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Freedom from Fear Audiobook

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

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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

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (335 )
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  •  
    Amazon Customer Portland, OR 06-13-11
    Amazon Customer Portland, OR 06-13-11 Member Since 2013
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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 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    GEORGE Waverly, OH, United States 03-05-13
    GEORGE Waverly, OH, United States 03-05-13 Member Since 2011
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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.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Cleveland, OH United States 07-27-17
    Amazon Customer Cleveland, OH United States 07-27-17 Member Since 2012
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    "very informative."

    I learned things I never knew about the depression and the war. well presented and readily understood.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Douglas Atlanta, GA, United States 06-17-17
    Douglas Atlanta, GA, United States 06-17-17 Member Since 2015
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    "Entertaining; Enlightening; Impressive"

    The author took on a daunting task here, writing about not one but two of the most important and complex periods in American history. Plus, it's not like the two periods meld seamlessly into each other. The author covered an economic/social crisis in the first half of the book, and then covered the biggest war in the history of the world in the second half. Kennedy covers both very well.

    This is an extremely detailed book. Kennedy does a spectacular job with facts and numbers on the Great Depression.

    Early on he covers the debate concerning the famous stock market crash's impact on the general depression. This section is quite enlightening and should make many open minded listeners reconsider the issue.

    Kennedy will certainly have many readers questioning their views of Herbert Hoover. One gets the sense that Hoover was to some extent a victim of circumstance. Some of the most interesting parts of this book concern the political interactions between Hoover and incoming president Franklin Roosevelt.

    I wouldn’t say that Kennedy portrays Hoover as a sympathetic character, but he does not bury him as a villain by any means. Kennedy also pours cold water on the image of FDR as the hero who saved the country from Hoover. The book certainly carries on the now familiar refrain amongst scholars that the New Deal was in large part as futile as anything Hoover did.

    The first 12 chapters of the book cover the Stock Market Crash, the Great Depression, and the New Deal. Kennedy must then transition to WWII and does an amazing job of bridging 1918 to 1939 in a relatively short space.

    The author does great work on the politics between the Allies. A lot of great info on that. Also a lot of good info on the formations and makeup of the USA armed forces.

    Towards the end, the book wraps up in a hurry. The reader may be surprised by the abruptness of this. However, Kennedy does a pretty decent job with the epilogue, covering both the world and the country.

    I feel compelled to add that towards the very end the author does unfurl a fairly ruthless diatribe against the actions of America during the war. There is without a doubt plenty of merit in Kennedy’s statements but it’s a bit over-the-top in its harshness. All things considered, credit due to the author for hiding his feelings on the matter throughout the narrative up to this point.

    On to the narration, which is always crucial for myself. For me, the highest achievement for a narrator is to make you totally forget that the narrator is separate from the work and the author at all. I don't mean that you literally forget that the book is not being read by the author (obviously); I mean that the narration fits so well that it becomes THE VOICE of the work, and impossible to separate from the book.

    In other words, it's as if hearing another narrator read the same work would make it an entirely different book. Only a select few narrators have the talent/voice to do this. Grover Gardner and Nadia May come to mind as some of the readers that fit this elite description.

    If this ultimate goal cannot be reached, the next highest achievement is to wholly convince the listener that the voice of narration holds the convictions as strongly as the author, and is as well versed and knowledgeable on the subject as the author. Natural talent isn't quite as important here. This is an easier level to achieve, but still difficult.

    Tom Weiner fits into this second category. He is a terrific narrator and perfect for this sort of book. His voice is pleasant and also authoritative. He is a great fit for books on war/politics/history.

    “Verbal typos” and mispronunciations can take away from a narrator’s performance. Depending on the frequency of these mistakes, they can destroy any chance of a narrator convincing the listener. I will say Weiner has a few curious pronunciations during his performance which are distracting, and this surprised me. Some examples of this: “debacle” pronounced as “de-ba-cle” rather than “de-bah-cle;” “clique” as “cleck” rather than “cleeck;” “reprise” as “re-preeze” rather than “re-prize;” “Carnegie” as “car-nay-gee” rather than “car-ne-gee.”

    Fortunately, these slight issues are few and far between. Overall, Weiner nails the narration.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matthew Logan Northwest Georgia 06-07-16
    Matthew Logan Northwest Georgia 06-07-16
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    "Impressive."

    The scope of the narrative and the skill of the narration are unmatched. I loved it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kevin 12-26-15
    Kevin 12-26-15 Member Since 2002
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    "excellent history"

    Good book of American history in the depression and WWII. Covers mostly the presidency of Roosevelt

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A. M. Dirks Boulder, CO United States 08-14-15
    A. M. Dirks Boulder, CO United States 08-14-15 Member Since 2011
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    "I wanted to get a better understanding of this period in American history"

    Monumental amount of information and well narrated, I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in FDR, The New Deal, Depression Era, WWII, Japan and Russian involvement& and the many details that were of importance at the time.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jtkubs 05-30-15
    jtkubs 05-30-15
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    "Powerful insights"

    Kennedy' well-researched work on the American people from onset of the Great Depression through the end of World War II provides uniquely powerful insights into who we are as a nation. The saga reveals the multitude of powerful political forces resident in American society as they interacted over the course of arguably the most formative national experience since the Civil War. A must read for anyone serious about understanding modern America.

    My only critical comment is Kennedy's excessive use of metaphors. His attempt to creatively communicate complex ideas with extended metaphors bordered on comical at times.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    johnhalfen 09-26-14
    johnhalfen 09-26-14 Member Since 2017
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    "Obvious Pulitzer Prize winner"

    I read a fair bit of military history. This book, while much more than that, is a great concise history of WWII. Most interestingly, the author gets into the motivations of the military leaders and it comes across excellently. There is some bias, but that is a minor distraction.

    I would recommend this book to any history buff, military history buff, and anyone just interested that period of time in US history. The political science is also very interesting.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elizabeth 03-28-14
    Elizabeth 03-28-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Informative!"
    Would you listen to Freedom from Fear again? Why?

    Definitely! It covers a time period that had much turmoil for America and ultimately after WWII American way of life changed dramatically.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The honesty.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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