THE ANXIOUS DECADES by Michael E. Parrish


America in Prosperity and Depression, 1920-1941
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 A noncontroversial account of familiar events, laws, and people between the wars. Parrish (History/UC at San Diego; Felix Frankfurter and His Times, 1982) is especially strong on legal and economic issues. Parrish shows how the prosperity of the 20's--its basis in production, individualism, and laissez-faire economy--gave way to the frauds, scams, corruption, and greed that destroyed it and led to the Depression of the 30's--and to consumerism, regulation, and a communal ethic. The four Presidents of the era--Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, FDR--reflect and shape the narrative, with FDR rescuing the economy even as his isolationist policy lost the world. There are passages on the roles of women; of blacks; of films; of various public figures such as Henry Ford, Babe Ruth, Billy Sunday, Charlie Chaplin, Charles Lindbergh; of the cult of personality created by advertising, film, newspapers, and radio. Parrish presents issues, laws, judges and judgments, scoundrels and leaders--and the various problems they created, reflected, or overlooked--with evenhanded concern: Prohibition, anti-Semitism, racism (the founding of the KKK), fundamentalism, feminism, immigration, Communism, and the ``lost generation,'' the displacement of the intellectuals and artists in the cultural poverty of the period--which he does not consider but which his narrative reflects. Allusions to analogues and origins of current problems- -homelessness, unemployment, government regulation and corruption- -are illuminating. But Parrish offers merely an introduction, a simplification and summary, rather than a full-fledged analysis. (Photos.)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-393-03394-5
Page count: 560pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1992