A Guide to the History of Illinois

By John Hoffmann | Go to book overview

7
PROSPERITY, DEPRESSION, AND WAR, 1920-45

RALPH A. STONE

EXCEPT FOR GENERAL surveys, there is no single volume that examines Illinois history between 1920 and 1945. Monographic literature for these years is rather thin, especially so in works that are broadly conceived or that attempt to apply interpretations of national events to the Illinois scene. Much of the writing, however, falls into periodizations found at the national level: the 1920s, the Depression and New Deal, and World War II.

The place to begin for Illinois history in the 1920s is Donald F. Tingley, The Structuring of a State: The History of Illinois, 1899 to 1928 ( Urbana, 1980). Tingley's approach is comprehensive, and he takes care to set Illinois history in the context of national events, though in doing so he sometimes loses the thread of state development. There is considerable material on the activities of ordinary people, with amusing anecdotes gleaned from newspapers. The book's title suggests the author's theme for these years: life in virtually every area became more structured. Industry grew more concentrated and subject to control by a few firms; political machines became more sophisticated and able to manipulate the voters; labor's future, if not its current status, rested on its ability to form unions; cities found it necessary to organize recreation and other activities; sports became more professionalized. For most Illinoisans, Tingley concludes, life was better materially in 1928 than in earlier years, but certain freedoms had been lost in the process of change.

As Tingley notes, Illinois and the nation had much in common in the 1920s. Politics provides a good illustration. Like the nation, Illinois was served by less

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