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Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 (Oxford History of the United States) 1st Edition

161 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195038347
ISBN-10: 0195038347
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Editorial Reviews Review

You can think of Freedom from Fear as the academic's version of The Greatest Generation: like Tom Brokaw, Stanford history professor David M. Kennedy focuses on the years of the Great Depression and the Second World War and how the American people coped with those events. But there the similarities end--and, in terms of the differences, one might begin by noting that the historian's account is over twice the size of the journalist's.

Whereas Brokaw made use of extensive interviews, Kennedy relies on published accounts and primary sources, all meticulously footnoted. This academic rigor, however, does not render the book dull--far from it. Certainly the subject matter is interesting enough in its own right, but Kennedy offers attention-grabbing turns of phrase on nearly every page. He also unleashes some convention-shattering theses, such as his revelation that "the most responsible students of the events of 1929 have been unable to demonstrate an appreciable cause-and-effect linkage between the Crash and the Depression" and his subsequent argument that, although it made order out of chaos, the New Deal did not reverse the Depression--that, he says, was the war's doing. All in all, Freedom from Fear compares favorably to its companions in the multivolume Oxford History of the United States in both its comprehensive heft and its vivid readability. --Ron Hogan

From Publishers Weekly

Rarely does a work of historical synthesis combine such trenchant analysis and elegant writing. Because of its scope, insight, and purring narrative engine, Kennedy's book will stand for years as the definitive history of the critical decades of the American century.

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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford History of the United States
  • Hardcover: 990 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (May 6, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195038347
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195038347
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 2.4 x 6.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (161 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #186,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David M. Kennedy is Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History Emeritus at Stanford University and co-director of the Bill Lane Center for the American West. After C. Vann Woodward's death, he was appointed series editor for the Oxford History of the United States series. His volume in the series, Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945, won the Pulitzer Prize for History, the Francis Parkman Prize, the Ambassador's Prize, and the California Gold Medal for Literature. He is the author of Over Here: The First World War and American Society, which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and Birth Control in America: The Career of Margaret Sanger, which won a Bancroft Prize. He lives in Palo Alto, California.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

178 of 187 people found the following review helpful By Lawrence Auerbach on July 22, 1999
Format: Hardcover
David Kennedy's book, "Freedom From Fear" is a monumental achievement of historical writing.
Covering the years from just before outbreak The Great Depression to the end of World War II and the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the author focuses on the impact which Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) had on America during this seminal period of our history, and how his influence still impacts on our country today.
"Freedom From Fear" is an extremely long book--over 900 pages in length--and the early chapters, detailing various aspects of The "New Deal" and the many agencies under the "New Deal" which F.D.R. helped establish, are a bit too detailed and not quite as interesting as the rest of the book. But none of the wealth of information which Kennedy gives is dull or uninteresting--and when Kennedy starts to write about the events that occurred in Europe and the Pacific during World WarII, his book becomes as enthralling as any novel.
A previous Amazon Reviewer faults Kennedy for being anti-Rosevelt and says that Kennedy feels "nothing Roosevelt did seems right." I wonder if we have read the same book! Kennedy is an obvious admirer of F.D.R. and does not hesitate to point out his many accomplishments and praise his ability as a politician and "visionary" in helping to draw so many conflicting elements in Congress and the country as a whole, together.
Kennedy DOES point out that Roosevelt kept many of his thoughts and motives to himself--and that even his closest friends didn't know always exactly what he was THINKING. But the fact remains that F.D.R.
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149 of 169 people found the following review helpful By Ross Hardter on April 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
After looking at all the extremely positive views of Freedom From Fear, it is with some trepidation that I offer some negative comments. This is a book that I really looked forward to reading and wanted very much to like. On the positive side, I must state that I learned a great deal, particularly about the depression, that I did not know. And I also certainly admire Dr. Kennedy for tackling such a massive project and condensing the results into a single volume. But therein, I think, lay the seeds of some of the difficulties. Specifically, I have three problems with it.
First, because he is trying to cover so much, the book ends up being just a broad survey and, of necessity, omits too much, and places too much reliance on secondary sources. This is probably inevitable considering the scope of the project and the vast literature available. Each chapter covers a particular theme, which makes the book look like a series of lectures or articles, rather than a unified whole.
Second, the book badly needed a good editing before publication. There are two problems here. The first is that stories are repeated, almost verbatim, in different chapters, and occasionally even within a single chapter. The second is that, in the areas with which I am familiar, I found numerous factual errors. To cite just three, at the battle of the Philippine Sea it was not Raymond Spruance, commander of the Fifth Fleet, who ordered the lights turned on for the returning aircraft, but Marc Mitscher, commander of the carrier groups. Again, it was not Thomas Kinkaid, commander of the Seventh Fleet, who "crossed the T" at Surigao Strait, but rather Jesse Oldendorf, who commanded the battleships and other fire support ships.
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56 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Barron Laycock HALL OF FAME on July 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
With this wonderful book, David Kennedy has produced a definitive treatment of the crisis of the century, a book of epic proportions; one detailing, describing and explaining the many ways in which the insoluble social, economic, and political maelstrom that enveloped this country is related to the history of what came thereafter. As in other recent tomes such as Doris Kearns Goodwin's "No Ordinary Times" and Tom Brokow's The Greatest Generation", the present volume is quite explicit in meaningfully linking how the harrowing kinds of experiences, trials, and tribulations of the American people helped to forge the kind of character, determination, and resolve that was later so instrumental in meeting the challenges associated with the Second World War.
Yet unlike Brokow's effort and that of other historians like Stephen Ambrose, Kennedy avoids wide use of primary interviewing, and the difference this leads to in the tone and perspective of the book is telling. Like Goodwin's effort, this is a superb book, wonderfully written, eminently accessible (an important quality given its length of nearly 900 pages), with a sometimes soaring prose style that is so distinctive and so refreshing that reading it is a joy. This is history come to life, full of the color and hues of the original events, presented in a manner that is at once both academically sophisticated and yet available and readable by the general audience. Kennedy makes the reader feel as though he is present in the moment, experiencing the events as they transpire rather than eavesdropping some seventy or so years after the fact. Hearing about the ways in which feckless Herbert Hoover, for example, was in many ways the helpless victim of circumstances is quite interesting.
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