And a Time for Hope: Americans in the Great Depression

And a Time for Hope: Americans in the Great Depression

And a Time for Hope: Americans in the Great Depression

And a Time for Hope: Americans in the Great Depression

Synopsis

Creating a broad, new vision of the 1930s, this highly readable social history shows that despite the hard times, Americans faced the Depression years with a characteristic resilience and optimism. Though more seriously affected by the Depression than Europe, Americans weathered hardship while European societies floundered, accepted dictatorships, or were caught in bitter ideological conflicts. Existing depictions of the era emphasize the negatives and overlook the diverse strengths of the American people, their ability to cope with temporary deprivation, and their triumphant retention of hope for themselves and the future of their society. Restoring perspective on the era, this book looks at Americans' solid value systems, their diverse support systems, their religious life, and the role of FDR and the New Deal.

Excerpt

The years of the Great Depression (1929-1939) were one of the most critical decades in American history. Americans then sustained the most severe and most persistent economic setback of any major western nation, and yet they did so with relative poise and ease. Other western countries, though less affected by the Depression, felt its pressures much more. Germany and Spain experienced major changes in government and reverted to authoritarian systems, in part, to control its disordering and destabilizing effects on their societies. Other European countries experienced the Depression's tremors as class and ideological factionalism, at times, challenging to their democratic priorities.

How are we to explain the good fortunes of the American republic which achieved reform without revolution or significant class turmoil, while tenaciously preserving its cohesive morale as a nation? These successes may well have served America even beyond the 1930s; they may have provided underpinning for the impressive achievements of America's citizen-military in World War II and a basis for confidence and fortitude to engage victoriously in the later Cold War.

Those who have attempted to explain the special achievements of America in the 1930s have usually relied on a political analysis: the unusual leadership and communication skills of President Roosevelt and implementation through the New Deal of an unprecedented reform and regulatory program; these innovations diminished threats to democracy and capitalism and eliminated dangers of social upheavals, hence America's stability.

Franklin Roosevelt's innovative and protective leadership unquestionably made America a better place to live during a protracted Depression. His words as well as his deeds lifted public confidence, and for millions he made . . .

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