Encyclopedia of American Recessions and Depressions
by Daniel J. Leab, Editor
January 2014, 919pp, 7x10
2 volumes, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-59884-945-5
$189, £140, 158€, A270
eBook Available: 978-1-59884-946-2
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Could the most recent economic downturn of the U.S. economy have easily been predicted or averted by examining past economic events and trends?

A riveting look at the financial cycles in American economic history from colonial times to the present day, with an eye on the similarities and differences between past and present conditions as analyzed by leading economic historians.

The United States has emerged from the financial chaos of its last economic crisis, yet still very few sources place the events of the modern era within the context of financial downturns of the past. An examination of the trends and patterns of previous depressions and recessions may allow us to recognize—and avoid—the behaviors and practices that prolonged the fiscal problems of previous generations. This thought-provoking encyclopedia presents an overview of notable economic events, their causes and cures, and their social and political impact on the nation.

Encyclopedia of American Recessions and Depressions offers a comprehensive survey on the topic from the years 1783 to 1789 under the Articles of Confederation through the panics of the 19th century and the Great Depression of the 1930s to the Great Recession of 2008. Written in an accessible, engaging style, the volumes contain 14 detailed essays covering each economic event and 140 entries covering various related individuals, issues, court cases, legislation, and significant events. Primary source documents, including the Specie Circular, the Embargo Act, and the National Labor Relations Act, provide relevancy to the real world and a context for key events.


  • Offers excerpts from more than 65 primary documents that illustrate the nature of the economic events covered; each document is preceded by a brief introduction, putting the document into context for readers
  • Includes contributions from diverse experts ranging from veteran economists to young scholars
  • Offers an extensive bibliography of relevant books, articles, primary sources, websites, and videos to prompt further research into the topic
  • Reveals the causes and after-effects of recessions in the social, economic, and political trajectory of the United States
Daniel J. Leab is professor of history at Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ, where he was director of American studies and founding director of the university's multicultural program. He is founding editor of American Communist History and was editor of Labor History for 20 years. His published work includes I Was a Communist for the FBI: The Life and Unhappy Times of Matt Cvetic and Orwell Subverted: The CIA and the Filming of Animal Farm. Leab coedited ABC-CLIO's The Great Depression and the New Deal Thematic Encyclopedia.


"This is a timely volume that should appeal to everyone seeking to understand economic recessions and depressions. . . . Recommended."—Choice, July 1, 2014

"This noteworthy set encompasses the 14 largest and most important economic downturns in U.S. history, from the 'Critical Period' following the Revolutionary War to the recent 'Great Recession' of 2008–9. The Encyclopedia of American Recessions and Depressions presents all the wild market fluctuations from American history in readable prose, expansive coverage, and solid scholarship."—Booklist, June 1, 2014

"The writers handle complex topics with clarity, and for students in high school or at small colleges the primary works will be extremely useful. However, it’s the 'short entries' that raise this above similar references. . . . Recommended."—Library Journal, April 15, 2014

"[T]hose in need of the basic facts behind economic downturns that have plagued the United States over the years will find a richly woven tapestry unrolled before them. . . . [T]he kind of writing that makes history come alive. Therefore, this set is recommended for purchase by all public and academic libraries."—ARBA, April 1, 2014

"This reviewer finds this encyclopedia fascinating for the information and depth of coverage that it provides about the regularly occurring economic downturns and the regularly recurring reasons for those downturns. . . . The readable style – even with a number of contributors – is also important. The insights provided into our economic history help in our understanding of today’s events."—Reference Reviews, October 1, 2014
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