“An Illustrated Business History of the United States” by Richard Vague
Forgetting history does doom us to repeating it. We see this in recent news out of the Far East with the United States’ Afghanistan withdrawal. There are innumerable instances we can cite of man’s inability to learn from his best teacher, history itself. It isn’t because a lack of trying for some of us. Richard Vague’s book An Illustrated Business History of the United States is no hollow gesture, no gloss job, and delivers exactly what it purports.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: https://www.richardvague.com/
It hinges on one central conceit above all else – that the history of our nation and its business history are inextricably entwined. It isn’t an especially groundbreaking theory, even a cursory amount of reflection on the idea bears out its merit, but it nonetheless provides grounds for consensus among readers beginning the book. Few will be inclined to disagree. The supposition that this book and thinkers such as Vague are making is that by studying United States business history we are opening more of our larger national history open for examination.
No one can say Vague champions a cheerleader’s vision of American commerce. He looks at the visionaries and charlatans alike, the frauds and relentlessly authentic, but recognizes the larger picture behind it all. The story of American business has been, for the most part, a story of outsized personalities who strode through the worlds as colossuses among men, a story of boldness, a refusal to take no for answer, and a willingness to subvert every other concerns for the goal of realizing its vision for American life. An Illustrated Business History of the United States captures it like few other books.
This is, in no small part, thanks to his prose. He isn’t a born writer, despite two previous books to his credit, but his intelligence and a reliable ear aid him immensely. Vague communicates his ideas with equal parts rigorous detail and personable writing. He refrains from putting a lot of himself into the book, at least overtly, but the relaxed confidence and good natured tone fueling his words is unmistakable.
It is not a particularly lengthy work either. He surveys the history of American business in less than 400 pages and breaks down this wide-ranging story into a comprehensive narrative. Storytelling attributes aren’t something you usually notice in a non-fiction book unless it’s a memoir but Richard Vague brings that strength to the table as well. You can, however, begin the book wherever you like and not lose anything from the reading experience.
An Illustrated Business History of the United States is one of the best books of its type. Vague has obviously invested an enormous amount of time and effort into making this a definitive look at an inescapable part of our lives. It has handsomely produced, never breezes over its material and the eye-catching use of illustrations complements the text. There’s nothing gimmicky or put-on about this book. Let’s hope it receives the attention it deserves and remains a go-to volume on the topic for many years to come.