The Great Depression was a severe global economic downturn that destroyed businesses, wiped out personal savings accounts, and produced widespread unemployment, homelessness, hunger, and desperation throughout American society. The Depression began with the collapse of the stock market in October 1929, bottomed out in 1933, and – after a long, steady recovery – finally ended with the outbreak of World War II in 1939. Economists have attributed the Great Depression to numerous causes: the uneven distribution of income, widespread stock market speculation, the overproduction of consumer goods, a weak farm economy, excessive use of consumer and business credit, high tariffs and tight money policies, and post-World War I global economic issues. Politically, the Depression contributed to the defeat of President Herbert Hoover, a conservative Republican, and spurred the election of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a Democrat who proposed direct government intervention through a large-scale relief and recovery program known as the New Deal. The Great Depression/New Deal era had a profound impact on American society, culture, and politics; many veterans of World War I and beyond experienced it personally, in one form or another.
Eric Rauchway, The Great Depression and the New Deal: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).