The Great Depression and World War II, 1929-1945

An introduction by David M. Kennedy

Across the long arc of American history, three moments in particular have disproportionately determined the course of the Republic’s development. Each respectively distilled the experience and defined the historical legacy of a century. Each embraced a pair of episodes with lastingly transformative impacts. From 1776 to 1789 the Revolutionary War and the adoption of the Constitution brought national independence and established the basic political framework within which the nation would be governed ever after. From 1861 to 1877 the Civil War and Reconstruction affirmed the integrity of the Union, ended slavery, and generated three constitutional amendments that at least laid the foundation for honoring the Declaration’s promise that “all men are created equal.” And between 1929 and 1945 the Great Depression and World War II utterly redefined the role of government in American society and catapulted the United States from an isolated, peripheral state into the world’s hegemonic superpower. To understand the logic and the consequences of those three moments is to understand much about the essence and the trajectory of all of American history.More »

Sub Eras

The Great Depression

With an introduction by David M. Kennedy, Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History, Emeritus at Stanford UniversityMore »

The New Deal

With an introduction by Thomas Kessner, Distinguished Professor of History, The Graduate Center, City University of New YorkMore »

World War II

With an introduction by Kenneth T. Jackson, Jacques Barzun Professor in History and the Social Sciences, Columbia UniversityMore »