The 1930s were perhaps the seminal decade in twentieth-century history, a dark time of global depression that displaced millions, paralyzed the liberal democracies, gave rise to totalitarian regimes, and, ultimately, led to the Second World War. In this sweeping history, Piers Brendon brings the tragic, dismal days of the 1930s to life.
From Stalinist pogroms to New Deal programs, Brendon re-creates the full scope of a slow international descent towards war. Offering perfect sketches of the players, riveting descriptions of major events and crises, and telling details from everyday life, he offers both a grand, rousing narrative and an intimate portrait of an era that make sense out of the fascinating, complicated, and profoundly influential years of the 1930s.
Brendon's latest book is ambitious, covering the world's convulsive descent from the economic and political chaos of the 1930s into the global slaughter of the war-torn 1940s. Taking his title from Churchill's address to Stalin on May 8, 1945, Brendon (Hurrell Froude and the Oxford Movement; etc.) analyzes the decade from the start of the Depression to the eve of WWII, a period of economic collapse in the democracies and aggressive totalitarianism in the nations that would ultimately form the Axis. Brendon traces how each of seven nations (the U.S., Britain, France, Spain, Italy, Russia and Japan) responded to the era's economic upheavals. In Germany, Italy and Japan the answer to the Depression was massive rearmament, to which the democracies responded, as Brendon details, with temporizing and appeasement. Brendon is especially interested in mechanisms for distorting the truth, including propaganda and censorship. His writing is superlative, his vocabulary precise and extensive; he displays remarkable talent for the revealing phrase and the polished anecdote. Each of the decade's personalities, from Hoover to Orwell, from Haile Selassie to Harry Hopkins, is pinned down in a trenchant sketch, and the dominant characters, such as Roosevelt, Mussolini and Hitler, are examined carefully. Most important, Brendon demonstrates why one cannot understand the appalling violence of the Second World War without first mastering the tumultuous decade in which the seeds of the war were planted. 24 pages of photos not seen by PW.