Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

The Great Depression: A reminder amid the ever-increasing hyperbole

“about a quarter of the entire population, some 30 million Americans, were without any income at all. Two million vagrants… roamed the country looking for work. Twenty per cent of the nation’s school children were under-weight; in the poorest communities… over 90 per cent were affected… Bread lines stretched under choking grain elevators. Malnutrition and associated diseases like rickets and pellagra were commonplace… there were cases of starvation.

“Half Chicago’s working population… were idle… In Detroit… two thirds of the population were either out of work or on short time… In Kentucky miners ate wild greens, violet tops, forget-me-nots and ‘such weeds as cows eat’. In Pennsylvania they devoured roots and dandelions… Others consumed leftovers from restaurants, as recommended by Secretary of War Patrick Hurley. In Kansas farmers burned wheat to keep warm… In Washington lumberjacks started forest fires to earn money fighting them. In Arkansas families lived in caves… Nearly 30 states established systems of barter and in Washington State stores issued and accepted wooden currency…

“In Trieste women kept alive by eating pigeons which their children killed with stones. Peasants in Lucania lived almost exclusively on bread…

“Tax payers revolted in Burgundy, Normandy and Languedoc… Students clashed with gendarmes on the left Bank. In Chartres farmers and peasants, some carrying pitchforks, attacked the Prefect and engaged in running battles with the police…

“In Lancashire… so many mills went out of business that the smut wore off buildings: to the amazement of its inhabitants, Blackburn began to look clean. Former mill-owners were reduced to picking up cigarette ends in the street.”

From Piers Brendon’s The Dark Valley: A Panorama of the 1930s