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Senior: 11 & 12: Unit 3: The Great Depression in the USA

Significant Aspects of the Great Depression

Washington State University: Everyday Life During the Great Depression

Washington State University: Economics and Poverty

Washington State University: Culture and Arts During the Great Depression

Digital History: Children and the Great Depression

Songs about the Great Depression
Songs and their lyrics, including the iconic 'Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?', made famous by Bing Crosby.

The Pen and the Pad: Famous Poems of the Depression

Pantoum (Poem) of the Great Depression, by Donald Justice

Breadline, by Florence Converse
Another poem of the Great Depression.

The Impact of the Great Depression on Early Modernism
Includes the famous cartoon “October 29 Dies Irae” (Latin for 'Day of Wrath') about the Stock Market Crash, as well as an analysis of the iconic 1936 'Migrant Mother' photograph, and a link to the gospel song  'Everybody Needs a Prayer', which expresses the hopes and concerns of a troubled nation.

PRIMARY SOURCES: A Social History for Every Classroom: The Great Depression and WWII

PRIMARY SOURCES: Virginia Commonwealth Libraries: The Great Depression

Significant People During the Great Depression

IOP CAM: Source Analysis and Evaluation Skills

Analysing Political Cartoons and Propaganda Posters

QCAA Sample IA2 Annotated Response on Mao Tse-Tung

ONESearch Database Explorer

The ENTIRE collection of resources provided by the BBC Library can be searched on ONE single, powerful search platform, which retrieves print books, eBooks, database articles and websites. Click HERE for assistance.

Starting Points

1. Causes of the Depression

  • Stock Market Crash, 1929
  • Long-term Problems in the Economy (see Peter Clements; Norman Lowe)
    • Unequal distribution of wealth
    • Rural poverty
    • The instability of 'get-rich' quick schemes
    • Problems with the banking system
    • The cycle of international debt
    • A slowdown in the economy
    • Overproduction of agricultural products (Bidgood et al.) and falling crop and commodity prices
    • Stock market's dependence on borrowed money
    • Government policies such as high tariffs which reduced international trade and contracted the money supply

2. Daily life During the Depression
The Great Depression caused widespread homelessness and illness, fueled discrimination, and increased migrant labor. Investigate the Impact of poverty (especially on children), rise of crime, role of cars, electricity, radio and cinema (see Wendy L. Lanier; David E. Kyvig)

Possible Key Question: To what extent was the Depression-era motto: “Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without' an accurate reflection of what life was like for ordinary people during the worst economic downturn in modern history?

3. The Dust Bowl and the Great Depression
Possible Key Question: How did the development of the American Dust Bowl make Americans refugees in their own country?

Possible Key Question: How important was the Dust Bowl issue during the Great Depression, and how effective were New Deal programs in alleviating the problem?

4. The New Deal
Investigate Aims, What ideas and actions were involved (see your textbook), Opposition to it, What it achieved (see Norman Lowe) and How effective it was (your textbook).

Significant programs: The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and Works Progress Administration (WPA) 

Possible Key Question: In what ways did the New Deal permanently change the federal government's role in the affairs of the United States?

Possible Key Question: Was the New Deal successful in ending the Depression in America, and what was its role in restoring public confidence and creating relief programs for Americans?

Possible Key Question: Eric Rauchway (The Great Depression and the New Deal, Oxford University Press, 2008) states that  'The openly experimental, obviously fallible, always compromised quality of the New Deal programs and their progeny illustrated the imperfect nature of the democracy that they led to'. How can this comment be justified?

Possible Key Question: In what ways, and why was the New Deal considered to be a controversial policy by some?

Note: See Historiography (i.e. how interpretations of the same events shift with time as a result of many different factors) of New Deal in Bruce Dennett and  Stephen Dixon - later edition)

5. Impact of World War II on the New Deal

  • Focus turned to international from domestic interests
  • Focus turned from isolation to war
  • Implementation of war economy and its impact

(see your textbook)

6. Impact of Historical Figures 

  • J. Edgar Hoover (see Dennett & Dixon; Peter Clements)
    • Possible Key Question: Why were President Hoover's attempts to deal with the Great Depression unsuccessful?
    • Possible Key Question: Have President's achievements during the early years of the Great Depression been underestimated?
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt
    • Policies implemented (eg basic welfare like  Social Security Act).
    • Possible Key Question: Should FDR's leadership during the Great Depression ensure his status as one of America's greatest presidents?
  • Eleanor Roosevelt
    Possible Key Question: To what extent could Eleanor Roosevelt be described as a passionate civil rights activist?
  • John Maynard Keynes
    • Possible Key Question: In what ways did Keynesian economic theories spearhead a revolution in economic thinking?
    • Possible Key Question: What was Keynes’ “big idea”, and was it was the right remedy for ending the Great Depression? 

7. Legacy / Results of the Great Depression
(Your textbook is a good starting point)

  • The rise of Keynesian economics
  • Growth of the Federal government and Federal fiscalism (financial relations between units of governments in a federal government system - deals with the division of governmental functions and financial relations among levels of government)
  • Growth of the regulatory state
  • Rise of social welfare programs
  • Development of unemployment insurance
  • Development of old age assistance and Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC)
  • Development of Social Security
  • International trade and finance changed (eg Tariff reductions)

(see Gene Smiley; Linda and Charles George)

Writing Template for Response

Useful E-books