There are many ways for a work of history to draw upon the skills and insights of other disciplines, whether of sociology, psychology, or, in the case of the book under review, journalism. De Wolk had a long and successful career as a journalist before undertaking the lengthy period of archival research that more typically is the province of the historian. Happily, the resulting book has many of the strengths that one might anticipate from this combination, such as vivid prose and a strong narrative drive.

The title is indicative of De Wolk’s argument that Leland Stanford was, as the driving force of capitalism, the living embodiment of Schumpeter’s “creative destruction.”1 That is, Stanford and his colleagues in the Big Four of railroad magnates who built the Central Pacific, with a shaping influence on the history of California and the nation as a whole, did not let ethical niceties...

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