The Banking Panics of the Great Depression

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This is the first full-length study of five U.S. banking panics of the Great Depression. Previous studies of the Depression have approached the banking panics from a macroeconomic viewpoint; Professor Wicker fills a lacuna in current knowledge by reconstructing a close historical narrative of each of the panics, investigating their origins, magnitude, and effects. He makes a detailed analysis of the geographical incidence of the disturbances using the Federal Reserve District as the basic unit, and reappraises the role of Federal Reserve officials in the panics. His findings challenge many of the commonly held assumptions about the events of 1930 and 1931, for example the belief that the increase in the discount rate in October 1931 initiated a wave of bank suspensions and hoarding. This meticulous account will be of wide interest to students of the Great Depression, monetary and financial historians, financial economists and macroeconomists.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This book is an important contribution to our understanding of the interactions between the banking system and the course of the Great Depression, and it should inspire more detailed investigations of other banking crises to determine whether the lack of contagion was peculiar to the 1930s." John H. Wood, H-Net Reviews

"This book is an important contribution to our understanding of the interactions between the banking system and the course of the Great Depression, and it should inspire more detailed investigations of other banking crises to determine whether the lack of contagion was peculiar to the 1930's." John H. Wood, EH.NET BOOK Review

"Wicker's book is a valuable addition." Robert Whaples, H-Net Reviews

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521562614
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2004
  • Series: Studies in Macroeconomic History Series
  • Pages: 196
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Table of Contents

List of figures
List of tables
1 The banking situation in the United States, 1921-33 1
States of the economy, 1921-9 and 1930-3 3
The incidence of bank suspensions 5
Financial condition of US banks: 1921-9 and 1930-3 8
Definitions, characteristics and theories of banking panics 17
Banking panics of the Great Depression: an overview 19
2 The banking crisis of 1930 24
The geographical incidence of the banking crisis of 1930 25
The microhistory of the banking crisis 32
Interest rates and the banking crisis of 1930 32
Expenditure effects of the banking crisis 42
The banking crisis as a cause of the Great Depression 46
The role of the Federal Reserve in the banking crisis 52
What should the Fed have done? 57
3 The two banking crises of 1931 62
The region specific second banking crisis: April-August 1931 66
The third banking crisis: September-October 1931 - two crises contrasted 72
Mini panics in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Chicago 78
The gold crisis: Britain's departure from the gold standard and the Fed's response 86
Was there something special about the 1931 banking crisis? 97
Role of the 1931 crises in contributing to the Great Depression 99
4 The banking panic of 1933 108
The long pause between financial storms: 1932 110
The gathering storm 116
The external drain 129
Money and capital markets during the panic 132
The Fed's response to the gathering storm 134
Expenditure effects of the 1933 panic 138
Did the 1933 panic resemble pre-1914 panics? 141
The resolution of the banking panic 145
5 Banking crises of the Great Depression: a reassessment 151
The geographical incidence of banking crises 152
Did the banking crises of the Great Depression differ from pre-1914 panics? 154
Did bank failures cause the Great Depression? 159
The role of gold during banking panics 161
Causes of bank suspensions: random withdrawals or asset shocks? 162
References 166
Index 171
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