September 28, 2011 - The New Republic
The scene is iconic, known to many Americans even casually acquainted with their history. Locomotives of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads come engine grate to engine grate, separated by a mere railroad tie, at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869, commemorating the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. And there, as federal officials, other dignitaries, reporters, and a large collection of laborers look on, Leland Stanford, president of the Central Pacific, steps up, silver hammer in hand, to drive the last -- and this one a golden -- spike into the track, bringing to fruition an epic feat of engineering and imagination, and a proud testamnet to the nation's new industrial might and capitalist prowess.
August 20, 2011 - The Nation
... Railroaded, Richard White's trenchant history of the political economy of the first Gilded Age, told through a close examination of the transcontinental railroad corporations, could not be more timely. Parts of the book read like Matt Taibbi exposé of fradulent high finance and venal politics, but the bulk of it resembles a Vanity Fair article that gasps even as it sympathizes with insiders divulging the details of how things went terribly wrong.
August 7, 2011 - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
We learned back in high school that railroads were the engines of economic growth in the United States. Although they were often run by "rober barons," the iron horses opened the continent for settlement, developed national markets, invented corporate business practices, and advanced the commercial, industrial and social interests of the United States. Richard White, a professor of American history at Stanford University, does not deny that railroads "eventually proved to be a good idea." He claims however, that in the mid- and late 19th-century, they were, in almost every respect, a disaster.
August 5, 2011 - The Washington Post
It's hard to imagine failure succeeding so well, but there it was. In the late 19th century, the modern American corporation arose in the form of the railroads, and a template was struck by the new financiers and entrepreneurs: Use other people's money, pocket cast as you go along, and be far out of reach by the time the collapse comes. That's a bit of a cynical take, admittedly. But it's also hard to refute, especially after reading "Railroaded," Richard White's detailed dissection of the rise and eventual fall of the nation's railroads.
July 15, 2011 - The New York Times
“Transcontinental railroads,” [White] asserts in “Railroaded,” “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.” This is a bold indictment, but White supports it convincingly with lavish detail and prose that swivels easily from denunciation to irony.