Historical diaries are intriguing because we know how the era or big picture ended. When the period or person is significant, the day-to-day trivialities take on special meaning. While the trivialities are not too dissimilar to our own minute by minute, hour by hour and day by day events, we know that ultimately they end in bigger meaning.
The current economic malaise, with periodic optimism from the Administration and media, is lost in the day to day trivialities of life. Even for those focused on the problem, positive reports are offset by negative ones. It is difficult to know which ones to believe or even whether they are significant. There is so much “noise” that it is difficult to sort out what is real and meaningful.
The big picture is not apparent as one lives it. It is difficult to ascertain whether history is being made, or we are just dealing with the vagaries of just another slowdown.
I received an email from a friend with a book recommendation. It represents a diary compiled during the Great Depression. I have started the book and am very intrigued. The friend’s judgment is excellent so I knew I would enjoy the read. For those interested in what it is like to live through history, the book might be a good read. It might also put some of all the “noise” we seem to be getting into perspective.
A brief summary can be obtained from Public Affairs.
Friend’s comments in red below:
The Great Depression: A Diary
Brown’s first recommendation is an old story that still resonates today. The Great Depression: A Diary is a personal account of the economic disaster that took place in the 1930s.
The journal entries of Benjamin Roth, a lawyer from Youngstown, Ohio, have been resurrected and published by his son Daniel B. Roth.
“It’s a blow-by-blow account from the point of view of a professional guy. Not a sort of a Dorothea Lange character from the real underclass, but just a regular, professional guy who, day by day, chronicled his reaction to this terrible depression that settled on the land,” says Brown.
She says she found Roth’s account fascinating because he, like many people suffering in the financial tumult of the past year, did not know what the next day would bring.
“Every diary is a mystery story to the person who’s writing it,” says Brown. “We’re in the middle of our own mystery tour of this depression.”
If anyone is familiar with the book or chooses to read it, I would be pleased to obtain an opinion.
The reporting of Benjamin Anderson on the Great Depression in his book Economics and the Public Welfare: A Financial and Economic History of the United States, 1914-1946., is a book that I have read and recommend. While not a diary, it represents primarily contemporaneous reporting by Andersen in his role as an economic journalist. In 1920 he joined Chase Manhattan Bank and became the editor of the influential Chase Economic Bulletin where his timely analyses of the period were like a diary of the economic policies that led up to and prolonged the Great Depression.
Anderson was a man of integrity and had an Austrian Economics orientation. A biographical sketch of Benjamin Anderson is available here.