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The Great Depression: America 1929-1941 Reprint Edition

51 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0812923278
ISBN-10: 0812923278
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Editorial Reviews


New York Times Notable Book
“It would be hard to find a fairer or more balanced account of how the American people and their leaders learned to grapple with their greatest economic crisis.” —New York Times Book Review
“A thorough work of scholarship, a lively story, and a highly original feat of analysis.”—Business Week 
“This is essential reading.” —Studs Terkel

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A perennial backlist performer.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; Reprint edition (December 6, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812923278
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812923278
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,306 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

114 of 133 people found the following review helpful By Barron Laycock HALL OF FAME on November 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Most historians agree that the Second World War is the single most important event shaping and directing subsequent developments throughout the balance of the 20th century. Indeed, no single other event so shaped the world or influenced the events leading to that war than did the great worldwide depression. In this wonderful book by historian Robert McElvaine, we are treated to a terrific account of the human ordeal of the 1930s, which, as noted historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. Notes, "does justice to the social and cultural dimensions of economic crisis as well as to its political and economic impact." Here we take a busman's tour into a world literally turned upside down by the massive and systematic economic dislocations that suddenly arose in the late 1920s.
Moreover, this is a quite fair-minded and scrupulously researched effort that imaginatively recreates the amazing social, economic, and political conditions of the Great Depression for the reader in a most entertaining and edifying way. Today it is difficult, especially for younger readers, to understand just how traumatic and dangerous the crisis in democracy that the events surrounding the Great Depression were, not only in this country, but also in all of the constitutional democracies of the west. To the minds of many fair-minded Americans, the capitalist system had failed, and it was the man in the street with his family who bore the cruelest brunt of this failure. Millions were set adrift, and everywhere ordinary human beings were stripped of their possessions, their livelihood, and their dignity as thousands and then millions of businesses and enterprises went bankrupt.
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78 of 92 people found the following review helpful By Todd Carlsen on May 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a good book on the HISTORY of the Great Depression era. If you are writing a college paper or just want to read an authoritative book on the subject, read this book.

I was impressed with how thoroughly the author detailed the people, the times, and the policies that were enacted (and the political reasons they came about in that form) and kept the book moving along. There are details and more details.

I was surprised with some of the things I read. Messy politics seemed to drive many of the policies adopted to deal with the Great Depression. The New Deal was not a tidy, consistent program but a series of pragmatic reforms in a sea of economic turmoil. You get a good feel for that era.

It is obvious that most people back then felt that capitalism was "obviously" flawed because of the "self-evident" disaster in the economy called the Great Depression. There had been a feeling since Theodore Roosevelt's big stick attacks against "the malfactors of great wealth" that capitalism needed to be tamed. The Great Depression brought those concerns to a head. Many people living back then acquired a deep fear of laissez-faire capitalism, and many people wanted something done. FDR was reelected by landslides.

Some of FDR's political maneuvers detailed in this book seemed designed to neutralize some of the more radical activists at that time, like Father Coughlin, Huey Long, and the Townsend plan. The Townsend plan and Huey Long's share the wealth programs were radical schemes to redistribute wealth. They had huge followings of millions in America. So FDR moved to cut them off with what was then a slim version of Social Security (later expanded by others).

In retrospect, FDR appears in this book as a master politician, an opportunist, and a pragmatist.
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40 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Eric Hobart VINE VOICE on October 7, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Robert McElvaine has taken a different approach to studying the Great Depression - instead of looking primarily at how the Roosevelt administration attacked the depression, he looks at how the years affected the people of the United States.

This is not to say that he excludes consideration of Hoover or FDR and thier respective administrations from the book - quite the contrary, in fact. McElvaine explains that the American people thought Hoover was exactly what they wanted in 1928 when they elected him, and how the Roosevelt administration attempted to focus its goals on improving the lot of the general populous (i.e. making the banks feel safe again, as opposed to the nuts & bolts of the legislation to resolve the banking crisis that FDR faced immediately upon taking office).

I found McElvaine's consistent use of letters from affected Americans to the President and First Lady to be very interesting and a valuable addition to the argument that McElvaine was making; that FDR was a source of hope & inspiration to so many, although he may not have been the world's greatest economic theorist.

The one complaint I have about this book is the all too-frequent referrals to the Reagan administration, or how something similar happened forty years later. I understand that the author is simply attempting to put the history in a context that the reader may understand better, but this will not serve the readers of today that don't know the Carter/Reagan years as well as some of us that are a little older.

Overall, I would recommend this volume to anyone who has an interest in what effect this horrendous economic crisis had on the people of America, as long as the reader expects to look at the people & not the policies of the administration.
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