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Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929–1945 | [David M. Kennedy]

Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929–1945

Between 1929 and 1945, two great travails were visited upon the American people: the Great Depression and World War II. This Pulitzer Prize–winning history 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.
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Publisher's Summary

Between 1929 and 1945, two great travails were visited upon the American people: the Great Depression and World War II. This Pulitzer Prize-winning history 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, wastefully consuming capital and inflicting untold misery on city and countryside alike.

Freedom from Fear explores 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, Kennedy analyzes 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.

Both comprehensive and colorful, this account of the most convulsive period in American history, excepting only the Civil War, reveals a period that formed the crucible in which modern America was formed.

Please note: The individual volumes of the series have not been published in historical order. Freedom from Fear is number IX in The Oxford History of the United States.

Listen to more of the definitive Oxford History of the United States.

©1999 Oxford University Press, Inc. (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

  • Pulitzer Prize, History, 2000

“An engrossing narrative of a momentous time.” (New York Times Book Review)

“This is the kind of book prizes are made for.” (Chicago Tribune)

“[Traces] the American people through three of the most important and widely written about epochs in the century…and provides us with consistently original and sometimes startling conclusions.” (Washington Post)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Ray Long Valley, NJ, United States 10-21-10
    Ray Long Valley, NJ, United States 10-21-10 Member Since 2008

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good summary of a pivotal time."

    While not very deep, this book presents a balanced overview of the Roosevelt presidency and provides a good jumping off point for those (like myself) who are interested in exploring selected topics from this era in greater detail. "Freedom from Fear" provides a balanced view of FDR, citing his accomplishments, but not sugar coating the mistakes and personal flaws of this most controversial figure.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas Chapel Hill, NC, United States 07-15-11
    Thomas Chapel Hill, NC, United States 07-15-11 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Outstanding"

    As good as it gets. Well read with a quick pace, the book moves quickly painting a panoramic view of these years, scanning across the US as well as its relationship to the rest of the world. Very rapidly paced, well research, outstandingly read and presented. A great part of the Oxford history series. highly recommended.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    W. F. Rucker Stone Mountain, GA United States 01-05-11
    W. F. Rucker Stone Mountain, GA United States 01-05-11 Listener Since 2007

    eclectic reader

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Well done, But a little off target"

    There was too much emphasis on statistics and Franklin Delano Roosevelt in this book for my taste. I wanted to hear what the times were like in the words of people who lived through them.The author chose to portray the select circle of the movers and shakers. The book that was written was well done. The writing had a good flow and there were many interesting details about events and people. The author went out of his way to give Herbert Hoover credit for being a good President who was overwhelmed by circumstances. Many of the issues of the times were set forth well.It was made clear that Roosevelt suffered a long term loss in prestige when he proposed the court packing plan. I have enjoyed the Oxford series and several are outstanding books. I didn't think this was one of the best but it is a well written and thoroughly researched work of history. The narrator was competent, not particularly good or bad.

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wiregrass18 Alabama, United States 07-31-11
    Wiregrass18 Alabama, United States 07-31-11 Member Since 2010

    Wiregrass18

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    "An amazing achievement"

    This is an impressive work of scholarship, ranging across many different facets of the Depression and World War II and doing it so well that it is easy to see why it won the Pulitzer. I learned so much about the roots of our own time that I want to order the hard copy and reread substantial sections to reflect more on what Kennedy has to say. And Tom Weiner's reading is perfect.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer los angeles, ca, United States 03-01-12
    Amazon Customer los angeles, ca, United States 03-01-12 Member Since 2011

    Osprey

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    "Freedom From Fear"

    Loved this book. The book was so interesting and so informative. This should be required reading in High School history classes. History for me in school was one long boring line of events that meant nothing. The only thing I remembered about the Depression was there was no food and farmers poured milk in the street. This makes the years covered come alive. You understand what happened and you can see the exact same events unfolding today. Reading this you find out where many of the stereotypes about people came from. The book educates the reader not by just dates and events but by letting you see into the lives of the people at the time and how they perceived the government and their lives. Never wanted to stop listening to this book..

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cynthia Monrovia, California, United States 10-29-12
    Cynthia Monrovia, California, United States 10-29-12 Member Since 2012

    Audible listener who's grateful for a long commute!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Well Worth the Credit and the Time!"

    I started exploring WWII on Audible with Herman Wouk's "The Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance". I loved both, but I was left wondering "How much is true?" and "What is historically accurate?" An afterword in "War and Remembrance" assured me that the basic history was true, but I wasn't sure how much.

    "Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War 1929-1945" answers my questions, from the American perspective: although the characters were fictional, the places and facts were true.

    That's not to say that David M. Kennedy needs any assistance from the very capable Herman Wouk - he doesn't. Mr. Kennedy delves into a 16 year period that changed the United States in a crucial way. That period is only equalled by the American Revolution and the Civil War. In each case, the outcome determined the path of a nation.

    Kennedy's description of macroeconomics (the economic relationship between nations) is especially adept. The exploration of the measures taken to relieve the dire economic straights the US was in at the time is clear. I can't say it was concise, because the actions themselves were not concise. "The New Deal" was a brave plan, but sub\bject to extensive political wrangling that finally collapsed during WWII.

    I also found the discussion of the use of nuclear bombs against Japan fascinating. Having read John Hersey's "Hiroshima" more than a quarter century ago, I had longed believed that the Enola Gay's successful mission was as inexplicable as it was inexcusable. The use of such a horrific weapon is, after its use, grotesque and cruel - but not there was a reason for it.

    I definitely recommend this book.

    I have one criticism of the performance, and it's one I've never had of an Audible book before. The narration was faster than any other book I've listened to, and I would have like to have it about 15% slower. Of course, that would have made a 31 hour book into a 37 hour book.

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Portland, OR 06-13-11
    Amazon Customer Portland, OR 06-13-11 Member Since 2007

    amazon fan in portland

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    "An FDR Tour de Force"

    No question, this book is very complete, and very long. But, for anyone who wants to study this period in history serious, I think it is a must read. What really comes through is the amount of experimentation that FDR tries to end the Depression, and how many times those results are mixed or worse. Still, it is difficult not to side with FDR's irrepressible enthusiasm, even though a honest evaluation may lead to the conclusion that now of the agencies he created had much effect on the overall state of the nation. One thing I especially liked about the book was the fairness displayed toward Herbert Hoover, inheriting the mess from the Coolidge years of laissez faire financial speculation.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    E. Heard 04-02-13
    E. Heard 04-02-13 Member Since 2011

    Mom of Twins

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    "Not what you learned in high school"
    If you could sum up Freedom from Fear in three words, what would they be?

    Informative, absorbing, defiinitive


    What about Tom Weiner’s performance did you like?

    Tom had to read a lot. His voice did not get tiring. He pronounced words very well.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    This is 32 hours of audio, a real bargain in cost per minute terms! I really want to listen to it again! You will learn a lot about this era and it is delivered rapidly.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    GEORGE Waverly, OH, United States 03-05-13
    GEORGE Waverly, OH, United States 03-05-13 Member Since 2011

    Hobby- Military History Occupation- Retired Commander USN; Retired Director of Quality Assurance; Graduate Liberty University, Lynchburg VA; Residence-Waverly Ohio

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    "A Wide Ranging Summary for Specified Timeframe"

    I found this book very disappointing. As I just turned my interest to the happenings of this time frame I figured I could gain some insight into the causes of the problems that led to the depression, the actions taken and results of the actions. Rather I found a book that I would describe as covering subjects one mile wide and one inch deep. If you are just starting to take an interest into the events of the first half of the 20th century this may be a good book as it is in my opinion a good summary of the events including American involvement in WW2.

    If you are looking for more than a just summary, I would recommend that you plan on reading a number of additional book for a clear understanding of this timeframe.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ann Mount Martha, Australia 12-08-12
    Ann Mount Martha, Australia 12-08-12
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    "Brillant"

    Highly recommended, a very interesting period of history, well told. Will listen to again, soon.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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  • Mr. Acapella
    Cornwall, UK
    9/29/14
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    Performance
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    "More excellent histoy"

    Read with gravitas by Weiner. This is history at its best. Recommended for those who want to understand this important phase of the changing face of the US.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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