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Paperback The Great Depression : 1929-1939 Book

ISBN: 0385658435

ISBN13: 9780385658430

The Great Depression : 1929-1939

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Format: Paperback

Condition: Very Good

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Book Overview

Over 1.5 million Canadians were on relief, one in five was a public dependant, and 70,000 young men travelled like hoboes. Ordinary citizens were rioting in the streets, but their demonstrations met with indifference, and dissidents were jailed. Canada emerged from the Great Depression a different nation. The most searing decade in Canada's history began with the stock market crash of 1929 and ended with the Second World War. With formidable story-telling...

Customer Reviews

3 ratings

Of Mice and Mice

Like the rest of the world, Canada experienced great hardship in the 1930s. Unlike our southern neighbours, we floundered through the times completely lost in a maze of choices blinded by a fog of misapplied moral principles. Berton paints a picture of the whole of Canada, from the Atlantic provinces, to the Pacific coast while going through Quebec. He tells heart breaking stories of a lost decade. Why did Canadians go hungry in the midst of plenty? Why weren't food and clothes distributed to the needy? Why did a little girl in Saskatchewan come to school every other day, only when it was her turn to wear the dress she had to share with her sister? Why did a father too poor to buy wood for the stove have to wake up to find his baby frozen to death? Why didn't the government do anything? It could easily have: as soon as war was declared in 1939, resources to clothe, feed, and pay hundreds of thousands of young men magically appeared. Berton's answer is simple: Canada had no leadership. Our two prime ministers of the thirties, R. B. Bennett and William Lyon Mackenzie King, were two gentlemen stuck in classical economics mode. They saw people starving and balanced the budget. They saved the Dollar instead of saving lives. Bennett and King weren't heartless; they were just blind to what the government could do and should have done. When they did set themselves to action, it was to repress "agitators" and "revolutionaries". Berton's narrative isn't wholly bleak. Among the tragedies shine a few bright spots: a young couple falling in love here, children playing there. We get a picture of Canada in the 1930s, and I personally learned a thing or two of "l'ancien temps" as my mom and dad have always called their childhood. Compare Berton's history of the Great Depression in Canada against Conrad Black's excellent biography of Franklin Roosevelt and one thing will be clear: where the United States had a man leading it through the Great Depression, Canada had a couple of mousey prime-ministers. As a Canadian, I'm happy that we've learned our lesson. Sure our leaders are still often mousey (think Lester Pearson, Joe Clark, and even Stephen Harper) but at least they've shown a commitment to leadership and responsibility. Pierre Berton's magnificent book hopefully ensures that this lesson will be remembered a long time. Vincent Poirier, Tokyo


The first thing the reader should be aware of is that this book is about the Depression in Canada. Many may know this, but I did not. The title never specified Canada. I believe books should make things like this clear in the title. I found the book quite interesting in any case. Berton covers the depression year by year, giving the reader a better feel for the era than books that jump from one time period to another. He writes well and knows how to keep our attention. As with most books on the depression, though, this one suffers from a leftist bias. The institutions of the day are all portrayed in a negative light and the reforms of the era are never questioned. Berton is right to criticize the Canadian government for its disregard of civil liberties, yet he fails to appreciate that communism sought the destruction of the Canadian way of life. The government may have over reacted, but it could not completely ignore the 'red menace'. Finally, I wonder if Berton would be as concerned about civil liberties in Canada today. It is now the left which controls the situation and is censoring speech. Perhaps he should write a book about this.

The Depression Years from a Canadian Perspective

This is a compelling, often chilling, account of this period in Canadian history, and is also a fair warning regarding the future. I found this tragic story of the depression in Canada to be an eye-opener. Being one of the "nice Canadians", as well as being too young to have any personal experience of this time, it will certainly change the way in which I view our past. Written in typically well-researched and entertaining Berton-style, this is a should-read for every Canadian and any history buff. Other books by Pierre Berton that I recently read and enjoyed were "Niagara" and "The Dionne Years".
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