Sun, Apr 12 at 7 p.m. | 90 minutes
Olios: Drop-in classes led by professors
The Great Depression and New Deal fundamentally altered our relationship with our government and redefined how Americans conceive of the word freedom. Crisis often breeds great change. It’s an important story. And a complicated one.
The Great Depression and the New Deal: A Two-Part Olio Series
Taken together, the Great Depression and the New Deal ushered in the greatest expansion of fiscal liberalism in American history. The establishment of social security, of banking and stock market regulations, massive jobs programs, union rights, minimum wage and maximum hours laws, the social safety net -- these accomplishments are now staples of our modern society and impact all of us on a day-to-day level. But more importantly, the Great Depression and New Deal fundamentally altered our relationship with our government and redefined how Americans conceive of the word freedom. Crisis often breeds great change.
It’s an important story. And a complicated one. So we’re doing this in two parts over two weeks.
4/12 – Part I – Hard Times: Society and Culture During the Great Depression
The financial meltdown of the 1930s did not impact all Americans equally. The Depression of the Northeast was not the Depression of the Midwest. It was not the same for men as it was for women. Not the same for Whites as it was for minorities. Not the same for farmers as it was for factory workers. None escaped its grasp entirely, but to fully comprehend the impact of the Depression on American society and culture we must first understand the full scope of the problem. This lecture uses a “bottom-up” historical approach to examine the impact of the Great Depression across a spectrum of social and cultural experiences left behind in the historical record.
4/19 – Part II – “Poor Men Are Not Free Men”: The New Deal
Franklin Roosevelt was elected President in 1932 after promising a “new deal” for the American people. Exactly what that meant was anyone’s guess. He didn’t quite know himself. The truth of it is, the New Deal was really two separate phenomena. The early years, often called the “first-New Deal,” were about stopping the bleeding and protecting our financial system from total oblivion. It worked. And once the immediate crisis was under control a “second-New Deal” emerged – this one designed to bring about a long-term restructuring of the American economy and establish a minimum standard of living for all Americans. Anyone looking to speak intelligently about the New Deal must understand it as a sort of one-two punch. This lecture uses a “top-down” historical approach to examine the limits and legacies of the New Deal, its key players, and explore with a healthy sense of skepticism whether it went too far, or not far enough.
Lawrence Cappello is a Professor of Constitutional History at the University of Alabama and the author of None of Your Damn Business: Privacy in the United States from the Gilded Age to the Digital Age. His essays have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and The Nation. He was recently profiled by The Economist.
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