The Men Who Built America

The History Channel (Mini-Series 2012)


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  • These Men did not build America

    This is a very interesting documentary. It is well produced and looks at each character well.

    However, this is by no means the History Channel's greatest production at all. To call these men the "Men Who Built America" is highly exaggerated. Firstly, this programme is incredibly biased and consistently glorifies the 'wonders' of capitalism. Not to say that this form of economic governance is bad, but to over-estimate the influence of these men on America is false. To describe Cornelius Vanderbilt as the "most powerful man in America" completely disregards the fact that Abraham Lincoln had just won the Civl War.

    This programme rarely features any proper historian. And indeed, when a historian does make a comment, it is a great relief. The other contributors include successful businessmen who, despite this being a historical programme, choose to discuss their achievements. This documentary also misses one key fact. While it explains quite well the actions of these men, it never discusses how and what allowed them to grow. One must remember that the United States, during the nineteenth century, was an immigrant nation comprising of millions non-born citizens who sought work. Thus, all labour employed by Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie etc. was cheap labour.

    This programme gives a good insight into how these figures built successful industries. However, for a student studying American history, this programme is useless. The fledging capitalists will enjoy it, but hopefully those looking for some objective study, will not.