"Alasdair Roberts tells a wide-ranging story of the depression that began in 1837 with lucidity, emphasizing the role of global financial markets and finding plenty of analogies to the economic problems of today."--Daniel Walker Howe, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848
"Roberts does students of the period a service by thinking outside of the normal constraints to conjure a broad and international view of the decade that followed the Jackson presidency." -- Peter Rousseau, EH.net
"The parallels between pre-industrial America's 1837 financial crisis and that of our own time are particularly strong. The beauty of Roberts' book is that the reader can see the entire arc of the crisis, from beginning to end, in a historical context--something that studies of the 2008 event will lack for many years to come. Roberts nicely combines narrative history with analysis. His book is accessible to both the expert and the novice in economic history. Highly recommended." - Forefront Magazine
, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
"America's First Great Depression
is astute, compelling, concise, original, relevant, transatlantic, well-written, and witty. No ellipses and no exaggerations."-Robert E. Wright, Nef Family Chair of Political Economy, Augustana College, South Dakota, author of One Nation Under Debt
"For the first 50 years after achieving independence, Americans had every reason to believe theirs to be the most fortunate of nations. Then came the Panic of 1837, which caused a hopelessness rendered worse by the optimism that had preceded it and resulted in a crisis that lasted until 1848. . . . Alasdair Roberts reveals how this disaster led to epochal shifts in policy and culture, and his lively narrative and commitment to character ensure that the human cost is never out of sight. Roberts is especially keen to demonstrate how this mid-19th century ordeal relates to America's current woes. The 'hard times' of the 1830s led to financial ruin for state governments, a near-cessation of federal aid, and an outbreak of violent protests in many major cities."-Publishers Weekly (30 January 2012)
"Alasdair Roberts's poignant yet balanced account of the financial, economic, and political crises of the 1830s and 1840s provides us with a distant mirror reflecting our current travails. By not knowing and learning from history, we continue to make the same mistakes our ancestors did. If you want to complete your education, America's First Great Depression is a good place to begin."-Richard Sylla, Henry Kaufman Professor of the History of Financial Institutions and Markets, New York University, coauthor of A History of Interest Rates
"Roberts examines the financial, political, and social upheavals that occurred in the United States in the decade following the Panic of 1837, which he calls the First Great Depression. The years leading up to the panic, he says, were a time of boom marked by geographic expansion, the near elimination of the national debt, states borrowing large sums for improvement projects, and land values that appeared to be rising without end. He explains that the panic caused a deep economic depression that resulted in loan defaults by nine states, federal gridlock, a breakdown of law and order, a loss of faith in banks, and a slow recovery for the U.S. economy, which came back only after the Mexican War. Parallels to the country's current economic recession are clear throughout the text, and Roberts makes explicit comparisons in his conclusion. This timely book will be of great use not just to students of economic history but also to readers who wish to find
historical precedent for today's uncertain, turbulent times."-Library Journal
"Roberts's book is based on careful archival research that is quite uncommon in the study of public administration anywhere. . . . He dubbed his method the macrodynamics of administrative development, which is somewhat visible in Leonard White's four-volume administrative history and, more important, acknowledges the need of attention for both human agency and institutional context. . . . The book is well written and in my view an attractive example of how administrative history informs the present."-American Review of Public Administration
"America's First Great Depression
is an intriguing history of American financial policy in the 1830s and 1840s. Alasdair Roberts's contention that international financial considerations shaped U.S. policymaking is well sustained, the writing is sprightly, and the argument is nicely documented with a wealth of judiciously culled evidence."-Richard R. John, Columbia University, author of Network Nation: Inventing American Telecommunications
"America's First Great Depression is a lucid, highly readable examination of the panic of 1837 and the decade of economic, political and social upheaval that followed." Journal of American History, March 2013
About the Author
Alasdair Roberts is Jerome L. Rappaport Professor of Law and Public Policy at Suffolk University Law School. He is the author of The Logic of Discipline: Global Capitalism and the New Architecture of Government, The Collapse of Fortress Bush: The Crisis of Authority in American Government, and Blacked Out: Government Secrecy in the Information Age. He is also a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration and coeditor of the journal Governance.