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A Great Leap Forward: 1930s Depression and U.S. Economic Growth (Yale Series in Economic and Financial History) Hardcover – April 26, 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"...masterpiece....one of the best economics books of the last ten years...one of the best books on the Depression...the only economic interpretation of WWII that makes sense... must reads of the year."--Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution

" ...an extraordinary new book ..." --James Surowiecki, The New Yorker

"An extraordinary new book . . ."—James Surowiecki, The New Yorker
(James Surowiecki The New Yorker)

“Fundamentally rewrite[s] the economic history of the US….Highly recommended.”—Choice

“Alex Field in this pathbreaking book overturns one myth after another about American economic history.  His most important contribution is to unleash the saga of American economic growth from the simplistic story that investment automatically begets growth.  He contrasts the 1920s, with high investment that ended in the collapse of a stock market bubble, with the 1930s when investment had collapsed and yet innovations continued and the world was changed forever.  The 1930s ended with foundations of the standard of living lacking 10 years earlier, including streamlined autos with automatic transmissions, a vastly expanded highway network including the Bay Area bridges and the Hoover dam, diesel railroad locomotives replacing steam, and the transcendant revolution in the motion picture industry created by the 1939 productions of "Gone With the Wind" and "The Wizard of Oz."  This book will change forever standard views of which decade's growth was most dynamic, and why.”—Robert J. Gordon, Northwestern University

(Robert J. Gordon 2010-11-23)

"[O]ne of the most important technical economics books of this decade."—David Henderson,  Policy Review
(David Henderson Policy Review)

. . . adds new evidence for the productive role of public spending. It also changes our view of what happened in the American economy during the 1930s, when military investment was not a driving force.”—Fred Block, American Prospect (Fred Block American Prospect)

“Field poses and attempts to answer interesting questions using straightforward number-crunching and reasoning, rather than resorting to obscure mathematics or advanced statistics. The result is a book that represents the best of what economics can be.”—Arnold Kling, The American
(Arnold Kling The American)

“Alex Field begins his provocative new book with the proposition that beneath the misery of the Great Depression, the 1930s were in fact “the most technologically progressive decade of the century.”  This counterintuitive finding launches Field on a vigorous new interpretation of U.S. economic history in the twentieth century.  His narrative is firmly rooted in the quantitative record, yet always accessible and full of surprises.  Everyone concerned about the American economy (past and present) should read this book.”—Gavin Wright, Stanford University

(Gavin Wright 2010-12-17)

“Eight decades later, the debacle of the Great Depression still fascinates many Americans – and for good reason.  Alexander Field’s new book is a major contribution to our understanding of what went wrong and what the country did to fix it.  His finding that the technology of American industry advanced unusually rapidly under the New Deal is an especially valuable corrective to a variety of views held by economists and the general public alike.”—Benjamin M. Friedman, Harvard University
(Benjamin Friedman 2010-10-10)

“Field has written a fine, well-argued book on the history of productivity in the United States, with a focus on the Great Depression. Was the Depression caused by an adverse productivity shock? Or was rapid productivity in the 1930s caused by the Depression? Everyone interested in the Depression or in technology shocks as important short-run macroeconomic events should read this book.”—Peter Temin, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
(Peter Temin 2010-11-23)

“As we sit mired in the The Great Recession, Alexander Field’s exciting reappraisal of The Great Depression offers surprising solace.  By showing the Great Depression was coupled with the most rapid technological advance in US history, he fundamentally recasts the history of the 1930s.  But he also offers hope that our own depression likely will have no long run costs to the US economy.”—Gregory Clark, University of California, Davis 
(Gregory Clark 2010-12-17)

“[P]athbreaking… [t]he ‘new growth narrative’ offered in A Great Leap Forward allows readers to see the familiar in a different way.”—Paul Rhode, eh.net

"... makes valuable and novel contributions to our understanding of the Great Depression and the Second World War ... highly recommended..."—Jason Taylor, Journal of Economic History
(Jason Taylor Journal of Economic History)

"... an exemplary demonstration of how careful and imaginative use of statistical information can revise deeply entrenched ideas about the past…. this book breaks new ground. Teachers of twentieth-century American history should read Field’s book for its totally convincing demolition of the folklore history idea that World War II was good for the American people because it ended the Great Depression and created the basis for the mass consumer prosperity that followed the war." —Ronald Edsforth, Journal of American History
(Ronald Edsforth Journal of American History)

Winner of the 2012 Alice Hanson Jones Biennial Prize, sponsored by the Economic History Association
(2012 Alice Hanson Jones Biennial Prize Economic History Association 2012-10-02)

Winner of the 2012 National Book Award in the Social Sciences, sponsored by Alpha Sigma Nu.
(2012 National Book Award in the Social Sciences Alpha Sigma Nu 2012-10-10)

"According to Alexander Field in A Great Leap Forward, the 1930s were, in the aggregate, the most technologically progressive of any comparable period in U.S. economic history. . . . It requires some patience, reflection, and time to wrap one's mind around this perplexing assertion. It goes against everything historians know about the 1930s. If, by the end of Field's book, you're not convinced, you'll at least be sympathetic to the idea. Field makes that good a case."—Howard Bodenhorn, Business History Review 
(Howard Bodenhorn Business History Review)

From the Author

Readers may be interested in this book chat I did with David Leonhardt of the New York Times on April 12, 2011.  Amazon's system does not allow hyperlinks in this section, but if you copy and paste the url into your browser it will take you to it.


Readers may also be interested in this link to a video of a presentation I made at the book launch event. The video sets forth my central argument, and includes pictures.  It's made with a system that allows you to switch between or resize the talking head and the powerpoint windows.  Again, you will need to copy and paste the url into your browser to view it.


-- Alex Field

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Product Details

  • Series: Yale Series in Economic and Financial History
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (April 26, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300151098
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300151091
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,148,176 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

on September 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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on July 16, 2012
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on March 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover
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