The Great Depression: Articles & Books

St. Louis Fed Articles on Great Depression-Related Topics

Comparing the COVID-19 Recession with the Great Depression

In this essay, Great Depression expert David C. Wheelock notes how the COVID-19-induced U.S. recession has been frequently compared with past recessions, including the Great Depression of the 1930s. Comparing the 2020 recession with the Great Depression may be fraught with measurement difficulties, he writes, but rough comparisons are possible based on various measures of economic activity.

He examines:

  • real GNP/GDP
  • industrial production
  • unemployment
  • price levels
  • stock prices

Lessons Learned? Comparing the Federal Reserve’s Responses to the Crises of 1929-1933 and 2007-2009 (PDF)

The financial crisis of 2007-09 is widely viewed as the worst financial disruption since the Great Depression of 1929-33. However, the accompanying economic recession was mild compared with the Great Depression, though severe by postwar standards. Aggressive monetary, fiscal, and financial policies are widely credited with limiting the impact of the recent financial crisis on the broader economy.

This article by David C. Wheelock compares the Federal Reserve’s responses to the financial crises of 1929-33 and 2007-09, focusing on the effects of the Fed’s actions on the composition and size of the Fed balance sheet, the monetary base, and broader monetary aggregates. The Great Depression experience showed that central banks should respond aggressively to financial crises to prevent a collapse of the money stock and price level.

The modern Fed appears to have learned this lesson; however, some critics argue that, in focusing on the allocation of credit, the Fed was too slow to increase the monetary base. The Fed’s response to the financial crisis raised new questions about the appropriate role of a lender of last resort and the long-run implications of actions that limit financial losses for individual firms and markets.

Federal Response to Home Mortgage: Lessons from the Great Depression (PDF)

This article by David C. Wheelock in the the St. Louis Fed's Review examines the federal response to mortgage distress during the Great Depression, focusing on the growth of mortgage debt and the subsequent sharp increase in mortgage defaults and foreclosures. It summarizes the major federal initiatives to reduce foreclosures and reform mortgage market practices, focusing especially on the activities of the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC), which acquired and refinanced one million delinquent mortgages between 1933 and 1936.

Fiction Books

  • Adler, David A. The Babe & I. Voyager Books, Harcourt Inc., 1999.
  • Curtis, Christopher P. Bud, Not Buddy. Random House Children’s Books, 2004.
  • Freedman, Russell. Children of the Great Depression. Houghton Mifflin Co., 2006.
  • Heidenry, John. The Gashouse Gang. Perseus Publishing, 2007.
  • Hunt, Irene. No Promises in the Wind. Penquin Press, 2002.
  • Jiles, Paulette. Stormy Weather. HarperCollins Publishers, 2007.
  • Paquette, Jack K. A Boy’s Journey through the Great Depression. Xlibris Corp, 2005.
  • Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. (Centennial edition). Penquin Press, 2002.
  • Turkel, Studs. Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression. New Press, 2005.

Non-Fiction Books

  • Cohen, Robert. Dear Mrs. Roosevelt: Letters from Children of the Great Depression. University of North Carolina Press, 2002.
  • Dudley, William. Examining Issues Through Political Cartoons: The Great Depression. Thomas Gale, 2004.
  • Dunar, Andrew J., and McBride, Dennis. Building Hoover Dam: An Oral History of the Great Depression. University of Nevada Press, 2001.
  • Egan, Timothy. The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl. Houghton Mifflin Co., 2005.
  • Eichengreen, Barry. Golden Fetters: The Gold Standard and the Great Depression, 1919-1939. Oxford University Press, 1992.
  • Galbraith, John Kenneth. The Great Crash: A Laymen’s Guide to the Stock Market Crash of 1929. Houghton Mifflin Co., 1997.
  • Gordon, Linda, and Okihiro, Gary Y. (eds.). Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment. W. W. Norton & Co. Inc., 2006.
  • Group, G., and Hanes, Sharon M. Great Depression and New Deal: Primary Sources. Gale Research Inc., 2002
  • Hoover, Dwight W. A Good Day’s Work: An Iowa Farm in the Great Depression. Ivan R. Dee, 2007.
  • McElvaine, Robert S., editor. Down and Out in the Great Depression. University of North Carolina Press, 1983.
  • McElvaine, Robert S. The Great Depression: America 1929-1941. Crown Publishing, 1993.
  • Young, William H., and Young, Nancy K. Music of the Great Depression (American History through Music Series). Greenwood Publishing Group Inc., 2005.
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