The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression

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The Great Depression tested America’s political organizations like no other event in United States’ history except the Civil War. The most famous explanations of the period are friendly to Roosevelt and the New Deal and very critical of the Republican presidents of the 1920’s, bankers, and businessmen, whom they blame for the collapse. However, Amity Shlaes in her book, The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression, contests the received wisdom that the Great Depression occurred because capitalism failed, and that it ended because of Roosevelt’s New Deal. Shlaes, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a syndicated financial columnist, argues that government action between 1929 and 1940 unnecessarily deepened and extended the Great Depression.

Amity Shlaes tells the story of the Great Depression and the New Deal through the eyes of some of the more influential figures of the period—Roosevelt’s men like Rexford Tugwell, David Lilienthal, Felix Frankfurter, Harold Ickes, and Henry Morgenthau; businessmen and bankers like Wendell Willkie, Samuel Insull, Andrew Mellon, and the Schechter family. What arises from these stories is a New Deal that was hostile to business, very experimental in its policies, and failed in reviving the economy making the depression last longer than it should. The reason for some of the New Deal policies was due to the President’s need to punish businessmen for their alleged role in bringing the stock market crash of October 1929 and therefore, the Great Depression.

Shlaes does not support the politics of Hoover and Roosevelt; however, she supported Wendell Willkie’s vision. As the president of Commonwealth and Southern, a private electric company, Willkie fought against Ten...

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... to be placed alongside Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption and Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin as one of the classic popular history book.

Works Cited

Gross, Daniel. "What's the Best Fix?" Newsweek, January 12, 2009.

Pindar, Ian. "The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression by Amity Shlaes." The Guardian, August 9, 2009.

Shlaes, Amity. “The Forgotten Man”

Shlaes, Amity. The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression, HarperCollins, 2008.

Shlaes, Amity. "Cheering for Obama Stimulus Buys Into 1930s Myth: Amity Shlaes." Bloomberg, February 18, 2009.

Teslik, Lee. "Backgrounder: The U.S. Economic Stimulus Plan." The New York Times, January 27, 2009.

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