Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 (Oxford History of the United States)
David M. Kennedy
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Between 1929 and 1945, two great travails were visited upon the American people: the Great Depression and World War II. This book tells the story of how Americans endured, and eventually prevailed, in the face of those unprecedented calamities.
The Depression was both a disaster and an opportunity. As David Kennedy vividly demonstrates, the economic crisis of the 1930s was far more than a simple reaction to the alleged excesses of the 1920s. For more than a century before 1929, America's unbridled industrial revolution had gyrated through repeated boom and bust cycles, wastefully consuming capital and inflicting untold misery on city and countryside alike.
Freedom From Fear explores how the nation agonized over its role in World War II, how it fought the war, why the United States won, and why the consequences of victory were sometimes sweet, sometimes ironic. In a compelling narrative, Kennedy analyzes the determinants of American strategy, the painful choices faced by commanders and statesmen, and the agonies inflicted on the millions of ordinary Americans who were compelled to swallow their fears and face battle as best they could.
Both comprehensive and colorful, this account of the most convulsive period in American history, excepting only the Civil War, reveals a period that formed the crucible in which modern America was formed.
The Oxford History of the United States
The Atlantic Monthly has praised The Oxford History of the United States as "the most distinguished series in American historical scholarship," a series that "synthesizes a generation's worth of historical inquiry and knowledge into one literally state-of-the-art book. Who touches these books touches a profession."
Conceived under the general editorship of one of the leading American historians of our time, C. Vann Woodward, The Oxford History of the United States blends social, political, economic, cultural, diplomatic, and military history into coherent and vividly written narrative. Previous volumes are Robert Middlekauff's The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution; James M. McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (which won a Pulitzer Prize and was a New York Times Best Seller); and James T. Patterson's Grand Expectations: The United States 1945-1974 (which won a Bancroft Prize).
prices had no discernible relation to values. While business activity steadily subsided, stock prices levitated giddily. By the end of 1928, John Kenneth Galbraith later wrote, ‘‘the market began to rise, not by slow, steady steps, but by great vaulting leaps.’’ Radio Corporation’s stock, symbolic of the promise of new technologies that helped to feed the speculative frenzy, gyrated upward in ten-and twenty-point jumps. By the summer of 1929, Frederick Lewis Allen recorded, even as unsold
refused as well to back nonrecognition with either economic or military muscle. Faced with outright aggression, the Americans seemed capable of no more than this timid parchment protest. Japan drew the appropriate conclusions: it had little to fear either from the league or from Depression-plagued America. It could pursue its expansionist schemes with impunity. On the wind-scoured plains of Manchuria, Japan thus set the match in 1931 to the long fuse that would detonate the attack on Pearl Harbor
their imminent entry into the vale of tears of adult responsibility. His theme, rather, was change—the accelerating and dizzying pace of change in the still-new century—and the need to match new conditions with new thinking, even new values. He beckoned his young listeners not to the sober stations of mature duty but to the soaring challenges of creative invention. A man born forty or ﬁfty years earlier, said the forty-four-year-old Roosevelt, had been typically ‘‘brought up in a Victorian
was really organized. People on relief would have no use for Tammany’s services. They’d be independent.’’21 Even more intriguing, perhaps their dependency could be made to shift from the local boss to the national, Democratic, administration. Like Alexander Hamilton’s scheme to secure the loyalty of creditors to the new national government by federal assumption of state debts, so would Roosevelt artfully transfer the primary political allegiance of the unemployed from their local political club
minorities, the changing characteristics of the labor force, the impact of new technologies on productivity and leisure, and the roles of federal, state, and local governments. From its turgid prose and endless tables emerged a vivid portrait of a people in the throes of sweeping social, economic, and political change, even before they were engulfed by the still more wrenching changes of the Depression era. President Hoover’s charge to the assembled scholars at that hopeful supper registered his