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America's First Great Depression: Economic Crisis and Political Disorder after the Panic of 1837 [Kindle Edition]

Alasdair Roberts

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For a while, it seemed impossible to lose money on real estate. But then the bubble burst. The financial sector was paralyzed and the economy contracted. State and federal governments struggled to pay their domestic and foreign creditors. Washington was incapable of decisive action. The country seethed with political and social unrest. In America's First Great Depression, Alasdair Roberts describes how the United States dealt with the economic and political crisis that followed the Panic of 1837.

As Roberts shows, the two decades that preceded the Panic had marked a democratic surge in the United States. However, the nation's commitment to democracy was tested severely during this crisis. Foreign lenders questioned whether American politicians could make the unpopular decisions needed on spending and taxing. State and local officials struggled to put down riots and rebellion. A few wondered whether this was the end of America's democratic experiment.

Roberts explains how the country's woes were complicated by its dependence on foreign trade and investment, particularly with Britain. Aware of the contemporary relevance of this story, Roberts examines how the country responded to the political and cultural aftershocks of 1837, transforming its political institutions to strike a new balance between liberty and social order, and uneasily coming to terms with its place in the global economy.


  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Dateigröße: 1410 KB
  • Seitenzahl der Print-Ausgabe: 265 Seiten
  • ISBN-Quelle für Seitenzahl: 0801450330
  • Verlag: Cornell University Press; Auflage: 1 (17. April 2012)
  • Verkauf durch: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ASIN: B007MEJMJ2
  • Text-to-Speech (Vorlesemodus): Nicht aktiviert
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Nicht aktiviert
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: #751.156 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop (Siehe Top 100 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop)

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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 4.3 von 5 Sternen  16 Rezensionen
10 von 12 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen The Depression of the Thirties--the 1830s, That Is 21. August 2012
Von Eric Mayforth - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
When Americans think of a time of extreme economic distress, they naturally think of the Great Depression, which by this time has overshadowed the severe panics and depressions of the nineteenth century to the point that they are all but forgotten. But those early panics are worth studying both from an economic point of view and for their larger effects on American history. Alasdair Roberts examines the terrible times of the late 1830s and early 1840s in "America's First Great Depression."

In the mid-1830s, very easy credit led to a real estate boom followed by a subsequent crash (sound familiar?). Individual state governments at the time also discovered that they had bumped up against a limit because they borrowed far too much to fund internal improvements, much as our federal government is about to bump up against a limit due to being severely overextended due to unsustainable spending on entitlements.

Several state governments defaulted, and years passed before European investors got over their wariness about buying American bonds. Roberts describes how integrated the U.S. was into the British economy then, and suggests that we are entering a period in which, like in the nineteenth century, our economy will be less self-contained and more vulnerable to foreign developments.

The Panic of 1837 and its aftermath were deeply traumatic to America, with wide-ranging effects--there was much soul-searching as the depression affected our military readiness and foreign policy (there were a few war scares with the British during those years), led to political volatility, and caused episodes of severe social unrest. Roberts asserts that "the depression years became a long, painful test of the federal government's capacity to manage sectional and class conflict." Just as during our current crisis, back then there was also much uncertainty, which damaged the economic climate further.

This book should be required reading for those who believe that the Bush tax cuts caused our current economic downturn. Much, much larger tax cuts than the Bush tax cuts were passed during both the Kennedy-Johnson years and the Reagan years. Both cuts led to booms, with no severe bust to follow. On the other hand, in both the 1830s and 2000s, there were huge real estate bubbles fueled by easy credit and questionable lending practices. In both cases, the bubble burst and the economy eventually suffered a severe crash.

Because Roberts describes how the depression had not just economic consequences but had ripple effects that spread out in just about all areas of American life, "America's First Great Depression" ends up reading like an entire history of the era, and manages to offer instructive lessons for today as well.
3 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen history repeats 4. Januar 2013
Von david l. poremba - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
"Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it" is no truer spoken than in this case - a booming real estate market; easy credit; excessive and increasing debt incurred on internal state improvements - then the bubble burst, banks literally disappear; states repudiate and/or cannot pay their debt; the federal government is incapable of taking effective or decisive action.
Sound familiar?
Occurring in 1837, the aftermath of this panic was traumatic, not only for Americans but also for Europeans, who, as investors, took years to get over their uneasiness about buying American bonds. There was severe social unrest in the United States then and the government's capacity to manage these conflicts was severely tested. This depression affected everything, including the country's ability to defend itself both at home and abroad. Until the beginnings of economic recovery in the early to mid-1840's, there was much uncertainty and the U.S. economy did not recover until after the Mexican War in 1848.
This is a relevant book that should serve as a warning to what happens when; a well-written story not just of economic depression but how these policies rebounded around the globe.
2 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Not an economic study but an interesting book. 14. August 2012
Von Donald E. Mckiernan - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
I expected more in the way of an economic analysis in order to compare the depressions of 1836, 1875, 1893, 1928 and the present mini-depression. This book approached the question in a more general manner. Still interesting reading and does touch on Friedman's assertion that depressions are caused by the money supply.
2 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen The Real Great Depression 4. Februar 2013
Von John Walles - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
Too bad real American History isn't taught in schools. Very important history of the 1800's. The Civil War is the only history of the 1800's taught. A must read.
1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Excellent Research 25. Mai 2014
Von R. J. Richards - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition
"Any order is a balancing act of extreme precariousness."
Walter Benjamin

"Any order is a balancing act of extreme precariousness."
Walter Benjamin

How is an economic recession different from an economic depression? There are economic measurements (often quite arbitrary) that define the difference, but they often exclude the political and sociological dimensions of economic depressions. Recessions occur much more frequently and are linked to the rise and fall of capital markets. In most cases, recessions present political and economic management problems for ruling elites, but they are often not problems of historical magnitude.

An economic depression on the other hand is a very serious problem for the state and the international economic order. Depressions have a huge and lasting impact that resonates through the system of rule, forcing elites out and in many cases creating new elites. All of this is usually in the context of explosive social struggles that redefine the relationships between classes in society. Depressions can be triggers for social revolution, reaction and war (obviously, the most notable is the economic depression that follows from the crash of 1929).

So it was with great interest that I found out that the United States had a depression from 1937 to 1848 (dovetailing nicely with the rise of the European revolutions of 1848- in France, Germany, Poland, Italy, and the Austrian Empire). I am particularly interested in this era of American history because it was the time when the modern United States was taking shape, before the great convulsions of the civil war that went from 1861 to 1865. In the first half of the 19th century the United States was right in the middle of its westward and Southern expansion, a process of centralising the authority of the American state and the annexation of regions such as Texas and California. None of this expansion is occurring in a vacuum. Conquest and expansion (such as the incorporation of the Republic of Texas into the United States) were hard fought political and economic contests where Black, White, Native American and Hispanics paid a price in blood and suffering for the nations involved (principally the United States; Mexico and the various Native American nations)

Roberts account details the widespread convulsions that occurred as well as discussing the possible causes of economic collapse. An important element was (surprise surprise) the uncontrolled property speculation and the ready availability of affordable finance. The economic collapse had its most devastating impact on American states because at the time the federal government in Washington only had very limited power and influence. The collapse of state finances was a major reason for the rise in power and influence of major centers in the US i.e. Washington and New York. All modern states have a moment in history when power is consolidated and centralised in the economic and/or political capital. That moment in the United States began in 1837 and finished in 1865, when President Lincoln and General Grant bludgeoned the southern confederacy to defeat and surrender.

The book also examines the wider impact of the depression, in particular the role of British and European capital markets and the responses of their governments to the change in risk presented by the economic collapse of state governments. There are also sections of the book devoted to the `law and order' issues, in other words to the rise of social unrest and the response of states and governments to that unrest, which includes a significant expansion and reorganisation of policing and surveillance functions of the state. There is a substantial discussion of the Dorr rebellion in Rhode Island (1841-42). The rebellion (however incompetently led) was born out of anger at property restrictions on voting rights in the Rhode Island charter, which put control of that states government in the hands of wealthy landowners.

This is an illuminating work backed by impressive research. People who have an interest in history will at least have a vague idea of what the consequences of the great Depression of the 1930s were (ie. poverty, misery, suffering, social struggle and world war). Its very useful to have an earlier historical and economic convulsion to make comparisons and most importantly to learn.
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