Rehm in the studio to talk about why he thinks their failures laid the groundwork for many of the problems we face today.


Myths About the Transcontinental Railroad and the Building of the American West

June 8, 2011 - 6pm at the Commonwealth Club of California

Richard White in conversation with David Kennedy, Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History, Emeritus.  Drawing on his extensive knowledge on the American West and 12 years of research on the railroads, White reveals the social and economic impact the transcontinental railroad has had on shaping the United States into what it is today.  With an iconoclastic perspective, White recasts our understanding of the Gilded Age.  Watch as White explores 19th-century politics, greed, corruption, money, and corporate arrogance -- and the America formed out of them after the Civil War.


Fast Train to Nowhere

April 23, 2011 - The New York Times

"In his State of the Union address, President Obama compared high-speed rail to the 19th-century transcontinental railroads as parallel examples of American innovation.  I fear he may be right."