Web Wealth: The Great Depression

Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke says in a book of essays that "to understand the Great Depression is the Holy Grail of macroeconomics."
Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke says in a book of essays that "to understand the Great Depression is the Holy Grail of macroeconomics."
Posted: November 02, 2008

Does the current financial crisis resemble the run-up to the Great Depression? You betcha, some experts say. Decide for yourself with a look at history - and Ben S. Bernanke's book - at these sites.

Teaching history. The project of the Center for History and New Media looks to be a resource for classroom discussion that might compare the Great Depression to today. It links to videos on demand from Annenberg Media's Learner.org, where you can watch explainers about booms and busts, monetary policy, inflation, stagflation, and economist John Maynard Keynes, among others.

Go straight to the Annenberg Media site here. The series of 28 half-hour videos is called Economics U$A. It is just a small slice of the free instructional material that includes videos for learning science, mathematics, Spanish, French, German, and English as a second language.

Bernanke's book. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, a scholar on the Great Depression, compiled some of his lectures on the subject into a 2000 book. Here's Chapter 1, provided as a sample by publisher Princeton University Press. "To understand the Great Depression is the Holy Grail of macroeconomics," the former professor begins.

History news. Rutgers professor James Livingston says the current meltdown does resemble the Great Depression. He asks whether more astute crisis management would have saved the day in the 1930s. No, he answers.

First person. So, what was life like in the Depression? The Library of Congress maintains this collection of personal stories from the era, written from interviews done by the Federal Writers Project. Boring? Think again. The New York City collection, for example, includes entries by Harlem Renaissance writers including Ralph Ellison. The first on the list, by Frank Byrd, is about "Betty," who became a prostitute to pay her lover's medical bills.


Contact staff writer Reid Kanaley at 215-854-5114 or rkanaley@phillynews.com.

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