The Great Depression: A Diary

Overview

"In the early 1920s, Benjamin Roth was a young lawyer fresh out of the army. He settled in Youngstown, Ohio, a booming Midwestern industrial town. Times were good - until the stock market crash of 1929. After nearly two years of economic crisis, it was clear that the heady prosperity of the Roaring Twenties would not return quickly." "As Roth began to grasp the magnitude of what had happened to American economic life, he set out to record his impressions in a diary - a document that would grow to span several volumes over more than a decade.

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The Great Depression: A Diary

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Overview

"In the early 1920s, Benjamin Roth was a young lawyer fresh out of the army. He settled in Youngstown, Ohio, a booming Midwestern industrial town. Times were good - until the stock market crash of 1929. After nearly two years of economic crisis, it was clear that the heady prosperity of the Roaring Twenties would not return quickly." "As Roth began to grasp the magnitude of what had happened to American economic life, he set out to record his impressions in a diary - a document that would grow to span several volumes over more than a decade. Penning brief, clear-eyed notes on the crisis which unfolded around him, Roth struggled to understand the complex forces governing political and economic life. Yet he remained eager to learn from the crisis. As he wrote of what is now known as the Great Depression, "To the man past middle life it spells tragedy and disaster, but to those of us in the middle thirties it may be a great school of experience out of which some worth while lesson may be salvaged." Roth's words from that unique time seem to speak directly to readers today. His perceptions and experiences have a chilling similarity to those of our own era. Fearful of inflation and skeptical of big government, Roth yearned for signs of true recovery, and eventually formed his own theories of how a prudent person might survive hard times. The Great Depression: A Diary, edited by James Ledbetter, editor of Slate's "The Big Money," and Roth's son, Daniel B. Roth, reveals another side of the Great Depression - one lived through by ordinary, middle-class folks, who on a daily basis grappled with a swiftly changing economy coupled with anxiety about the unknown future.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
A Youngstown, OH, attorney during the Great Depression, Roth emerges as researcher and author in this diary, edited by his son Daniel Roth and James Ledbetter (editor, "The Big Money," Slate.com). Tracking both the social evolution in his town and the disruptions to the American economy during the 1930s and early 1940s, Roth wrote clearly, with an attorney's eye for detail about the drastic changes occurring; modern readers will see striking parallels between the economy then and now. Roth, an active Republican, clearly explained why he disagreed with New Deal policies and why he ultimately adjusted his reactions. Editors' notes add needed historical information to clarify Roth's explanations of market trends and events that might otherwise be fuzzy to today's average reader. Though the stock market quotes can become rather tedious, they are still helpful for comparing to trends historical and current. VERDICT This diary, while not rich in personal detail, is an excellent choice for those interested in the local and economic impact of the Great Depression.—Sara Miller, Atlanta-Fulton P.L. Syst., GA\
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781586487997
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author


James Ledbetter is the editor of “The Big Money,” Slate.com’s web site on business and economics.

Daniel B. Roth, son of Benjamin Roth, is the chairman of the law firm of Roth, Blair, Roberts, Strasfeld & Lodge in Youngstown, Ohio.

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Compare, Contrast, Concern -- Is America Careening Into Depression

    The part of the book most disconcerting to me is the comparison of the financial situation in America now and just before the Great Depression. Listen to the words the financiers are saying now as you read read almost verbatim in the book. The book format is different from most memoirs, but does an excellent job of letting readers see and feel the emotions of this time in history.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 19, 2010

    Then and Now

    The stock market sinks to all time levels. Banks, after years of approving questionable loans, collapse under the burden of too many defaulted mortgages. The nation is in foreclosure and eventually the banks begin to close. Unemployment rises at alarming rates. Entire industries fall into receivership and the dollar is devalued. The economies of the other nations in the world market begin to mirror the United States. The voters respond by voting a very unpopular Republican out of office and vote in a Democrat who promises change.

    The year is not 2008. It's the 1930s and Benjamin Roth, a young conservative attorney in Youngstown, Ohio, begins to keep a diary chronicling the Great Depression. Through Roth's eyes the reader gets a bird's eye view of the Depression unfolding and the consequences on the national and local levels. Every entry is an education. Roth spends the rest of his life reading about economics and evaluating the events of the 1930s with the goal to determine what caused this devastation and how to prevent it from ever happening again.

    The Great Depression, A Diary is an education in global economics and fiscal responsibility. Through this book, readers gain insight into what happened 90 years ago and what is happening in our country today. Benjamin Roth proves what every high school history teacher has been saying for years, "Those who do not learn their history are doomed to repeat it."

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 29, 2009

    A remarkable document

    Reading one man's view on the Depression turns out to be more than a valuable window on that era. It is also a cautionary tale about our own.

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