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The Thousand-Year Flood: The Ohio-Mississippi Disaster of 1937 Hardcover – September 30, 2011


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The Thousand-Year Flood: The Ohio-Mississippi Disaster of 1937 + Washed Away: How the Great Flood of 1913, America's Most Widespread Natural Disaster, Terrorized a Nation and Changed It Forever
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (September 30, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226887162
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226887166
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,149,317 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"David Welky has done a prodigious job of reminding us about the horror inflicted by the Ohio-Mississippi flood of 1937. At its heart, The Thousand-Year Flood is a Great Depression story not unlike the Dust Bowl tragedy. His scholarship is impeccable. Highly recommended!"

(Douglas Brinkley, author of The Great Deluge)

"A wonderfully written, engaging narrative about one of America’s greatest and often forgotten disasters. David Welky captures the people, places, and mood with apt turns of phrase, telling details, and careful attention to atmospherics."

(Matthew Klingle, author of Emerald City: An Environmental History of Seattle)

"A well-written and deeply imaginative account of the history of the Ohio valley and the eventful 1937 flood. The book gracefully intercuts a clear narrative of national politics and flood-control policy with engaging and evocative portraits of the Ohio valley's communities and its people--before, during, and after the deluge. It is always interesting, and often riveting."

(Sarah Phillips, author of This Land, This Nation: Conservation, Rural America, a)

"A model of the disaster genre. . . . A comprehensive account, including political maneuvers over flood-control bills provoked by the deluge, this well-wrought history reflects thorough research and on-the-ground acquaintance with the Ohio River region."
(Booklist)

About the Author

David Welky is associate professor of history at the University of Central Arkansas and the author of Everything Was Better in America: Print Culture in the Great Depression and The Moguls and the Dictators: Hollywood and the Coming of World War II.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Richard S. Dixon Jr. on January 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an excellent account of a major environmental catastrophe that few beyond those with ties to the Ohio River Valley understand or even remember. My mother was a seventeen year-old high school senior when the flood swept through Louisville and carried with it the remains of her middle-class life in the West End (her mother had died the year before, and the Great Depression had left her father, an engineer, unemployed). Welky's tale of this catastrophe brought into historical focus an event that was seminal in my mother's life (hardly a day passed in my life with her when she did not mention something connected with that flood).

The book follows several themes, all of which are well-researched and fascinating in and of themselves. There is the phenomenon of the River itself: the broad Ohio, so long in the shadow of the great Mississippi. There is the Great Depression and its continuing effect on the American psyche and physical landscape (daily, I cross bridges built by the WPA; my post office lobby is decorated by a wonderful mural thanks to the WPA artists program); the continuing friction between federal authority and the resistence to it by all others: state, city, county governments (this has, of course, disastrous consequences for the communities along the Ohio).
The Red Cross also plays a major role in this history: some bad, but mostly good.

There are also the destinies of major communities along the Ohio: Louisville, Cairo and Shawneetown, Illinois (curiously, it seems Cincinnati escapes much of the discussion here; I wonder what happened in the low-lying towns of Newport and Covington, Kentucky).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. I. Smith on March 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I purchased this book hoping it would provide some insight into the work of the WPA and the CCC in responding to this cataclysmic disaster and, while I found the WPA/CCC details to be lacking, I nevertheless found the book to be a very worthy slice of the New Deal/Great Depression experience.

On the downside: Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer my history without a lot of polemics. Coming as it does from the University of Chicago Press, I should not have been surprised by the book's emphasis on race and class, however I think in some respects, Welky puts too fine a point on the matter. Suffice it to say that, were a similar natural disaster to befall the region today, we'd see the same unequal impact with poor and minority neighborhoods suffering the brunt of the adverse impact. But, tellingly, it appears that the infrastructure is in place to protect most of the region, so we might actually see a wider disparity today, were such a flood to occur. I think that is subject matter for a different book.

If you're interested in a historic example of how disparate government interests can work against each other until no decent solution is even possible, this is an excellent book for you.

If you're interested in learning how our national floodplain management system came into existence, this is a great book for you.

If you're interested in learning about some of the individual community reactions to adversity in the 1930s, with examples of those that succeeded as well as those that seem to have failed, this is a good book for you.

If you're looking for a pantheon of Depression era disaster literature, this book sits up there near, but well below Egan's "The Worst Hard Time," and above Donald Worster's "Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s."
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jacqueline Davidson on March 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Living near the Mississippi river I found this book to be very interesting. The author certainly covered all areas of interest: effect on people, political climate and effect on recovery, etc. A well researched book and one that I found not easy to put down. Lucky for me, I found it through Amazon!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very complex book that looks at political, social, economic, and environmental issues as well as the history of the area. Not quick reading, but it is an excellent source of material about the Ohio River valley. Glad I bought it.
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