Cover image for Freedom from fear : the American people in depression and war, 1929-1945
Freedom from fear : the American people in depression and war, 1929-1945
Kennedy, David M.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xviii, 936 pages, 32 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm.
Reading Level:
1460 Lexile.
Format :


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Material Type
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E801 .K46 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E801 .K46 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
E801 .K46 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
E801 .K46 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E801 .K46 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E801 .K46 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E801 .K46 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E801 .K46 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E801 .K46 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Between 1929 and 1945, two great travails were visited upon the American people: the Great Depression and World War II. Freedom From Fear 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 gyratedthrough repeated boom and bust cycles, wastefully consuming capital and inflicting untold misery on city and countryside alike. Nor was the fabled prosperity of the 1920s as uniformly shared as legend portrays. Countless Americans, especially if they were farmers, African Americans, or recentimmigrants, eked out thread bare lives on the margins of national life. For them, the Depression was but another of the ordeals of fear and insecurity with which they were sadly familiar. Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal wrung from the trauma of the 1930s a lasting legacy of economic and social reform, including the Social Security Act, new banking and financial laws, regulatory legislation, and new opportunities for organized labor. Taken together, those reforms gave a measure ofsecurity to millions of Americans who had never had much of it, and with it a fresh sense of having a stake in their country. Freedom From Fear tells the story of the New Deal's achievements, without slighting its shortcomings, contradictions, and failures. It is a story rich in drama and peopled with unforgettable personalities, including the incandescent but enigmatic figure of Roosevelt himself. Even as the New Deal was coping with the Depression, a still more fearsome menace was developing abroad--Hitler's thirst for war in Europe, coupled with the imperial ambitions of Japan in Asia. The same generation of Americans who battled the Depression eventually had to shoulder arms inanother conflict that wreaked world wide destruction, ushered in the nuclear age, and forever changed their own way of life and their country's relationship to the rest of the world. Freedom From Fear explains how the nation agonized over its role in World War II, how it fought the war, why theUnited 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 whowere compelled to swallow their fears and face battle as best they could. Freedom From Fear is a comprehensive and colorful account of the most convulsive period in American history, excepting only the Civil War--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 bookstouches 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 volumesare 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 BancroftPrize).

Author Notes

David M. Kennedy is Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History at Stanford University. He is the author of Over Here: The First World War and American Society, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and Birth Control in America: The Career of Margaret Sanger, which won the Bancroft Prize. He lives in Stanford, California.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

In this latest volume in the award-winning Oxford History of the United States series, Kennedy, professor of history at Stanford, combines the best aspects of narrative and history. His wonderful single-volume history of the era is comprehensive and well researched, and scholars will find much that is new and informative. At the same time, it is a smoothly flowing and easily digestible account of great events, and well-informed lay readers will have little difficulty in following and appreciating this saga. Of course, at the center of this story is FDR, and Kennedy portrays him as a truly brilliant politician with the skills to inspire, manipulate, and bend people to his will. This is a work replete with revealing subtexts, and Roosevelt's relations and struggles with African American leaders are especially fascinating. It is a worthy addition to an outstanding series and an essential component to a U.S. history collection for both public and college libraries. (Reviewed March 15, 1999)0195038347Jay Freeman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Rarely does a work of historical synthesis combine such trenchant analysis and elegant writing as does Kennedy's spectacular contribution to the Oxford History of the United States. A Stanford history professor and winner of the Bancroft Prize (for Birth Control in America: The Career of Margaret Sanger), Kennedy uses a wide canvas to depict all aspects of the American political, social and economic experience from 1929 to 1945. Throughout, he takes care to detail parts of the American story often neglected by more casual histories. For example, he introduces readers to the "old poor," the third of the country that had not prospered during the '20s and were among the most ravaged by the '30s. He also provides a stunningly original reinterpretation of the competing forces and interests that combined to shape the New Deal under FDR's direction. And he gives deliberate and enlightening attention to the "Great Debate" between isolationists and internationalists in the '30s. The book's final 400 pages admirably demonstrate exactly how the U.S. emerged victorious in WWII: not just through military prowess, but also through capably managed homefront economics and propaganda. Because of its scope, its insight and its purring narrative engine, Kennedy's book will stand for years to come as the definitive history of the most important decades of the American century. 48 halftones; 10 linecuts. 50,000 first printing; first serial to the Atlantic Monthly; History Book Club main selection; author tour. (May) FYI: Previous volumes in the Oxford History of the United States are Robert Middlekauff's The Glorious Cause, James M. McPherson's Pulitzer Prize-winning Battle Cry of Freedom and James T. Patterson's Bancroft Prize-winning Grand Expectations. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

With this history of the Depression, New Deal, and World War II, Stanford University's Kennedy becomes the latest contributor to Oxford's distinguished series on U.S. history. Kennedy has a distinguished record of his own, with two acclaimed books, Birth Control in America: The Career of Margaret Sanger (LJ 8/70) and Over Here: The First World War and American Society (LJ 10/1/80). Displaying a literary craft uncommon in survey works, he has woven together narrative, sketches of character, and critical judgment to record and analyze the economic, political, social, and military events of these epic years. Readers who feel they live in an era of tumultuous change might well consult Kennedy's book. This account of the crucial struggles and events of the Depression and war years will lend perspective like few others. For all libraries.√ĄRobert F. Nardini, North Chichester, NH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Kennedy's book is the most illuminating, riveting, comprehensive, and graceful one-volume history of this nation's experiences during the Great Depression, New Deal, and WW II published to date. In a superb combination of historiographic synthesis, trenchant interpretation, and unusually elegant prose, Kennedy explains the economic weaknesses of the Depression-era US, the political compromises inherent in the drafting of the Social Security Act, the underlying agonies of Lend Lease, and a wartime meeting of the Big Three with the same intimacy, dramatic command, and patience that FDR brought to his Fireside Chats. This is social, political, diplomatic, and military history written magisterially with broad but nuanced strokes across a 16-year span that utterly transformed the lives of Americans and the world. Security and stability, Kennedy reminds readers, were the touchstones of the New Deal and, ultimately, of an American foreign policy that mobilized the nation's economic abundance, scientific prowess, and democratic yearnings in behalf of "the last good war." Librarians should order this book for their libraries, faculty members should assign it, and everyone should read it. All levels. E. M. Tobin Hamilton College

Table of Contents

Mapsp. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Editor's Introductionp. xiii
Abbreviated Titles Used in Citationsp. xvii
Prologue: November 11, 1918p. 1
1. The American People on the Eve of the Great Depressionp. 10
2. Panicp. 43
3. The Ordeal of Herbert Hooverp. 70
4. Interregnump. 104
5. The Hundred Daysp. 131
6. The Ordeal of the American Peoplep. 160
7. Chasing the Phantom of Recoveryp. 190
8. The Rumble of Discontentp. 218
9. A Season for Reformp. 249
10. Strike!p. 288
11. The Ordeal of Franklin Rooseveltp. 323
12. What the New Deal Didp. 363
13. The Gathering Stormp. 381
14. The Agony of Neutralityp. 426
15. To the Brinkp. 465
16. War in the Pacificp. 516
17. Unready Ally, Uneasy Alliancep. 565
18. The War of Machinesp. 615
19. The Struggle for a Second Frontp. 669
20. The Battle for Northwest Europep. 709
21. The Cauldron of the Home Frontp. 746
22. Endgamep. 798
Epilogue: The World the War Madep. 852
Bibliographical Essayp. 859
Indexp. 877