Friday, April 19, 2013

Colored Assumptions

Reading the home-ownership data in the 20th C over at Old Urbanist (via Maggie's), there is a leveling, an interruption of a clear trend, during the 1930’s.  People automatically think “Oh, the Great Depression.  Of course.”  All graphs of anything running from the 1920’s through about 1950, people familiar with modern history just overwrite the general interpretations on top of everything: Oh, the Roaring Twenties before the crash.  Oh, the Great Depression.   Oh, WWII.  Oh, the Postwar Uncertainty and Boom.  Usually, those are framings that do help us to understand what we are seeing. Each was huge, and moved a lot of earth in front of it in economics, culture, education, and internal migration.

But I imagine we resort to those explanations too easily.  There were other, secular changes in transportation and communications, for example, that pretty much ran their own course, merely getting bumped around by the supposed big events. I think we find over time that those were the real Big Events.


james said...

It seems as though the corridors of power aren't usually sources of Big Things, except for destructive ones. You can find a healthy minority of exceptions.

I notice that quite a few of the migration patterns described in the comments are side effects of government policies.

Big Things like the jeep don't always get the same fame as the generals.

I remember a National Geographic article on "The Laser", marveling at the things it could do, and wishing I could get one--but with no optical table to set it up on it seemed hopeless. How many do you have in your house now?

Sam L. said...

We hear about the BIG things, and the "little" ones make changes under the radar and while we're not looking.