Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Great Depression and College Life

With all the world abuzz with talk of the dreaded "D" word, this post discusses sources for the study of college during hard times. Nearly every college or university has an archive with records dating back to the 1930s. With modern scanning technology, it becomes easy to upload to your own online storage site and then share the 1930s college experience with the world.

Since my institution hired me to teach the Great Depression (among other courses), I grabbed photocopies of all Board and President minutes and reports. Last month I uploaded the entire era (1929-1942) to here. Download the root folder as a zip file, then open with your photo manager.

Google Books is digitizing the world's history of fiction and nonfiction (including newspapers). There is no reason why students and amateur historians can't "do their part" (the early New Deal slogan).

Another great site for documents from that era, including a high school newspaper and college material: "The New Deal Project."
It appears that allegations of liberal bias among the faculty ran rampant in that era too. They didn't call it Political Correctness because that term didn't come along, it seems, until the communist Mao wrote his Little Red Book.

This portal at the New Deal Project examines "Student Activism in the 1930s," with many documents and images from that time period. Most students, however, conformed to the "Joe College" and "Betty Coed" norms of their parents--particularly since the latter (Mom and Dad) sacrificed so much to send their kids to school.

OTHER SOURCES: I also recommend the following free online magazine archives:

The Nation: -- change search option to 1865-2002.

American Jewish Committee: -- everything from their archives and publications from 1900 onward. With the Nazi rise to power (1933), the AJC dealt with anti-Semitism overseas and at home.

FDR Cartoon Database:

EH.Net: -- this fantastic site combines economics and history and is useful for determining the present-day value of past sums or for its ever-growing encyclopedia, book reviews, economic data, etc. Search the site for Great Depression and you will come up with interviews with leading economists in the 21st century, and much more! It is no understatement to state that the Depression is to economics what the Big Bang is to physics. Entire schools of thought grappled (and still do) with the causes, the effects, and the various elements of economic life. Our current Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke, for example, wrote some of his early academic essays on this topic.

Gulag: Lest we forget the other "class genocide" of that era, he are some choice documents (and English translations) of Lenin and Stalin ordering the extermination of property-owning peasants.


Jessica Kunkel said...

Very useful collection of sources. I have an M.A. in history, and have done some research on the Great Depression. It seems to be more pertinent now than ever before.

koitheawesome said...

At our school, the economic "depression" or as the media likes to call it "The Recession" has hit us hard at the college level. At my school, Arizona State University, college tuition has seen a bigger increase for next year than it has many years prior. In just one year, the tuition went increased over $1000!

According to the sources available to me, the tuition has also doubled in the past 5 years!

Unfortunately, while the Arizona government tries to figure out what the hell they're doing, education is often one of the first things to get cut.

I have a blogger website that discusses different aspects of college life (some of which are what some would consider "unprofessional) but are none-the-less true.

It would be nice to have the perspective from a professional teacher to contribute to our entries and talk about his experiences from the perspective of someone who teaches at a college.

Therefore, I would like to invite you to submit an entry (to or if you'd rather not, to at least check it out and see what's on the mind's of students.