Economic Disasters of the Twentieth Century

Economic Disasters of the Twentieth Century

Edited by Michael J. Oliver and Derek H. Aldcroft

The First and Second World Wars, the great depression, oil shocks, inflation, financial crises, stock market crashes, the collapse of the Soviet command economy and Third World disasters are discussed in this comprehensive book. The contributors subject these disasters to in-depth assessment, carefully considering their costs and impact on specific countries and regions, as well as assessing them in a global context. The book examines the legacy of economic disasters and asks whether economic disasters are avoidable or whether policymakers can learn from their mistakes.

Chapter 2: The Great Depression, 1929–33

W.R. Garside

Subjects: economics and finance, economic psychology, financial economics and regulation, money and banking


W.R. Garside The Great Depression of 1929–33 was such a major disruption to the stability and functioning of the principal industrial nations of the world and of the primary producing countries in their ambit that few observers of the twentieth century, be they economists, historians, political scientists or sociologists, can ignore it. The Depression spread worldwide though at an uneven pace. Quantitatively its effects were greatest in the United States where output during the period fell by 28 per cent and gross national product declined by around 10 per cent in real terms for three years running from 1930. In Europe, by contrast, output fell by 7 per cent overall, with falls of 15 per cent in Germany, almost as much in France though with lagged effects, and 5 per cent in the United Kingdom (Dow 2000, 157, 293). At its lowest point the economic collapse saw European trade fall to onethird of its 1929 value (Clavin 2000, 1). It is the spectre of large-scale unemployment, however, that dominates images of the Great Depression. Even allowing for the uncertainty in international comparative unemployment data, the record is stark enough. In 1932 industrial unemployment averaged 36 per cent in the United States, 31 per cent in Denmark, 22 per cent in the United Kingdom and Sweden, 28 per cent in Australia and over 43 per cent in Germany. At its height in 1933 some six million people were registered unemployed in Germany and over 12 million in the...

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