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The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression
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The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression

3.90  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,830 Ratings  ·  561 Reviews
Challenging conventional history, Amity Shlaes offers a reinterpretation of the Great Depression. She shows how both Presidents Hoover and Roosevelt failed to understand the prosperity of the 1920s and heaped massive burdens on the country that more than offset the benefit of New Deal programs.
Hardcover, 390 pages
Published June 1st 2007 by Jonathan Cape
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May 14, 2013 Camille rated it really liked it
This was a wonderful history of the Great Depression from a policy-making/political standpoint. It really illustrates that if the politicians would have stuck to free market principles the Great Depression would not have been so great. But instead, they jumped on the Soviet bandwagon and tried to implement Socialist programs. FDR relied on advisers that visited the USSR and saw the sanitized version of Communism that Stalin wanted them to see; they even visited with Stalin!

It destroys the myth
Mike (the Paladin)
Jan 29, 2014 Mike (the Paladin) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I encourage the reading of this book. When I was in school we all came away with a certain vision or narrative of/about the period known as "the Great Depression". It was a fairly simple view. FDR was the "hero" who led us through the depression and out the other end. Frankly I don't know what children/young people today come away with as I'm not that thrilled with what passes for education now. I doubt however it would be that different.

My parents and grandparents having lived through that era
An examination of the Great Depression by a fiscal conservative. This book has been avidly read within Republican circles, and ideas from the book are lacing GOP rhetoric on the faltering economy. That's a shame, as the book is an example of very sloppy scholarship.

Shlaes's main thrust is that Franklin Roosevelt's policies served to worsen the Depression. She explains that the flurry of New Deal policies, fired by FDR's hostility to business, created a chaotic environment in which business was
Jan 25, 2009 Jim rated it did not like it
a miserable little book. from its subtitle, you might imagine it has something to do with the great depression. its not actually a history of the depression at all. instead, its an intertwined biography of a set of variably prominent public features from the 1930's. rather than reading about the lives of the millions of jobless, homeless and dispossessed you'll be treated to paeans to the unjust suffering of andrew mellon at the hands of heartless new dealers. rather than learning how new deal e ...more
Jan 11, 2009 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a tremendously informative book about the Great Depression. For me, at least, it debunked a lot of the myths about the New Deal and Roosevelt's first one hundred days in office. I felt Amity Shlaes did a monumental and extremely thorough job of researching the economic history of this era.

Having recently read up to 1940 in David Kennedy's "Freedom from Fear," I had begun to understand why the business community greatly disliked the Roosevelt Administration. I had always been curious ab
Aug 22, 2007 ck40579 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: few
“[W]hen wages moved ahead, profits narrowed and shareholders lost.” (Shlaes 337) Essentially if capitalism is to fulfill itself, and ‘succeed’, wages must be suppressed. Amazing what you can learn from a conservative screed that simplifies the Depression into Hoover did too little and Roosevelt went over the top. The Forgotten Man also completely forgets to talk about the forgotten man. If you want to read a ton about the minutia of who was involved with a cornucopia of public and fiscal policy, ...more
Apr 13, 2008 George rated it did not like it
Funny political joke book! At first, I thought Stephen Colbert wrote it. Haven't finished, because I couldn't stop laughing after the first chapter! The whole gist of this book is that FDR worsened the Great Depression because he secretly admired Joe Stalin's Five Year Plans instead of kissing the Invisible Hand of Adam Smith. Now Wendell Wilkie, he was A STUD. Worthy as a topic for a Beavis and Butthead episode.
Aug 03, 2008 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: voters, history buffs
Readable but a little dense--it's never taken me 3 weeks to read 400 pages before. This sounds like the kind of book that would only be of interest to a history nerd, but with the current situation it's an absolutely imperative read for all voters. We're all fed one version of the Depression and the New Deal as inevitable and necessary, respectively, and that war was the only thing that shocked us out of it. Reading this book forces you to realize that the Depression didn't have to be either Gre ...more
Clif Hostetler
Jan 08, 2014 Clif Hostetler rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book provides a critical review of actions taken during the Great Depression from 1929 to 1940, and it reflects of whether theses actions helped or hurt the prospects for economic recovery. Viewing that era from today’s perspective can provide plenty of things to criticize. However, we today are the beneficiaries of many of the actions taken then.

Shalaes portrays both Herbert Hoover and Roosevelt (and most other politicians of the time) as not understanding economics and taking actions are
Doran Barton
Mar 25, 2008 Doran Barton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Alright, I promised before I would deliver a review of the book, The Forgotten Man by Amity Schlaes. You can get this book from

The Forgotten Man is a look at the events of the Great Depression in the United States during the 1930s from the perspective of policy. I found it to be a fascinating look into the lives and viewpoints of people who were involved in the landmark political events during this decade.

The book begins in 1927. Floods in the midwest caused widespread damage through
Jan 31, 2014 Deedee rated it did not like it
This book is marketed as "A History", when in fact, it is a pro-right-wing set of talking points. The right/conservative wing in American politics has never liked FDR or his policies. They didn't like FDR in 1932 or 1940 or 1950 or 1960 or any day of any year since the day FDR got the Democratic nomination for the presidency. The author, Amity Shales, trained as a journalist. Her job before writing this book was as a Wall Street Journal editorial writer. The book she has written is best seen as ...more
Nov 13, 2012 Mick rated it did not like it
Whenever George Will calls any book a must read, I know exactly what to expect. As an alternative narrative to the Great Depression, it's worth the read. The "Forgotten Man" is still overlooked, however. The critiques of liberalism are noteworthy and worth pondering; but the underlying argument - which casts a pall on intellectualism (ironically using a high academic tone that does a poor job of trying to sound unbiased) and relies on the same old Randian stereotypes of poverty, the poor, and th ...more
Alex MacMillan
Going into this book, I was already sympathetic to the argument that most of the New Deal delayed recovery from the Great Depression. Amity Shlaes lays out this revisionist history in all her neocon glory. Pointing out the irrationalities and persecutions of many New Deal programs, however, does not excuse poor writing.

This book didn't really have a clear thesis or theme. Shlaes uses the concept of "The Forgotten Man" to describe a hodgepodge of prominent or overlooked 1930s figures. I didn't re
Mark Mortensen
Following the 1929 stock market crash the Great Depression spanned much of the 1930’s decade. Author Amity Shlaes provides insight, challenging that the American economy would have rebounded much quicker if only Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt had taken a more hands off approach with less government intervention and a stronger belief in the capitalistic free market system.

“The Forgotten Man”, the title of this book, is none other than the common working class hero whose income is sipho
Mar 25, 2011 Matt rated it really liked it
Shlaes uses William Graham Sumner's "forgotten man" to expose the problems with FDR's New Deal. To paraphrase Sumner, A sees the plight of X and says to B, "Let's pass some legislation to help X," and C gets the bill. Sumner wrote about C: "He works, he votes, generally he prays - but he always pays - yes, above all, he pays." The identity of A is the progressives and B is Congress. It is laudable that A wants to help X but tinkering with the economy at the expense of C only exacerbates the prob ...more
Feb 08, 2009 Billy rated it it was ok
This 2007 history, written by a nut-job libertarian, tells the story of the “forgotten man,” the businessman and workers who were “trying to get along without public relief and has been attempting the same thing since the depression that cracked down on him.” (13) These forgotten men funded government programs through sales and property taxes but struggled as their tax dollars helped to expand the government’s size and influence in the marketplace. Shlaes’ account is informed by libertarian bend ...more
Nov 07, 2010 James rated it did not like it
Somewhat of a disappointment,
the book is mostly about the political infighting that occurred in Washington DC.
A thousand names of long forgotten bureaucrats.

The title refers to the American people,
but ironically the book is about the "forgotten" bureaucrats.

I did learn that in 1923 the supreme court ruled that minimum wage laws were unconstitutional.
They interfered with the relationship of a worker and his employer.

A latter group of politicians sitting on the high court changed that.
One mo
Jul 17, 2009 Tim rated it liked it
Recommended to Tim by:
A fascinating, deeply flawed account of the Great Depression. I bought this on the recommendation of, and while I'm enjoying it, I'm finding myself astonished at its bold partisanship and resultant revisionist history. It seemed a bit odd to read the glowing praise of the 1920s not as a period of speculative excess but of great, misunderstood industrialists. The unease got worse when the future members of Roosevelt's cabinet were collectively referred to as "the intellectuals", de ...more
Mar 03, 2009 Marshall rated it really liked it
This is an excellent history of the Great Depression that has changed a lot of minds, including my own. In school, we were all taught that Hoover was a "free market/laissez faire" fundamentalist and that when the crash of 1929 happened he sat back and said the market will fix itself. We were then taught that FDR came in and rescued the United States with his New Deal programs.

While this version of history is "feel good," it couldn't be further from the truth. In reality, Hoover was an intervent
Jan 10, 2015 Riley rated it it was ok
A conservative history of the Great Depression under which, miraculously, the government turns out to be blame for America's ills. Apparently, the biggest victims of the 1930s were Samuel Insull and Andrew Mellon, and its greatest hero was Wendell Willkie, whose ideas, after all, propelled him to carry an entire 10 states in the 1940 presidential election.

I'm not being facetious. That's really the picture the book presents. It's not just some elaborate 400-page satire from author Amity Shlaes.

Oct 02, 2013 Allan rated it did not like it
Shelves: history
William Kristol writes in a blurb on the back cover of this book " revisionist history at its best". Not true at all: this book is an ill matched, selective hodgepodge of a book very thin on real history. Hopefully in the future this book will be "forgotten".
Jun 06, 2013 Arminius rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
The Forgotten Man is a very interesting book. I found it fascinating that liberalism of the 1930’s stemmed from the former Soviet Union’s communism. In the 1920’s a group of academics and union men traveled to visit Stalin and Trotsky. Stalin welcomed them and put on an impressive show for them. They left Soviet Russia convinced of its superiority. The academics included Rex Tugwell (of Columbia University), Paul Douglas (of the University of Chicago), Stuart Chase and John Brophy. These men wer ...more
Oct 05, 2010 Nicholas rated it it was ok
Meh. I think this was probably one of the better written histories of the Depression that I've read, but it reeks of Conservative Tea Party drivel. I wonder if I'd read this before the financial crisis and the subsequent political baloney flying back and forth from both sides if I would have received it differently. Most likely I would.

The one positive I will take from this book is a more rounded view of Hoover. A man whom all I knew about was that he was a fantastic organizer from his experien
Justin Lonas
Jun 18, 2015 Justin Lonas rated it really liked it
I thought Shlaes' biography of Coolidge was more entertaining and enlightening, but this is good history too--an admirable effort to cram 11 tumultuous years of America into 400 pages and keep it readable.

This is certainly not the "received wisdom" story of the Great Depression, but neither is it simply an anti-Roosevelt screed. She strives to show the ways that uncertainty and whimsy at the top (from Hoover and Roosevelt and their cabinets) was crushing to businesses large and small without dow
Oct 23, 2014 Jess rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I started listening to this audiobook because I had slim pickings available at the library and had been thinking about the stock market crash of 29 and how I'd never really learned in concrete detail what had caused it. The first couple of chapters, when weeding out the libertarian stuff, were a wealth of information about the fiscal development of Hoover and the nation in general, as well as the first couple years of the depression.

Then, we get to Roosevelt

I was willing to give it a chance, to
Jul 10, 2014 Correen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Excellent overview of the Roosevelt administration and the time leading up to it. The author attempts to weigh the decisions of leaders and judge them fairly. No character is left without criticism but neither is he (there are no major women characters) left without redemption. Roosevelt and Mellon are highly praised and highly criticized.
Mar 12, 2014 J.S. rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-america
Following the 1929 stock market crash the nation entered an economic recession. President Hoover implemented many policies in an attempt to turn things around, but succeeded only in driving more banks into insolvency and increasing unemployment. He also sought to have government replace business as the spending engine in the economy, and initiated numerous projects, such as Hoover Dam in Arizona. But when conditions hadn't improved by the next election he was overwhelmingly swept out of office b ...more
Phillip W.
Jun 09, 2014 Phillip W. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If there is any history that forcefully, with panache and nuance, challenges the cultural and political myths surrounding the New Deal, this is it.

Shlaes lays bare the failure of most of the New Deal economic programs to even dent the very problems they were meant to ameliorate. More than that, she makes a convincing case that Herbert Hoover's and, then FDR's, statist expansion and deep intervention into the economy actually prolonged the downturn, even creating a depression in the Depression.

Apr 03, 2010 Teechbiz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Remove the name FDR and replace it with Obama.... Lots of information. I learned many things I had never been taught when I was in school about the man and his administration
Justin Tapp
Jun 12, 2014 Justin Tapp rated it it was amazing
The Forgotten Man The narrative of FDR's New Deal as I learned it in AP U.S. History goes like this:
After the stock market crash of 1929 and ensuing economic collapse conservative President Herbert Hoover refused to do any fiscal policy to help remedy the situation and the gold standard kept the economy from growing. The Smoot-Hawley tariff passed, making things much worse. FDR's New Deal was successful in putting people to work while expanding government and even though the retrograde conservat
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Amity Shlaes graduated from Yale University magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in English in 1982.

Shlaes writes a column for Forbes, and served as a nationally syndicated columnist for over a decade, first at the Financial Times, then at Bloomberg. Earlier, she worked at the Wall Street Journal, where she was a member of the editorial board. She is the author of "Coolidge," "The Forgotten Ma
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“Who is the forgotten man...? I know him as intimately as my own undershirt. He is the fellow that is trying to get along without public relief... In the meantime the taxpayers go on supporting many that would not work if they had jobs.” 3 likes
“The big question about the American depression is not whether war with Germany and Japan ended it. It is why the Depression lasted until that war. From 1929 to 1940, from Hoover to Roosevelt, government intervention helped to make the Depression Great.” 2 likes
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