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The Great Depression: What caused it to begin and end

Updated on February 15, 2015
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The Great Depression is considered to be the years between 1929 and 1941. The Great Depression is one of the darkest times in America’s economic history. It was the “longest-lasting economic downturn in the history of the Western industrialized world”. (The Great Depression 1) There are many things that culminated to cause the Great Depression. From the stock market crash to drought conditions it was like the perfect storm of events that led up to the Great Depression. It seemed to be the domino effect where each cause complied and made it worse. While there were many causes there were also several solutions that helped to end the Great Depression.

The Great Depression was a time full of sorrow and suffering for America. It exposed many weaknesses in American policy. It caused hardships for so many Americans. Many American’s lost their jobs, their homes and were unsure of where their next meal would come from. Many millions of people took to traveling and riding the rails in hopes of finding work. People were forced to do what ever they could to get by. This was indeed a time of great distress and turmoil for America.

While the Great Depression began after the stock market crash of 1929 that is by far not the only cause of the Great Depression. There were many things that helped to cause the Great Depression. It was the perfect storm of events that set off the chain reaction that led America down into the Great Depression. When the stock market crashed it sent America into a tailspin. The economy had been bad leading up to the stock market crash and many banks were in despair. In the 1930’s there were over 3000 banks that failed. Deposits were uninsured and people were losing their savings left and right. This really did intensify the situation and led to people saving their money at home instead of spending it. Given all the economic woes and fear the Americans had it was not a surprise that there was a reduction in spending and purchasing. The lack of spending really hurt the economy and exacerbated the situation. Another thing that affected the Great Depression was the Smoot-Hawley Tariff. The government in hopes of helping to protect American businesses created it. It was supposed to help American businesses by charging a high tax on imports but this plan backfired. Instead of helping it hurt America since it led to less trade with foreign countries. Another issue many felt was “The gold standard, which linked nearly all the countries of the world in a network of fixed currency exchange rates, played a key role in transmitting the American downturn to other countries”. (Romer 1) There were many causes of the Great Depression.

While some things were not the cause they still intensified the Great Depression. It was worsened by the drought conditions that occurred during that time. While it was not a direct cause it did make things worse. The drought was so bad in the Mississippi Valley that families could not pay their taxes let alone any of their other debts. This left many of them with the only option of selling their farms for no profit. That is how the area got the nickname “The Dust Bowl”. Many things caused the Great Depression but the only thing that mattered was what would end it.

While there were many causes that led to the Great Depression there were also many things that helped to end of it. Some of the most prominent views about what caused the Great Depression to end involve World War II and monetary expansion. After Pearl Harbor was bombed and America was enthralled into World War II industry and people both became a necessity for the war efforts. All the essentials of war like weapons, ammunition, ships and planes were needed and needed quickly. Men and women were both used in the war effort. The men were trained to be soldiers and the women were employed on the home front to keep the factories going. That is why the war is credited for bringing the economy up and out of the depression. While World War II may have ultimately ended the Great Depression there were other things that helped get the economy back up. Many economists see the end of the Great Depression coinciding with the monetary expansion that started in the spring of 1933. The gold standard had played a role in spreading the American downturn to other countries. When the gold standard was abandoned and monetary expansion was ensured the economy began to recover from the Great Depression. The exact reason behind the end of the Great Depression is not as important as the fact that it ended.

There are many things believed to have ended the Great Depression and there are some that helped to make it more bearable. While it is not believed to be the main reason the Great Depression ended many believe that President Roosevelt’s New Deal Program helped. The New Deal did help to ease many of the hardships but the economy was still exceptionally bad by the end of the 1930s. So while the New Deal did not end it, it did help to alleviate some of the pain caused by it.

While the Great Depression was a very dark time in America it did have some good outcomes. It spurred many fundamental changes in the economy. The changes in the “economic institutions, macroeconomic policy, and economic theory” (Romer 1) were some of the only good things that came out of the Great Depression.

In conclusion the Great Depression was the hardest thing that America has ever endured. The human suffering was widespread and too much for most to bear. There were several things that caused or worsened the Great Depression. There were also several things that help to end it. The Great Depression had long lasting effects on America.

I think that the Great Depression was an extremely hard time in American history. I can remember being a small boy and listening to my great grandparents and grandparents telling stories about what it was like for them during the Great Depression. As a child I could not grasp everything that they told me but the older I got the more I saw the pain and anguish that they had endured. My grandfather grew up in west Tennessee and was one of 11 children. His family had a very difficult time making ends meet. I can remember him telling me how there were days without food and a fear of not knowing where their next meal would come from. I could not imagine going thru such a hard time and not being able to provide for my family. I hope that the world never sees another Great Depression or anything like it.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Henretta, J. A., Brody, D. (2009) America: A Concise History, Volume 2: Since 1856. Boston, MA: Bedford/St.Martins.

Romer, Christina. "Great Depression ." http://eml.berkeley.edu. N.p., 20 Dec. 2003. http://eml.berkeley.edu/~cromer/great_depression.pdf.

Seidman, Laurence. "Great Depression II." Challenge 54.1 (2011): 32-53. Web.

Steindl, Frank G. "What Ended the Great Depression?." Independent Review 12, no. 2 (Fall2007 2007): 179-197. Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost.

"The Great Depression." History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 14 Aug. 2014. <http://www.history.com/topics/great-depression>.

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Crash Course in The Great Depression

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    • Heathers Cookbook profile imageAUTHOR

      Heathers Cookbook 

      3 years ago

      Thank you mactavers!

    • mactavers profile image

      mactavers 

      3 years ago

      You did a great job of condensing the material. The Dust Bowl caused families in Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas to lose everything more so than the Mississippi Valley.

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