Albert U. Romasco
Great Depression: A Historiographic
Inquiry into a Perennial Comparison
THE EXPERIENCE OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION ERA, FROM 1929 TO 1941, was one that seared itself deeply in the American mind. For contemporaries, it was often a personal trauma as well as a profound national crisis. This double impact in turn provoked a heightened awareness among Americans concerning a host of expectations suddenly called into doubt. There was scarcely an assumption, a value, or a traditional institution that escaped close scrutiny. And as the assurances of a familiar world dissolved in the face of a plunging economy, a frightened people groped for ways out of their dilemma. Although this national search took many forms, the major attention undoubtedly centered upon the necessity of presidential leadership. By the outset of the Great Depression, Americans clearly had already learned to look to the presidency for leadership and remedial action in resolving major crises.
One measure of the enduring impact that the depression experience has had upon American thought is the continuing fascination that these years hold for American historians. This is particularly noticeable in the voluminous literature dealing with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal. For the Roosevelt scholars, the main attraction in their accounts of the depression drama has been understandably Roosevelt himself. But in their attempts to comprehend Roosevelt, they have managed to say a good deal peripherally about President Herbert Clark Hoover