The brief period from 1929 to 1945 is unique in American history for its complexities of change and violence of contrasts. People who lived through the years of the Great Depression, the New Deal, and the Second World War -- only half the years normally assigned to one generation -- experienced more bewildering changes than had several generations of their predecessors. These changes included a transition from economic and social paralysis to unprecedented outbursts of national energy, the emergence from wretched years of poverty to unparalleled levels of prosperity, and the repudiation of a century-and-a-half of isolation as America entered World War II.
Events of this magnitude and global significance make extraordinary demands upon the historian. Fortunately, David M. Kennedy is richly endowed with the talents and skills required by his challenging task -- plus gifts as a writer. He is not the kind of historian who dwells upon abstract "forces." His emphasis is upon people-not only leaders but followers and opponents as well as victims and beneficiaries. Readers of Freedom from Fear will encounter vivid portraits not only of American statesmen and commanders, but of their foreign counterparts as well. Their decisions, errors, blunders, and such measures of luck as shaped the course of history are given due attention, but not to the neglect of the people who suffered or endured the results.
It was the people who suffered in the Great Depression that receive David Kennedy's primary attention, and more of them did suffer, and