The Anxious Decades: America in Prosperity and Depression 1920-1941

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This is the story of the United States between 1920 and 1942, a time when the country soared higher and fell lower than at any period in its short history. In these convulsive years, Americans were dazzled by the pleasures of unprecedented economic prosperity and beset by the worst depression in their history. It was the era of Model T's, rising incomes, scientific management, electricity, talking movies, and advertising techniques that sold a seemingly endless stream of goods. But it was also a time of grave ...
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Overview

This is the story of the United States between 1920 and 1942, a time when the country soared higher and fell lower than at any period in its short history. In these convulsive years, Americans were dazzled by the pleasures of unprecedented economic prosperity and beset by the worst depression in their history. It was the era of Model T's, rising incomes, scientific management, electricity, talking movies, and advertising techniques that sold a seemingly endless stream of goods. But it was also a time of grave social conflict, human suffering, hunger marches, and soup kitchens. The birth of a full-blown consumer-oriented economy and its temporary collapse profoundly affected the physical welfare and moral sensibilities of men, women, and children from all walks of life in every region of the United States and gave rise to many of the institutions, preoccupations, and problems of our own age. The breakdown of America's first era of high mass consumption in late 1929 brought profound changes in the connection between people and government. Harding and Coolidge, having no big plans, let the marketplace go its own way, ignoring the gambles and inherent inequities of furious economic development. The Crash, however, forced Hoover, Roosevelt, and the nation to reexamine old solutions and boldly address an abiding American dilemma: Should the federal government strive to fulfill the promises of a consumer society? How should it strike a balance between economic recovery and social reform, between renewed economic growth and unresolved issues of fairness? FDR's New Deal emerged in an effort to satisfy these questions. The world beyond America changed also in these years and caused the nation's leaders to rethink how the country should relate to events in Europe, Latin America, and Asia. By rejecting participation in the League of Nations and other international organizations at the end of World War I, Americans and their leaders affirmed that they wished to live, work,
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Tucked between the two world wars, the 1920s and 1930s, like the 1890s and 1960s, were pivotal in U.S. social history. In this impressively detailed chronicle, Parrish ( Felix Frankfurter and His Times ) depicts the '20s as a decade of booming economy and free-wheeling gratification (despite Prohibition) with newly available autos, radio, movies, jazz clubs and big-time sports. The nation followed the heroic accomplishments of Jack Dempsey, Babe Ruth, Charles Lindbergh, Helen Wills and Amelia Earhart. The '30s brought the Great Depression of closed banks, idle shops and factories, farm foreclosures, bread lines, soup kitchens, and financial chicanery unveiled; FDR's New Deal upended traditional government to save a country afflicted with 30% unemployment. Describing in depth such salient events as the 1930 stock market crash, Parrish maintains an authoritative and epic overview. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Parrish (history, Univ. of California-San Diego) persuasively argues that the events from 1921 to 1941 have shaped the tone and temperament of modern America. Most dimensions of contemporary life, he claims, can find their antecedents in the events of these two decades. Through a series of brief biographical sketches, he traces the impact of the prosperity of the 1920s and the Depression of the 1930s on the people. He also gives a clear and unbiased presentation of the strengths and failures of the New Deal. However, his treatment of foreign policy during the 1930s is shallow. Still, this book has excellent photographs and also an extensive bibliography of secondary sources for further reading. General readers as well as scholars will find Parrish's unique study of this fascinating and frightening period useful.-- Richard Hedlund, Ashland Community Coll., Ky.
Booknews
A broad, highly readable history of the US during a period which witnessed both unprecedented economic prosperity and the worst depression ever to afflict the nation. Parrish concludes with a chapter-length bibliography that combines suggestions for further reading with notes on sources. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Gilbert Taylor
The interpretive survey is a demanding form of historical writing, one that strives to extract a coherent thesis from the turbulance of the past and make it live in creative tension with the known facts. This often takes a philosophical bent: in a conservative way, Paul Johnson's "Modern Times" could be a standard, and a liberal proclivity finds exemplary comfort in John Blum's "Years of Discord, 1961-1974". Parrish (who previously wrote a biography of New Dealer Felix Frankfurter ) inclines toward the second camp, as most historians of the Roaring Twenties and New Deal are wont to do. He proffers 5- to 10-paragraph briefs on the era's personalities and events, and plugs them into the political skein of the times. Presidents predominate as Parrish's organizer of fact. From the incompetent Warren Harding to the flinty Yankee Calvin Coolidge, the overly maligned Herbert Hoover, and the irrepressible FDR, all receive Parrish's close electoral analysis, as well as the impact of dissenters and critics on American society. To Parrish, the 1920s seem a parable of the pitfalls of laissez-faire, the 1930s a lesson in the corrective potential of activist government. If there are those who dislike his general stance, all can see it interact with his narrative. A yeomanly built time capsule.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393033946
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/1/1992
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 560
  • Product dimensions: 6.46 (w) x 9.54 (h) x 1.41 (d)

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