25 Sep 2016

The Great Depression and 'the broken decade'

From Standing Room Only, 12:16 pm on 25 September 2016

Swaggers, sugarbags, special constables and the Queen Street Riots - The Depression of the 1930s were grim years in our history.

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Photo: Wikicommons

They are remembered in a new book by  Malcolm McKinnon who takes us back to what he calls The Broken Decade.

The late 1920s had been prosperous, and the late 1930s saw a determined effort to return New Zealand to those good times. But in between, the depression years took a massive toll on many thousands of people struggling to house and feed their families.

The Broken Decade unpicks the Depression year by year. It begins by introducing wealthy New Zealand in the 20s before focusing on the sudden onset of the Depression in 1930–31, the catastrophic months that followed and, finally, on the attempt to find a way back to that pre-Depression prosperity.

Malcolm McKinnon

Malcolm McKinnon Photo: supplied

The desperate struggles experienced by many for work, food and shelter during the 1930s eventually gave way to the sunny post-war years, when the Depression was no more than a memory.

Professor McKinnon shares with Lynn Freeman some heartbreaking personal stories and also delves into the lesser-known political manoeuvrings behind the Great Depression.