$39.95 – Paperback / Scribe Publications / Australia
The Myth of the Great Depression
‘A challenging view of the Depression — and of what makes the good life.’ John Hirst
'The first thing that must be said of Melbourne historian David Potts's unusual and interesting book about the Depression in Australia is that the title is perfectly silly. He does not argue that it is a myth. He does not deny that it occurred, or that unemployment was high, or that production fell or incomes dropped. He does not suggest the Depression was actually a really good idea or that it has been invented by historians. He does not deny that people often went hungry, or that people were evicted from their homes, or that many men were unhappy at being unable to work. Denying these things would, after all, be a denial of verifiable facts. His argument comes from quite another realm of thought …
Based on interviews with hundreds of families over many years, Potts's big claim is that while the Depression was very bad, it wasn't all that bad. The considerable interest of the book is that it offers another take on the accumulated oral history of the Depression, this time with the accent on the positive.' John Edwards (The Australian Literary Review)
‘Regardless of whether you are interested in a different take on the Depression years, this analysis includes interesting first-hand accounts of struggling lives and some salutary lessons on what it takes to be happy.’ Alison Hetherington (Herald Sun)
Tradition has it that the Great Depression of the 1930s swept through Australia like a raging flood, tearing up the garden of the 1920s and imposing terrible suffering on the population at large. In measures used at the time, unemployment peaked in 1932 at 29 per cent, and rates of bankruptcy doubled. Ever since, popular images of impacts have included men and women evicted onto the streets, eating out of dustbins, queuing for the dole, living in humpies, and tramping the countryside in search of work.
When David Potts began teaching history at the University of Melbourne in 1965, he ran a program for students to interview anyone who remembered the period. Many of the respondents recalled painful experiences, as he anticipated. But others spoke of the early 1930s with affection. They said that they had coped well, that the Depression ‘gave life meaning’ and that ‘people were happier then’.
Surprised by these comments, Potts went to contemporary sources to disprove what he saw as romanticism. However, despite reports in the daily press about increased malnutrition and homelessness, there was evidence overall that health improved and death rates declined. Suicide rates, after a sharp rise in 1930, kept falling as the Depression deepened — though the press still carried many stories of people killing themselves because of the Depression. Potts wondered how these apparent contradictions might be explained.
After his students interviewed 1,200 Depression survivors, and Potts himself trawled through many first-person accounts, it became evident that adverse impacts of the depression had been over-emphasised — that good things occurred in the 1930s which the Depression itself did not undermine, and to which it might even have contributed.
What Potts discovered has led to this thorough and lively social history of the early 1930s that covers not just the usual stories of suffering, but extends into compelling tales of resilience and happiness even among people who were poor and unemployed.
'The Myth of the Great Depression by historian David Potts sets out to challenge the universality of poverty and personal misery the Great Depression is known for and to suggest that it was not so bad after all.' Christopher Bantick (The Saturday Mercury)
'David Potts has produced a subtler and more nuanced study than might be expected.' Geoffrey Bolton (Australian History)
'What a good, if overdue, idea: judging history by its content of common sense and context rather than Left, Right, postmodern and so on and on ... David Pott's The Myth of the Great Depression also strikes a blow for orthodox history.' 'Commonsense History', Robert Murray (Quadrant)
'David Potts has presented us with a significant and most readable book on the Great Depression.' 'Real Hard Times', Max Teichman (Quadrant)
Where Can I Get It?
|Carlton||Not in stock|
|Hawthorn||Not in stock|
|Malvern||Not in stock|
|St Kilda||Not in stock|
|State Library||Not in stock|
|The Brain Centre||Not in stock|
All in-print titles are available to order online. Items that are currently not in-stock but are available can still be ordered. Prices are subject to change without notice. In-store availability is updated daily.
Online availability: In stock with our local or international supplier: Ships in 5-10 days
Stock information is refreshed every 24 hours.
Add to a list
$39.95 – Paperback / Scribe Publications
After David Potts' students interviewed 1,200 Depression survivors, and Potts himself trawled through many first-person accounts, it became evident that adverse impacts of the depression had been over-emphasised - and that good... Buy or find out more→