Before the Roar: U.S. Unemployment Relief after World War I and the Long History of a Paternalist Welfare Policy

JOURNAL OF AMERICAN HISTORY 101.4 (2015): 97-121

Daniel Amsterdam reveals shortcomings in how scholars have written about the American welfare state by tracing the history of U.S. unemployment relief from the antebellum period through the early 1930s. Along the way, he unearths the long roots of Herbert Hoover’s highly scrutinized “associative” approach to mass joblessness and shows that federal involvement in unemployment relief and what is now called stimulus spending began earlier than historians generally portray. Finally, by examining local relief campaigns during the depression of the early 1920s, he calls into question prevailing wisdom regarding corporate social politics during the so-called New Era.