Depression to Cold War: A History of America from Herbert Hoover to Ronald Reagan

Depression to Cold War: A History of America from Herbert Hoover to Ronald Reagan

Depression to Cold War: A History of America from Herbert Hoover to Ronald Reagan

Depression to Cold War: A History of America from Herbert Hoover to Ronald Reagan

Synopsis

Organized around the office of the president, this study focuses on American behavior at home and abroad from the Great Depression to the onset of the end of the Cold War, two key points during which America sought a re-definition of its proper relationship to the world. Domestically, American society continued the process of industrialization and urbanization that had begun in the 19th century. Urban growth accompanied industrialism, and more and more Americans lived in cities. Because of industrial growth and the consequent interest in foreign markets, the United States became a major world power. American actions as a nation, whether as positive attempts to mold events abroad or as negative efforts to enjoy material abundance in relative political isolation, could not help but affect the course of world history.

Excerpt

The Turn of the American Century

The Great Depression was a rude, jolting awakening from the so-called Roaring Twenties. To most Americans of the 1920s, the era appeared to provide material proof that their nation’s destiny lay in perpetual prosperity. Rarely have hopes been higher or so speedily and cruelly disappointed. By the end of 1929, the disastrous stock market crash raised questions about the soundness of the very foundations of the capitalist system—and years of bleak, grinding economic depression faced the American people. Revered prophets of the twenties—businessmen, economic soothsayers, and politicians—overnight became figures of scorn and ridicule. Cherished values and traditions of free enterprise and economic opportunity suddenly acquired a hollow, cynical ring, as people frantically sought panaceas for their stunning economic blight. More than ever before in American history, the multitudes trapped in an apparently inexplicable economic debacle looked to Washington for rescue. Government, reluctantly during the presidency of Herbert Hoover and more readily during the era of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, felt compelled to prod, regulate, and tinker with the economy in desperate attempts to halt the downward spiral and to stimulate recovery. The interventionist welfare state emerged, as so-called laissez-faire policies of the past were abandoned for those of at least a partly planned and managed society. Thus dawned the American Century, neither with triumph nor accomplishment, but rather in a painful struggle to rebuild.

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