When, yesterday, I read Jan Adams’ review of Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic 1789 – 1815 by historian Gordon S. Wood, I immediately bookmarked it to buy for my Kindle. This grabbed me:
“The title phrase – ’empire of liberty’ – is an expression used more than once by Thomas Jefferson without irony, in fact with vast enthusiasm and hope,” writes Jan.
“…I did want to highlight a theme that has implications for current struggles. “Woods portrays those early years of the nation as the era when the idea of a ‘middle class’ society superseded European notions of class stratification.
“Until perhaps the immediate present, the belief that this was a middle class nation in which hierarchies were fluid, most people lived neither at extremes of wealth or poverty, and industrious people had a chance formed part of the national psyche. It is interesting to read how this looked back then.”
You can read more at Jan’s blog. Our “current struggles,” as she labels them, are also what I have been reading about these past few of days. Well, sort of – the book was published in 1940.
Since Yesterday – The 1930s in America September 3, 1929-September 3, 1939 is by magazine editor and popular historian Frederick Lewis Allen (whom you might know due to his somewhat more popular book, Only Yesterday – An Informal History of the 1920s, a great contemporaneous account of that era).
Although I am only as far along as FDR’s election in 1932, the similarities between the first three years of the Great Depression and the same period of our great recession are startling, even eerie.
The arrogant bankers and Wall Streeters then are indistinguishable from today’s. There were corporate bailouts with taxpayer dollars then too. The same inertia and failure by the federal government to address the people’s unemployment, hunger and growing homelessness.
There is even that decade’s equivalent of the Occupy movement in the form of Hoovervilles and the Bonus marches. Those encampments, like the ones this week in Atlanta and Oakland, were broken up and destroyed by government forces which, in 1932, involved one death.
The more I read of this book, the more find myself gasping in disbelief. Every mistake leaders have made in our current financial mess appear to be a duplicates of the mistakes during the early years the Great Depression. Does no one ever learn anything from the past? Many since 2008, have invoked the similarities to the 1930s, but no one has applied the lessons.
If you are interested, Jan’s book recommendation has just been released in paperback and is reasonably priced in that format and Kindle at Amazon and undoubtedly at all the other book sellers.
I paid $5.00 for a Kindle edition of Since Yesterday, but I have now discovered that it can be read free online at the Universal Library. There, you will find several e-reader versions for downloading, an html edition and a pdf.
Now it’s your turn. What book are you most absorbed in right now or do you most want to recommend. Try to keep it to one so that we are not overwhelmed with too many choices. And don’t just give us a title; tell us why you chose it, something about it and why you’re recommending it.
I’m eager to see what you’re reading.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Friendship