Robert Morrow's Reviews > Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945

Freedom from Fear by David M. Kennedy
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's review
Mar 11, 2011

really liked it
Read from February 10 to March 11, 2011

There are two things you should know before reading this book. The first is that it is a very thorough history of the period, and as such, a fairly long book that requires a serious commitment. The second is, as other reviewers have noted, there is very little about the people beyond statistics and a few anecdotes. Rather, this is a comprehensive textbook of American history from the Great Depression to the end of World War II, and as such, FDR gets a lot of air time.

That said, it is an excellent history that can serve both as a reference work and a debate-sparker. Certain passages are simply outstanding, such as the Japanese resettlement; a few are boring, such as the two barrages of economic statistics that appear in the early and late parts of the book. Much of the story has been told in many other works; still, Kennedy has to be given credit for writing some of the events in a way that makes them seem fresh and interesting (Pearl Harbor, for instance). There are of course new facts from the research, but what makes the book special is Kennedy's ability to synthesize fact, event and human impulse into valid interpretations of truth.

So, if you are entirely unschooled in the period, this is a must-read. If you have read a great deal of American history, you may find yourself wanting to skip certain passages that reveal little anything you do not already know. I fall into the latter category, but I still enjoyed the book as a masterpiece of a fine historian.
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