"In the United States, the 1890s are an almost forgotten time. The whole stretch of American history between the end of the Civil War and the 1920s is gray area in popular memory, but the 1890s are especially blank, occupying a dead zone in between "Deadwood" and "Boardwalk Empire."
Below is a link to an interesting long-from article on the economic and climate chaos of the late 1800s and early 1900s, and how people responded to it around the world. Grim, but very much worth reading.
The Cults and Utopias of the 1890s | The Awl:
'via Blog this'
Why are the 1880s - 1920s a largely forgotten time period here in the US? My best guess is that it's because those of us born into the Long Prosperity that followed World War II have lived our lives exempted from the forces of history. Wars haven't touched us at home, and our parents or grandparents tamed the previously violent forces of economics with a regulatory and tax framework that took the harsh edge of of capitalism. So much so that unlike many of our recent ancestors, the state of the economy rarely intruded into our thoughts or our plans for what to do in life. We've also been immune to the fickleness of the natural world, never knowing hunger or uncertainty because of droughts or things as mundane as crash in the local deer population. We've even been spared the lash of disease, not having seen a major epidemic.
In other words, we've lived most of our lives in a cushioned bubble that our immediate ancestors could have only dreamed of. Those were people whom history inflicted itself on in a big way.
I'm aware that some of topic matter here on Consilience has been dark as of late. It's almost over. I've got one more Dystopias piece left to write, and then it's back to the more upbeat States and Nations 3.0 articles, spiffy science, and amazing things we might be able do with technology in the not so distant future. But to write meaningfully about those things I needed to take a look at things that are going wrong and have gone wrong in the past with technology. Getting to tomorrow's heaven means knowing how others arrived in yesterday's hell. And there were a lot of hells over the last century and a half. That, and as I writer I'm always looking for challenges and sources of danger or upheaval to pit characters against. Those kinds of darkness are much more engaging for readers when they'er rooted somewhere, at some level, in the real world. Or at least that's my best guess intuition on the subject.