Author(s): David M. Kennedy
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 gyrated through repeated boom and bust cycles, wastefullly consuming capital and inflicting untold misery on city and countryside alike. Nor was the fabled prosperity of the 1920s as uniformly shared ag legend portrays. Countless Americans, especially if they were farmers, African Americans, or recent immigrants, 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, in cluding the Social Security Act, new banking and financial laws, regulatory legistlation, and new opportunities for organized labour. Taken together, those reforms gave a measure of security to millons of Americans who had never had much of it, and with a fresh sense of having a stake in their country. Freedom from Fear tells the story of the New Deal's achievments, without slighting its shortcomings, contraditions and failures. It is a story rinch 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 evenutally had to shoulder the arms in another 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 the United States won, and why the consequences of victory were sometimes sweet, sometimes ironic. In a compelling narrative, Kenney analyses the determinants of American strategy, the painful choices faced by commanders and statesmen, and the agonies inflicted on the millions of ordinary Americans who were compelled to swallow their fears and face battle as best they could. Freedom from Fear is a comprehensive and colourful 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.
David M. Kennedy is the author of OVER HERE: THE FIRST WORLD WAR AND AMERICAN SOCIETY, which was a finalist for the Pulizter Prize, and BIRTH CONTROL IN AMERICA: THE CAREER OF MARGARET SANGER, which won the Bancroft Prize.