Historian looks back at a difficult decade

December 16, 2009

The last ten years are likely the most important ten years of American history since the decade from 1929 to 1939.

The approach of a new year often signals a time for reflection. Offering a historical perspective, Temple History Professor Jim Hilty says that the last ten years are likely the most important ten years of American history since the decade from 1929 to 1939.

According to Hilty, during both decades America experienced extreme highs and lows. “Both were periods of unprecedented wealth and prosperity followed by descent into financial abyss. Both decades saw American financial power, status among nation states, and its prestige plummet. Both decades saw America’s fundamental passions and purposes challenged from within and without,” he said.

But, said Hilty, there are substantial differences.

“The ’30s era started with depression and ended with world war, American prosperity and purpose restored, its people at least temporarily unified, and America positioned as a world power,” he said.

By contrast, the period from 1999 to 2009 began with America as prosperous as any time in its history but ideologically divided as at no time since the 1850s.

“Then we were staggered by 9/11 and momentarily united in shock and grief seeking common cause to remain united. But here we are eight years later staggering along in two wars,” he said.

–Kim Fischer

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