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The Dark Valley: A Panorama of the 1930s

4.6 out of 5 stars 61 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0375708084
ISBN-10: 0375708081
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"Dark Valley" as a phrase was coined first by the Japanese to refer to the desperate years of chaotic depression that followed the 1929 slump. But, as Piers Brendon's epic history of the same name vividly demonstrates, it was apt to describe any of the world's leading nations of the time--the crippled, traumatized European powers, a moody, solitary U.S., Stalin's outcast Soviet Union, and volatile, upstart Japan--with varying degrees of severity and fascinatingly contrasting outcomes. With no dishonor to those who endured the unspeakable traumas of the First World War, reading Brendon's scholarly tome leaves little scope to argue with the assertion, made by Leon Blum, among others, that the economic crisis and its effects were as traumatic as the "war to end all wars." Worse was to come, for sure, but the events that led to the "chasm" of the Second World War still boggle the mind--from our safe distance it is difficult to comprehend that this actually came to pass, yet at the same time the whole era seems to be engulfed by a fatalistic air of inevitability. In many ways, the insane dance of rampant ideological forces and economic desperation unleashed across the sphere make for the more gripping history, and in Brendon's hands, the cast of thousands is skillfully evoked, while the facts are judiciously evaluated, in a rolling narrative through the tribulations of the era. This is first-class historical writing, but certainly not for the faint-hearted. --Alisdair Bowles, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Brendon's latest book is ambitious, covering the world's convulsive descent from the economic and political chaos of the 1930s into the global slaughter of the war-torn 1940s. Taking his title from Churchill's address to Stalin on May 8, 1945, Brendon (Hurrell Froude and the Oxford Movement; etc.) analyzes the decade from the start of the Depression to the eve of WWII, a period of economic collapse in the democracies and aggressive totalitarianism in the nations that would ultimately form the Axis. Brendon traces how each of seven nations (the U.S., Britain, France, Spain, Italy, Russia and Japan) responded to the era's economic upheavals. In Germany, Italy and Japan the answer to the Depression was massive rearmament, to which the democracies responded, as Brendon details, with temporizing and appeasement. Brendon is especially interested in mechanisms for distorting the truth, including propaganda and censorship. His writing is superlative, his vocabulary precise and extensive; he displays remarkable talent for the revealing phrase and the polished anecdote. Each of the decade's personalities, from Hoover to Orwell, from Haile Selassie to Harry Hopkins, is pinned down in a trenchant sketch, and the dominant characters, such as Roosevelt, Mussolini and Hitler, are examined carefully. Most important, Brendon demonstrates why one cannot understand the appalling violence of the Second World War without first mastering the tumultuous decade in which the seeds of the war were planted. 24 pages of photos not seen by PW. Agent, Andrew Best. 50,000 first printing.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 848 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (January 8, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375708081
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375708084
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #468,835 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ricky Hunter on February 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Piers Brendon's massive work, The Dark Valley: A Panorama of the 1930's, is an addictive historical treat. He concentrates on the countries of England, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Russia, Japan and American as they hurtle towards a war that seems all but inevitable, driven on by the Depression and the growth of militaristic and totalitarian states. The reader will also hurtle through this massive book along with the decade covered on the roller coaster ride the author provides. One of the great charms of the book is the author's ability to select just the right quote from an observer at the time to make the reader feel the events on a personal level. Both the right and left get skewered along the way. The author throws his own opinion in and it is often as keenly observant as his selected quotes. This book is in the marvelous tradition of Barbara Tuchman, particulary her Proud Tower covering the period before the First World War. It is a marvelous achievment and a wonderful read for history buffs. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
The 1930s was a "dark, dishonest decade," a time when the nations of the earth were "struggling with one crisis and hurtling towards another," one that turned out to be greatest in history. A grim and gloomy time over much of the world, author Peirs Brendon has chronicled in _The Dark Valley_ that decade with amazing detail and an epic sweep. He wrote that the Great Depression - which was worldwide and hardly limited to the United States - was perhaps the greatest peacetime crisis to afflict the world since the Black Death. The old liberal order - which had barely survived the First World War and the Communist revolution in Russia - was nearly annihilated in the 1930s; the Depression ended the Weimar Republic and brought Hitler to power in Germany; fatally eroded the fragile pro-international parliamentary democracy in Japan, replacing it with a racist, expansionistic, militarist regime; brought Mussolini to power, who once in control sought to reap domestic rewards by means of foreign aggression; and completed the isolation of the Soviet Union, wracked by purges and Stalin-created famines. The strength and confidence of the democratic major powers were severely tested as well; Britain experienced a naval mutiny, hunger marches, and even some fascist demonstrations; France was torn by the worst civil conflict since the Commune; and the United States embarked on the most comprehensive and far-reaching peacetime program ever in its history, a nation where the Crash had caused people to be disillusioned with Wall Street and for business to lose its prestige. The democratic countries were divided when they should have been cooperating, guilty of erecting tariff barriers, rival devaluations of their currency, flagging (or in the case of the U.S.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
"The Dark Valley" is highly readable popular history in the tradition of Barbara Tuchman and Will Durant. It's accessible to the non-specialist without being dumbed down. No new ground is broken, but it's written in that British prose that is so impeccable and stylish--witty, profound, and memorable. The chapters on Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia are especially mesmerizing in their horror. The whole book gives a vivid sense of what the stakes were during that terrible decade. Very well done, and recommended for history buffs.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a wonderfully executed study of the many ways in which the social, economic, and political events of the Depression era fostered the world's disastrous descent into the horrors of what became World War Two. Famed British historian Piers Brendon does great credit to this complex and widely varying terrain in his exhaustive and thoughtful coverage of the whole panorama of human suffering and social folly that was the 1930s. As he aptly points out early on in the book, the nations of the world shared much more in the way of common problems and perceived dangers than they recognized, and all too often their individual efforts to extricate themselves meant friction and conflict with their neighbors or/and competitors. Lacking any real appreciation for the ways in which their efforts to rearm themselves in order to demand more of the world's "largesse" for themselves would ultimately doom them all to a war far worse than the horrors so recently visited in World War One, they ambled recklessly toward the cliff of the abyss with no real appreciation for the crushing fall they are about to take.
In this sense Brandon reemphasizes one of the oldest lessons of history; that we need to more fully comprehend the past and what it was like to properly understand the present. In this way, the events of the late 1920s and early 1930s doomed the various nations into a scenario from which all the most likely scenarios ended in international conflict. Of course, the fact that the conflict that eventuates from these internal machinations reached a level of intensity never before witnessed in the modern world hardly occurred to most of the protagonists.
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