Review of "Since Yesterday"

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Review of Frederick Lewis Allen: Since Yesterday: the 1930's America. (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc., 1939), 362 pp.

Frederick Lewis Allen's book tells in great detail how the average American would have lived in the 1930's. He covers everything from fashion to politics and everything in between. He opens with a portrait of American life on September 3, 1929, the day before the first major stock market crash. His telling of the events immediately preceding and following this crash, and the ensuing panic describe a scene which was unimaginable before.
He quickly moves from the panic of 1929 to the ‘30's and how many of the popular governmental sentiments during the election were no longer so. Hoover quickly moved from a position of public acceptance and admiration to that of a scapegoat. That the Depression was his fault is not entirely true, though. Hoover did not have much of the information needed to foretell the economic situation. In the laissez-faire form of government he prescribed, there was no place for a department that would document these things for the use of the president's office.

Hoover is also vilified repeatedly for his inaction with the Depression. His personal policy and his party's policy were designed to let the country find its own way, for if it became dependent on government aide, it would be a weaker nation that if it found it's own way. This was a flawed assumption on their behalf though, because even in the 1920's, there was a movement from many of the nation's younger voters advocating change.

The overall feeling that Mr. Allen explains so well is that of fear. Many Americans were afraid of what might happen to them economically. There were cities where eighty-four percent of the working population was unemployed. Everywhere in the nation, banks were closing because of their inability to collect from debtors. This not only affected those working for the bank, it affected most people in the city...
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