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.

The books I picked & why

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Lords of Finance

By Liaquat Ahamed,

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

Why 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.


The Great Depression of the 1930s

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

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

Why 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.


Hall of Mirrors

By Barry Eichengreen,

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

Why 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.


End of Globalization

By Harold James,

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

Why 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?


The Deluge

By Adam Tooze,

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

Why 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.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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

5,215 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 50 books about the Great Depression
World War 1 Explore 400 books about World War 1
The Economy Explore 102 books about the economy

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Germans Into Nazis, To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party, and Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin, & the Great Depression if you like this list.