By Julia Mericle, ’17
A new book by St. Bonaventure University history professor Phillip Payne, Ph.D., frames the story of the 1929 stock market crash within the booming New Era economy of the 1920s and the bust of the Great Depression.
“Crash! How the Economic Boom and Bust of the 1920s Worked” was released by Johns Hopkins University Press in December.
The book by Payne, chair of the Department of History, discusses the topic of speculation in economics, specifically explaining the 1929 stock market crash.
Payne said the idea for the book originated when he was talking to an editor at an American History Association meeting about the launch of a new series called “How Things Worked.” The meeting was shortly after the stock market crash in 2008, and Payne said his students were shocked so he talked about it in his classes.
The book is intended for an undergraduate audience and aims to make complicated stories understandable, according to Payne.
“A lot of effort went into making this book accessible, a book you can pick up and read without a deep knowledge of economics or politics,” Payne said.
Kevin Sidoran, a senior biochemistry major, is in Payne’s “United States History since 1865” class this semester.
“Dr. Payne is a storyteller,” Sidoran said. “He is able to segue almost any discussion or side comment, however irrelevant, to what we are covering in lecture, and he always pulls in little tidbits of background info to make the larger ideas more tangible and coherent.”
Payne said he noticed many students are not interested in the topic of speculation in stock market crashes, but that it has real impact on their lives.
In the 19th century, bankers were just about the only ones following the stock market, according to Payne, but now the stock market is increasingly part of the economy.
Payne said he tells young people they need to think about history, especially in the turbulence of the modern economy, where people move from job to job.
A major takeaway from the book, according to Payne, is that to get to that level of speculation, to get to where the economy gets blown up, people have to forget it happened before and convince themselves the current time is different.
“In 1929, they convinced themselves the stock market was a money making machine and it was never going to crash,” Payne said. “In 2008 they convinced themselves of this again.”
Payne said we are still dealing with many of the issues discussed in his book in the current presidential election, such as fallout from the 2008 crash and transitions taking place in the economy with technology and globalization.
In addition to Payne’s interest in economic history, his areas of research include Warren G. Harding and exploring how popular culture is shaped by politics and vice versa. He is the author of “Dead Last: The Public Memory of Warren G. Harding’s Scandalous Legacy,” released by Ohio University Press in 2009.
Learn more about Payne and the history department via the blog bonashistorydept.blogspot.com.
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