Edward J. Balleisen (Fellow, 2009–10)
April 7, 2011
The Great Depression confronts teachers and students of history with some classic challenges of historical analysis. How does one disentangle proximate and deeper causes of this calamitous economic collapse? How did historical protagonists make sense of the course of epochal events that so rapidly transformed their worlds? To what extent should we characterize the onset of the Great Depression as an historical event of a particular type — in this case, a financial panic and ensuring economic downturn — that followed a predictable trajectory in line with the American panics and depressions that had preceded it for over a century? By contrast, in what ways did the Great Crash and its aftermath diverge from earlier experience, or from later developments?