Robert S. McElvaine (born in 1947) is a professor at Millsaps College in Mississippi. He's enjoyed a wildly successful and lengthy career as a historian, specializing in the Great Depression. In fact he is one of hte world's leading experts upon that period of U.S. history. He has written two massive books upon the subject: The Great Depression: America, 1929-1941 and Down and out in the Great Depression: Letters from the "Forgotten Man." He's also made over 70 public appearances as an expert in his field. Based upon his reception in the public sphere, McElvaine has bridged academia and pop culture as a consultant on various artistic and historical projects.
The Great Depression: America, 1929-1941 is McElvaine's second book. In this volume, he traces the connections between culture and economy during the Great Depression, in an attempt to speculate about the cause of the disaster. This book is considered interpretative history, meaning McElvaine is presenting an argument, which in this case, is support for the "demand-side" theory which proposes that unequally distributed income left most Americans without enough disposable income to sustain the product-driven economy. He supports this argument through data, narrative accounts of historical events, and firsthand accounts of private citizens who survived the Depression.
The book has been well received both critically and by the general public. Because of the ambitious scope of the project, The Great Depression: America, 1929-1941 remains one of the single most comprehensive sources of historical commentary upon the Great Depression. McElvaine, despite his professional achievements, manages to write in a manner accessible to the layman as well as insightful for the staunch academic. With an additional edition, the book remains in print since its 1993 publication and continues to be a primary source of reference for scholars interested in that period of U.S. history to date.