The Great Depression: Economics & History Resources

From the St. Louis Fed

Constitutionality of a Central Bank Lesson Plan

Students learn about McCulloch v. Maryland, a case decided in 1819 over (1) whether the state of Maryland had the right to tax the Second Bank of the United States and (2) whether Congress had violated the Constitution in establishing the Bank. Students also review the expressed powers of Congress identified in the Constitution and analyze how Congress implements the necessary and proper (elastic) clause to enact its expressed powers. Finally, students use their knowledge of McCulloch v. Maryland and the necessary and proper clause to consider the constitutionality of the Federal Reserve System.

The Free Silver Movement and Inflation Lesson Plan

Students learn that money is a medium of exchange that facilitates economic activity. Next, students learn the relationship between the money supply and inflation by participating in an inflation auction using gold and silver notes to better understand the historic debate of the Free Silver Movement. Students then read William Jennings Bryan's "Cross of Gold" speech to relate the historical context. The students use historical data to calculate income, fixed expenses, and variable expenses of a farmer to further understand the historical argument presented by the Free Silver Movement. Finally, students analyze two political cartoons against the Free Silver Movement.

The Great Inflation: A Historical Overview and Lessons Learned (Page One Economics Classroom Edition)

All inflation isn't bad—a moderate amount can signal a healthy economy. But high inflation, such as that during the Great Inflation, can lead to a vicious cycle where expectations of higher inflation lead to further increases in the price level. Read this Page One Economics edition to find out what caused the Great Inflation, how tough (and painful) policy brought it to an end, and two key lessons learned.

The Great Inflation Online Module

In this online module, superhero Jack of All Trades and his sidekick Andy are confronted by a villain that threatens to disrupt society and rob the world of the certainty people have come to expect. And this dastardly villain is...Inflation. Jack and Andy time travel to the period known as The Great Inflation to discover the truth about inflation. With the help of Dr. Equilibrium, professor of economics, they learn that inflation is the result of too much money chasing too few goods and that the Federal Reserve System plays a key role in maintaining stable prices.

Historical U.S. Data Series in FRED®

FRED® (Federal Reserve Economic Data) is the St. Louis Fed's database of hundreds of thousands of U.S. and international data series, including these historical series:

FRASER® Great Depression Documents

The Great Depression describes the period of economic downturn that took place from 1929 until about 1939. This period led to high unemployment rates, lowered stock values and reduced levels of demand for production materials. This collection includes Federal Reserve System documents from the Board of Governors released during this time period and other economic papers and speeches on the topic.

Barbie® in the Labor Force Lesson Plan

Since 1920, women have more than doubled their share of the labor force. More women are working, but has the type of work they do advanced similarly? What were the top occupations for women 20, 60, and 100 years ago, and how do those occupations compare with women’s choices today? In this lesson, students use primary documents to review historical trends in women’s share of the labor force and chosen occupations. Using Barbie careers as a timeline, they speculate as to why Barbie represented certain careers for girls at different points in time since 1959. They choose which career Barbie might represent next year and explain that choice in a one-page essay.

Feducation Video: Money and Inflation

How are the money supply and inflation related? And what does the Federal Reserve have to do with this relationship? This video reviews the functions of money, features an interactive auction that demonstrates the relationship between the money supply and inflation, then utilizes a simple equation to show how changes in the money supply affect the economy. The video also describes how the Fed uses monetary policy to achieve its dual mandate of maximum employment and price stability.

GDP and Pizza Online Module

GDP and Pizza: Economics for Life is designed to help teach the challenging economic content—and to explain why these topics are important for citizens to understand.

The Economic Lowdown Podcast Series: Inflation

This episode of The Economic Lowdown podcast series discusses three aspects of inflation: what it is, what causes it and how it is measured. The episode also addresses related topics such as deflation, disinflation and the role of the Federal Reserve in monitoring inflation.

The Economic Lowdown Podcast Series: Unemployment

This episode of The Economic Lowdown podcast series covers the basics of unemployment—how it is defined, how it is measured, and how it is categorized into three types. A "game-show" quiz winds up the nine-minute lesson.

From the Federal Reserve Board

The Great Depression Interactive Timeline

This timeline from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System uses video clips to present a historical progression, beginning with the Great Depression and an analysis of the Fed's response, and culminating with the more recent financial crisis. Featuring:

  • Understanding the Great Depression (video): Former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke describes the 1920s as the economic precursor to the Great Depression. Further, he describes the economic and financial conditions that characterized the Great Depression and explores its primary causes.
  • The Federal Reserve’s Response to the Great Depression (video): Bernanke evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of the Fed’s attempts to mitigate the economic and financial crises that characterized and prolonged the Great Depression. He addresses policies put in place by the Roosevelt Administration which eased the problems that exacerbated and prolonged the Great Depression. Finally, he discusses the policy lessons learned from the Great Depression.

Former Chairman Bernanke's College Lecture Series

In March 2012, Bernanke delivered a four-part lecture series about the Federal Reserve and the financial crisis that emerged in 2007.

Money, Gold, and the Great Depression

Remarks by Bernanke at the H. Parker Willis Lecture in Economic Policy, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Va., March 2, 2004.

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