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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.

Critic Reviews

  • 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

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

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  • Overall
  • Ray
  • Long Valley, NJ, United States
  • 10-21-10

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

  • Overall

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

  • Overall

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.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

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

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Ann
  • Mount Martha, Australia
  • 12-08-12

Brillant

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

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Cynthia
  • Monrovia, California, United States
  • 10-29-12

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.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Great book about a crucial period in U.S. history.

What did you love best about Freedom from Fear?

The excellent historical work of an outstanding historian.

What about Tom Weiner’s performance did you like?

Weiner is a good narrator. But -- as is often the case, unfortunately, with Audible narrators -- he mispronounces a key name, UAW leader Walter Reuther. That stops a reader with any knowledge of labor history. He pronounces it Roy-ter, like the news service which is spelled differently - without the H. Wiener obviously is too young to remember Reuther and failed to check the correct pronounciation. Roo-ther. I wish Audible would adopt a policy of requiring narrators to learn to pronounce names of people and places before committing the narration to recorded posterity.

Any additional comments?

More Americans need to be familiar with this history. There is too much ignorance of how we built a just society -- and how right-wing mythology of some imagined halcyon past is undermining it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jack
  • Macon, GA, United States
  • 09-10-12

Fascinating, history of Americe 1919-1945

Would you listen to Freedom from Fear again? Why?

Yes, because there is so much detail it will bear a second listen.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the dominant politician of that era.

Which character – as performed by Tom Weiner – was your favorite?

See above

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

It is history

Any additional comments?

This ia an excellent volume of the Oxford History of the United States.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

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 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Mr. Acapella
  • 09-29-14

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.