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The Great Depression: A Diary Paperback – August 31, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; Reprint edition (August 31, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586489011
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586489014
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,956 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Charles R. Morris, The Trillion Dollar Meltdown
“Benjamin Roth has left us a vivid portrait of the Great Depression that is all the more powerful for the similarities and differences with the financial upheavals of today. Roth enables us -- in ways no historian can match -- to immerse ourselves in the sense of despair that Americans of that era felt and their hope that the economy would revive, long before it did. To read the diaries now is both enlightening and chilling.”

Jonathan Alter, The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope
“We imagine the Great Depression at two extremes--Franklin Roosevelt's jaunty smile and the haunting images of Dustbowl destitution. But in between were everyday middle class strivers like Benjamin Roth, trying to sort through the wreckage. FDR and the WPA may be long gone but the professional class remains, and the record of its struggle in the Depression has been thin until now. Roth's incisive diaries are more than a precious time capsule. They speak to our economic hopes and fears directly, and to the bewilderment of our own time."

New York Times
“Mr. Roth’s diaries … are compelling reading, because they force readers to reflect on both the similarities and the differences between then and now…. We’re all a little like Benjamin Roth, asking questions we don’t know the answer to, and wonder, as he did 70 years ago, whether the crisis is, indeed, over.”

Spectator Business(UK)
“Here are brief, unsentimental, clear-eyed notes of the growing sense of hopelessness that came over Midwestern American life. This moving book is edited by [Roth’s] son Daniel.”

MoneySense
“A fascinating read, and strangely familiar.”

Financial Times
“[Roth’s] entries compellingly detail the everyday”

Seattle Times
“Roth’s diary is plainly written and professionally edited. It is a window on another age.”

Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“There is an honest searching quality to his day-by-day accounts of banks closing, bread lines forming, friends failing. Striving to understand, he provides a remarkable and often engagingly literate discussion of the great Depression’s impact on people like him.”

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

James Ledbetter is the editor of “The Big Money,” Slate.com’s web site on business and economics.

Daniel B. Roth, son of Benjamin Roth, is the chairman of the law firm of Roth, Blair, Roberts, Strasfeld & Lodge in You


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Customer Reviews

The Great Depression, A Diary is an education in global economics and fiscal responsibility.
Erin Nass
After reading this book, I better appreciate how the Depression experience changed their lives forever.
Dale C. Maley
Very interesting book full of notes on days' events as they transpired throughout the Depression.
Jane

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

67 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Stewart on October 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
What makes this book important are its clear similarities to the events of today. In fact, it's hard to read the book and not get the two eras a little confused. Bank closings? Check. Recovery Act bills and government spending? Check. Bankruptcy? Check. Foreclosures and federal foreclosure prevention programs? Check. Partial and full takeovers of industry? Check. Smaller paychecks every year? Yep. (While the editors admit to the release of the book being spurred by the current economic crisis, the cyclical nature of this type of event means the book would actually have been just as important in 1999 or 2006 as it is today.)

Beginning in June 1931, Benjamin Roth recorded in a series of notebooks his observations on the events in Youngstown, Ohio. Highlighted are the sad state of his legal practice throughout the depression years, bank closings and reopenings, steel production levels, growth in the ranks of the unemployed, and extreme deflation in the early years of the depression. Though having no investments of his own, Roth recorded stock prices and dividend payments, and much of the discussion surrounds the best way to have invested if he had been able. Roth worries most about a period of strong inflation spurred by the policies of the Roosevelt administration and about middle-class professionals such as him being bypassed by the growing recovery, but also about the anti-Semitism of the campaign by Republican Alfred M. Landon in the 1936 presidential election, Hitler's takeover of Europe, government control, socialism, losing the gold standard and the rise of organized labor, especially when it led to strikes and violent confrontation in Youngstown. He worries, too, about collecting what is due his practice without causing hardship.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Busy reader on November 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As a child of the Depression I found The Great Depression: a Diary very interesting and informative. My father was not a professional person and I am sure he did not have any stocks, but the traumatic events that occurred happened to everyone. There are so many similarities to todays events: bank closings, credit problems, the closing of so very many businesses and the institution of so many programs to save jobs and the economy and very few of them having the stimulus needed. I also found it interesting to track the professional person as I have worked for lawyers and they seem to suffer immediately from a downturn in the economy. Apparently it was the same many years ago. A very good read and I would recommend it to anyone who lived through the great depression or would like a comparison of the present situation and the dark days long ago.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By C. A. Mott on November 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I purchased The Great Depression: A Diary after reading Joe Nocera's excellent column about the book which appeared in the New York Times on October 17th. I was most impressed by the book and recommend that it be placed on everybody's list. It would be a great Christmas present for anyone old enough to have lived during the Great Depression, and an eye-opener for those who are struggling to make sense of our current economic situation. As it has been said, "Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it."

I found the book hard to put down and believe that it has great historical value. We have all read histories of the Depression, but to read the day-to-day account of a young lawyer who was living it in real time is unique. It was amazing to me to be able to follow the history as it was being made, and it gave me much greater insight into how the so-called middle class suffered. I give it my 5 star approval.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Hefty User on March 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've always wondered why people who emerged from the Great Depression are so different than my generation (boomer). They are more nervous, cautious, a bit fearful, but way more sensible than the carefree, debt-ridden generations that were born after the depression ended. When someone says, "my folks lived through the depression" you know what they're like. Forever changed, savers, and never crazy with investments.
So the chance to read a nunc-pro-tunc account of what daily life was like to a person living in the Great Depression, it's a fantastic historical opportunity to enter a time capsule with such granularity and texture that you feel like you are there.
But what's haunting is the similarities of life then to life today. Phantom ups and downs so the unaware public is being convinced that the worst is over, when in fact, history showed that it was only going to get worse. The government bailouts, and the fear of inflation. In many ways reading this book is like reading today's papers.
Scary and enlightening - it's a great piece of american history.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David Kinchen on August 31, 2010
Format: Paperback
BOOK REVIEW: Benjamin Roth's 'The Great Depression: A Diary' Brings Nation's Greatest Financial Meltdown to Life

Reviewed By David M. Kinchen

The 'forgotten men' of today are the doctors, lawyers, insurance men, etc. They are down and out and can do very little about it. -- Benjamin Roth, diary entry Nov. 10, 1933

Image removed by sender.That refrain -- echoing Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Forgotten Man" radio speech of April 7, 1932, when he was still governor of New York -- runs through Benjamin Roth's "The Great Depression: A Diary" (PublicAffairs, $15.95 quality paperback, 288 pages, edited by James Ledbetter and Daniel B. Roth, with an introduction by Ledbetter) much as the Mahoning River runs through Roth's hometown of Youngstown, Ohio.

Benjamin Roth was born in New York City in 1894 but he moved with his family while still very young to Youngstown. He received a law degree and moved back to Youngstown after serving as an army officer during World War I. When the stock market crashed in 1929, he had been practicing law for about ten years, representing local businesses for the most part. After nearly two years, he began to grasp the magnitude of what had happened to American economic life, and he began writing down his impressions in a diary that he maintained intermittently until he died in 1978.

Youngstown, midway between New York City and Chicago and about halfway between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, was a thriving industrial city of about 170,000 people at the time of the October 1929 stock market crash. Today it has about 78,000 residents, with legendary employers like Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. long gone.
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