This book on the Great Depression of the 1930s and the New Deal will, I hope, prove interesting and useful, both for students taking courses on the subject and general readers. The book contains a narrative text, a set of biographies of a number of the leading figures of the period, a selection of important documents from the period, a glossary, and an annotated bibliography. The text begins with an introductory chapter that reviews the central story and issues of the period, the Great Crash of 1929, the continuous decline of the economy for four long years afterward, President Hoover’s embattled and unsuccessful attempts to reverse this long plunge into an economic abyss, and the gradual improvement in the nation’s economic fortunes that accompanied the New Deal of President Franklin Roosevelt. This introductory chapter is followed by four topical chapters dealing, successively, with the economics of the depression, with the nature, purposes and effects of the New Deal, with the political revolution of the 1930s, and with the depression’s impact on American society and culture. A final chapter sums up and attempts to evaluate the longer range impact of the depression and New Deal on American life.
Within the limits of a compact narrative, I have endeavored to convey a sense of what I regard as the most cogent current scholarship on a number of the major issues involved in interpreting the period. Readers may therefore find that some topics, such as the connection between the Great Crash and the depression, why the depression was so stubbornly long, and what the effects of the New Deal’s policies were, are interpreted in a way new to them. Questions such as these never receive final answers, of course, and scholars