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The World in Depression, 1929-1939 First Edition, 40th Anniversary Edition Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0520275850
ISBN-10: 0520275853
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Editorial Reviews

Review

The finest analytical account of the run-up to the Great Depression and the ensuing run-down from it into mild recovery and eventual world war. [This] brilliant book remains a carefully documented admonition to our leading spirits to look to the ends of what they are currently about. -- Times Literary Supplement --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

The World in Depression is the best book on the subject, and the subject, in turn, is the economically decisive decade of the century so far.”—John Kenneth Galbraith

"[Kindleberger] has written perhaps the finest analytical account of the run-up to the Great Depression and the ensuing run-down from it into mild recovery and eventual world war. [This] brilliant book remains a carefully documented admonition to our leading spirits to 'look to the ends' of what they are currently about."—Times Literary Supplement

"Charles Kindleberger's The World in Depression opened American eyes to the failures of interdependence behind the First Great Depression. DeLong and Eichengreen render great service by bringing this history to today's readers, with a preface that notes grim parallels and rephrases urgent questions for the Eurozone and for the wider world. You can't go wrong by reading Kindleberger—and better late than never."—James K. Galbraith, author of Inequality and Instability: A Study of the World Economy Just Before the Great Crisis.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; First Edition, 40th Anniversary Edition edition (January 7, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520275853
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520275850
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #305,161 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This economics book is outstanding at describing the economics of the Great Depression. In his time, Kindleberger was regarded by many as the highest authority on the economics of the Great Depression. He also was an economist of the highest order. (Check out his other books.) This book is an outstanding analysis of the Great Depression.

Kindleberger explains that the reason for the Depression was a lack of a stable international economic structure and mistakes preceding the Great Depression. In other words, the financial structure we enjoy today simply did not exist at the time. The flawed international system could only have led to a financial crisis eventually.
There simply was no financial structure in place to exact a powerful enough of a force on the global financial system. Great Britain had abdicated the leadership role and the United States was yet unwilling to assume that role. Nations turned inward (and I would add that countries that devalued from the gold standard quickly faired best).

Macroeconomics had not yet been developed. Keynes General Theory only came out in the mid-1930's, and then it was largely unknown. Friedman would not develop his monetary theory until well after the Great Depression had ended.

The book is not the only explanation of the Great Depression, nor pretends to be, but is a highly valid one and should be considered by anyone seriously interested in the subject. This book is a classic for the subject.

The financial world used a flawed gold standard. Great Britain (and finance minister Winston Churchill specifically) played a leading role in implementing the flawed international system. Then when the depression hit, Great Britain quickly dumped the gold standard and recoverd the soonest.
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Format: Paperback
Written a generation ago, this concise and well written book is still regarded as the best single monograph on the Great Depression of the 1930s. Kindleberger provides a nice description of the major economic and financial events involved in the Great Depression coupled with a generally convincing analysis of its mechanisms. While Kindleberger uses a fair amount of economics/financial terminology (par, terms of trade, etc.), the analysis is generally easy to follow and a modest amount of background knowledge of economics is all that is needed to follow his discussion.

Kindleberger sets out to answer 2 related questions; what caused the Great Depression and what made it so profound and durable? One criticism of Kindleberger is that the answer to the first question emerges implicitly while the answer to the second question is addressed explicitly. Kindleberger's narrative shows that the Great Depression was to a large extent a delayed sequel to WWI. The war generated a large number of structural and political problems that contributed significantly to the emergence of the Great Depression. These included the erosion of British dominance of the world financial system, the related problem of war debts and reparations, over-production of primary products, the considerable economic problems of Germany, and smaller problems like the deleterious economic consequences of the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Kindleberger shows the Great Depression as a massive deflationary event emerging and sustained by a series of interrelated vicious cycles. Competitive currency depreciation, competitive tariff barriers, and problems of individual national central banks to cooperate.
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The main problem in most analyses of the Great Depression in the United States lays in the fact that most information regarding the global economy as a whole, and the actors there within, is largely omitted along with the political atmosphere and dominant social structures at the time - The effects of devaluations or surplus production on trading partners, for a simple example. Additionally, people tend to forget that this was a world phenomena. So, while economists of different allegiances attempt(ed) to debunk one another and focus on the domestic workings of the Capitalist mode of production confined to certain assumptive modules, Kindleberger takes on this larger problem. To say that this is not important is to say that the world itself is not complex - a folly that I suspect even zealots of the Mises institute would be hesitant to make. The difficulty of this task, and one which I believe Kindleberger tackles with finesse, is this complexity itself.

Ultimately, the main point of this brilliant work is simply that, with the decline of the British Empire, no heir rose to both stabilize and legitimize the international structure. States turned inwards. Indeed, as the no-named reviewer above states, those who devalued the quickest or dumped the gold standard the earliest enjoyed the quickest recoveries. The parallels, which Kindleberger makes in subsequent works (and I believe touches on in this work as well), to political happenings are immense. The withdrawal of the states from the structured world order of the 19th and early 20th century only fostered the miscommunication and mistrust so pervasive in international relations.
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