2018-2019 Catalog

ECON 337 The Great Depression

The Great Depression of the 1930's was the most significant crisis of capitalism in modern history. It was global in its reach, decreasing economic output and production and bringing international trade and finance to a halt. Businesses and households suffered from banking crises, the restriction of credit, as well as the loss of employment. In the recent 2008 financial crisis, the memory of the Great Depression has often been invoked as a possible worst-case scenario. In this course, we will study the economic and historical circumstances that led to the instability of the economies in the 1920's, and the devastating crash that followed. We will learn about the underlying economic models that explain the devastating economic collapse and analyze the political, social, and cultural ramifications of the widespread economic crisis. These include the political challenges to the existing systems of parliamentary democracy embodied in Fascism and Nazism, as well as those from the left. We will examine the social implications of massive unemployment and mass poverty, including: homelessness, family dissolution, and "hoboism." We will look at cultural responses to the crisis, including attempts to represent the crisis realistically, as in the "New Realism" movements, and efforts to offer distraction from the devastation, such as the Shirley Temple and Busby Berkeley Hollywood films. We will also discuss the role of the interwar Gold Standard in propagating the crisis, and look at policy measures taken to stimulate economic activity. Last, we will analyze the macroeconomic lessons that have been learned from the Great Depression, and look at their implementation and effectiveness in fighting the current economic slump. We will focus on the United States and selected European nations.


4 units