The best books on the Great Depression and its impact on history

Tobias Straumann Author Of 1931: Debt, Crisis, and the Rise of Hitler
By Tobias Straumann

Who am I?

Since I began to study history at the university, I have always wondered why things could get so wrong in Europe in the 1930s. The key to understanding this crucial period of world history was the failure of economic policy. In the course of my studies, many of my questions have been answered, but I am still wondering about the extent of human and institutional collapse. Hence, to me, the Great Depression is such a fascinating topic that you can never leave once you started doing research about its causes and consequences.

I wrote...

1931: Debt, Crisis, and the Rise of Hitler

By Tobias Straumann,

Book cover of 1931: Debt, Crisis, and the Rise of Hitler

What is my book about?

Germany's financial collapse in the summer of 1931 was one of the biggest economic catastrophes of modern history. It led to a global panic, brought down the international monetary system, and turned a worldwide recession into a prolonged depression. The crisis also contributed decisively to the rise of Hitler. Within little more than a year of its onset, the Nazis were Germany's largest political party at both the regional and national level, paving the way for Hitler's eventual seizure of power in January 1933.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World

Why did I love this book?

There is no better way to get a sense of what went wrong in the 1930s than to read the bestselling and award-winning book of Liaquat Ahamet. Like no other Ahamet manages to combine economic explanations with personal portraits and a series of anecdotes which make you sometimes laugh and sometimes shake your head in disbelief.

By Liaquat Ahamed,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Lords of Finance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

"Erudite, entertaining macroeconomic history of the lead-up to the Great Depression as seen through the careers of the West's principal bankers . . . Spellbinding, insightful and, perhaps most important, timely." -Kirkus Reviews (starred)

"There is terrific prescience to be found in [Lords of Finance's] portrait of times past . . . [A] writer of great verve and erudition, [Ahamed] easily connects the dots between the economic crises that rocked the world during the years his book covers and the fiscal emergencies that beset us today." -The New York Times

It is commonly believed that…

The Great Depression of the 1930s: Lessons for Today

By Nicholas Crafts (editor), Peter Fearon (editor),

Book cover of The Great Depression of the 1930s: Lessons for Today

Why did I love this book?

This book is highly recommended for those who want to get an overview of the newest research on the Great Depression. Written by leading economic historians, the book explains what made the catastrophe possible, why it spread across the globe, and how it was ended. Most importantly, the authors manage to explain the scholarly literature in a language that can be understood by everyone interested in the period.

By Nicholas Crafts (editor), Peter Fearon (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Great Depression of the 1930s as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Understanding the Great Depression has never been more relevant than in today's economic crisis. This edited collection provides an authoritative introduction to the Great Depression as it affected the advanced countries in the 1930s. The contributions are by acknowledged experts in the field and cover in detail the experiences of Britain, Germany, and, the United States, while also seeing the depression as an international disaster. The crisis entailed the collapse
of the international monetary system, sovereign default, and banking crises in many countries in the context of the most severe downturn in western economic history. The responses included protectionism, regulation,…

Book cover of Hall of Mirrors: The Great Depression, the Great Recession, and the Uses-And Misuses-Of History

Why did I love this book?

Our view of the Great Depression was changed by the Great Recession following the financial crisis of 2008. No one has a better grasp of the similarities and differences between the two major economic shocks of the last 100 years than Barry Eichengreen. Most interesting are Eichengreen’s reflections about the right and wrong lessons the firefighters of the 2008 financial crisis drew from the Great Depression.

By Barry Eichengreen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hall of Mirrors as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The two great financial crises of the past century are the Great Depression of the 1930s and the Great Recession, which began in 2008. Both occurred against the backdrop of sharp credit booms, dubious banking practices, and a fragile and unstable global financial system. When markets went into cardiac arrest in 2008, policymakers invoked the lessons of the Great Depression in attempting to avert the worst. While their response prevented a financial collapse and
catastrophic depression like that of the 1930s, unemployment in the U.S. and Europe still rose to excruciating high levels. Pain and suffering were widespread.

The question,…

Book cover of End of Globalization: Lessons from the Great Depression

Why did I love this book?

Financial crises are not only catastrophic because of their devastating economic consequences. They also unleash radical political forces undermining the foundations of our free and open society. Widely praised for his work on Germany in the interwar years, Harold James is the best historian to describe the vicious circle of crisis, radicalization, and national isolation in the 1930s and to discuss the question: can it happen again?

By Harold James,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked End of Globalization as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Globalization" is here. Signified by an increasingly close economic interconnection that has led to profound political and social change around the world, the process seems irreversible. In this book, however, Harold James provides a sobering historical perspective, exploring the circumstances in which the globally integrated world of an earlier era broke down under the pressure of unexpected events.

James examines one of the great historical nightmares of the twentieth century: the collapse of globalism in the Great Depression. Analyzing this collapse in terms of three main components of global economics--capital flows, trade, and international migration--James argues that it was not…

Book cover of The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931

Why did I love this book?

The book of Adam Tooze is a masterful synthesis of global history and offers an original reinterpretation of the interwar years. Readers not only gain intriguing insights about the relationships between military, financial, political, and diplomatic events. They will also be surprised by a new and well-founded view of US hegemony after 1916 that contradicts almost everything they learned in school or in other historical books.

By Adam Tooze,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Deluge as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A searing and highly original analysis of the First World War and its anguished aftermath-from the prizewinning economist and author of Shutdown, Crashed and The Wages of Destruction

Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize - History
Finalist for the Kirkus Prize - Nonfiction

In the depths of the Great War, with millions dead and no imaginable end to the conflict, societies around the world began to buckle. The heart of the financial system shifted from London to New York. The infinite demands for men and materiel reached into countries far from the front. The strain of the war…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Great Depression, World War 1, and the economy?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Great Depression, World War 1, and the economy.

The Great Depression Explore 110 books about the Great Depression
World War 1 Explore 745 books about World War 1
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