It is no doubt that the Great Depression of late 1920’s to the early 1930’s had a dramatic effect that not only affected the united States of America, but the whole world. However, it is rare to find historians that analyze the Depression from a global stand point. Often, it is analyzed from a national standpoint, one in particular, the United States of America. In the both excerpts “Into the Economic Abyss” and “Roosevelt and Hitler: New Deal and Nazi Reactions to the Depression” written by Eric Hobsbawn and John Garraty, respectively, evaluates the Great Depression from a more international view point.
They both do, however, differ in their approach. Hobsbawn analyses the event within an international framework, where he places the America in the world economy and looks at it particular political and economical patterns in terms of global trends. Garraty, on the other hand, takes a more bi-national standpoint and compares the political and economic trends and policies of the United States and Germany. In the both excerpts, as is expected, both authors present many similarities and differences in their assessments of the Depression-era events and movements especially in terms of it political consequences. Both authors agree that the people during the depression, in eager anxiety to see things get better, submitted authority to leaders who they feel would make a change, even if not qualified to do it.
In many countries, like Germany for example, they gave way to fascism. Hobsbawn puts it this way: Throughout the west, frightened and desperate citizens anxious to restore order and confidence ceded authority to powerful governments run by charismatic leaders. The new regimes were sometimes left-leaning, like President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in the United States or Lazaro Cardena’s land reform administration in Mexico. Economic depression prepared the ground for dangerous fascist regimes in Germany and Italy as well as a civil war that gave victory to fascist in Spain. (247) In support of Hosbawns point, Garraty exclaims,
Both the euphoria of the early days of Roosevelt’s New Deal and the nationalist fervor that swept over Germany in the early in the early 1933 made millions almost incapable of organized thought, let alone judgement….The sweeping approval that Roosevelt and Hitler won on first taking office was due to a spontaneous public reaction based mostly on the hope that things would get better. (267) Hobsbawn and Garraty both agree that in reaction to the Depression, fascism became prominent in many countries. Both authors agree that this was dangerous: Garraty exclaims that fascism not only “transformed into a world movement, but a world danger” (261). In support of this, Hobsbawn further supports by arguing that the Depression prepared grounds for dangerous regimes (247).
Both authors agree that the great depression destroyed economic liberalism (Hobsbawn, 254). In both Germany and the United States, though they benefited from the government policies that controlled their businesses and industries, they business and industry markets lost their influence and freedom of action and managerial decision making (Garraty, 271). Hobsbawn argues that the Great depression forced Western Governments to give social considerations priority over economic ones in their state policies (254). Garraty agrees and further explains that this was not initially the intention of both leaders (Roosevelt and Hitler) (276). Their plan was designed mainly to tackle economic issues, for example the corporatism organization. Initially, this plan was intended to bring economic equality, but it ended up having its social biasness, where big businesses and large corporations ended up being benefited to the neglect of the others. It was then that the government under both leaders saw it then necessary to abandon corporatism and take a more anti-business stance (Garraty, 270).
Other examples that lead to similar consequences were the effects of the New Deal farm policy for sharecroppers (Hobsbawn, 254; Garraty, 276) and its public housing policy on racial segregation, and that of the Nazi rearmament on urban concentration (Garraty, 276). In the opinion of both authors, both agree that the regimes devised by both governments under the leadership of Roosevelt and Hitler did not really live up to their economic promise. They argue that neither regimes solved the Depression problem. They further explain that unemployment, being the main issue at the time was solved rather by war. The war provided jobs for many and lead to full employment, prosperity, increased output and economic expansion (Hobsbawn, 259, 255; Garraty, 277).
At times, many historians view the American leader at the time of the Depression, Roosevelt and his plan as praiseworthy, but in the opinion of both authors, they agree that New Deal plan was somewhat “left-leaning” (Hobsbawn, 247) and that Roosevelt was neither a totalitarian nor a dictator… but his tactics and rhetoric made it possible others might assume he was (Garraty, 275). So in conclusion, I found that both authors had more common opinions on the political events, policies and movement and leaders, than they had difference. I believe reason for this might have been their standpoint, their way of internationalizing the history of America. When viewed from only a national point, historians tend to be quite bias. But in the case of both excerpts, I found that comparing, or viewing America in the light of other countries tends to give a more ‘common ground’ appearance.
Hobsbawn, Eric. “Into the Economic Abyss”. America Compared: American History in International Perspective Volume II: Since 1865. Carl J. Guarneri. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997. 246-261. Print. Garraty, A. John. “Roosevelt and Hitler: New Deal and Nazi Reactions to the Depression”. America Compared: American History in International Perspective Volume II: Since 1865. Carl J. Guarneri. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997. 262-277. Print.