We often defer to superlatives when describing our current political age, but the truth is that in many respects, we have been here before. In the summer of 1901, the tycoon JP Morgan was assembling a merger that would give him a monopoly position over America’s railroads. His strong supporter in the White House, President William McKinley, was then suddenly assassinating, bringing a less hospitable interloper into power, President Theodore Roosevelt.
In Susan Berfield’s new book, “The Hour of Fate: Theodore Roosevelt, J.P. Morgan, and the Battle to Transform American Capitalism,” the reader is brought into close contact with the characters, personalities, and ambitions which would come to define the role of money and raw financial power in US politics.
Speaking with Amsterdam on the podcast, Berfield says she was drawn to the question during this period that is still relevant today – how do we hold business to account and create a version of capitalism that is fairer and more equal?
The story of Roosevelt’s first years in power as told by Berfield, coming into direct conflict with one of the world’s most powerful business figures, is given an interesting and detailed treatment, featuring some portrayals of these familiar characters that will surprise given many of our preconceived notions of their personalities.