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“The Troubled Roar of the Waters”
Vermont in Flood and Recovery, 1927-1931
Deborah Pickman Clifford, Nicholas R. Clifford



Revisiting New England

University of New Hampshire Press
2007 • 258 pp. 26 illus. 6 x 9"
New England History


$29.95 Hardcover, 978-1-58465-654-8



"For anyone who has written or who wants to write state-level history “The Troubled Roar of the Waters” is a model of success.—Vermont History

A timely look at the Vermont flood of 1927 as a window on the history of America in the 1920s

In their new book, Deborah Pickman Clifford and Nicholas R. Clifford revisit the devastating flood that wreaked unprecedented destruction on New England in November 1927. Vermont sustained the greatest damage by far, with eighty-four deaths (or three-quarters of the total casualties) and property losses totaling thirty to forty million in 1927 dollars (more than eighty-six dollars for every man, woman, and child then in the state). These losses were proportionally far higher than the corresponding ones suffered in the regions ravaged by the huge Mississippi floods earlier that year. In these pre-FEMA years and in true Green Mountain State style, Vermonters by and large had to confront the emergency on their own, and this at a time when the boom of the mid and late 1920s had largely bypassed Vermont, a rural state with little industry and a stagnant population.

Contrary to popular belief, however,Vermont did accept federal, Red Cross, and other outside assistance. “The Troubled Roar of the Waters” is the story of the flood, the formation and work of emergency relief committees, the efforts to rebuild in a harsh climate, and the ways in which the disaster fundamentally affected the state’s political and social development.

Though the 1920s traditionally have been represented primarily as a prelude to the Depression and the New Deal, new scholarship sees the nation entering a period of rapid and unnerving change in these years. Cities and suburbs mushroomed, the automobile revolutionized society, new and larger forms of business and industry flourished, and tensions mounted between new immigrants and the “old stock.” The Cliffords build on this, using public and private archival collections to inform their riveting story, fleshing out the historical record and adding key perspectives to this broader emerging debate over how the decade is viewed. For specialists and general readers alike, the authors place the story of the 1927 flood within the larger context of early twentieth-century American history, establishing the event and its aftermath as emblematic of the age.”

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews:

"This book tells the story of the flood, the formation and work of emergency relief committees, the efforts to rebuild in a harsh climate, and the ways in which the disaster fundamentally affected the state's political and social development."—Natural Hazards Observer

"Vermonters reacted to the challenge of post-flood recovery by invoking their own brand of exceptionalism: "the state's tradition of self-reliance and its reluctance to accept charity." That ideology was epitomized by Governor John Weeks's defiant, postdiluvian declaration, that "Vermont can take care of its own." The authors point out that this stubbornness and sense of independence was mingled with nativism and, at times, eugenic ideas. Vermont did largely take care of its own . . . This is a thoroughly researched and well-written analysis of a modern catastrophe that is based on an abundance of archival and published sources."—Journal of American History

"For anyone who has written or who wants to write state-level history The Troubled Roar of the Waters is a model of success. Not only is it written in a lively style that makes complex stories accessible to a range of readers, it combines an appreciation for the uniqueness of Vermont history with an appreciation for its connections to broader historical trends. In this respect, it is a book that should make Vermonters feel proud of their heritage, both in terms of their responses to the flood itself and their ongoing importance to the history of land and life in rural America.—Vermont History

Endorsements:

"In The Troubled Roar of the Waters historians Deborah and Nicholas Clifford bring to life Vermont's perfect storm: the dreadful days in November of 1927 when torrential rains turned an unseasonably warm autumn into an aqueous nightmare, and the Green Mountain State found itself covered by a 'cube of water more than a mile high a mile long, and a mile broad,' according to meteorologists at the time. The Cliffords chronicle both the wreckage—swollen rivers dragging bridges, railway lines, houses, barns, animals, and people downstream to destruction—and the recovery, managed by a cast of gritty Vermonters who strove with heroic efficiency to return their state to working order. The Troubled Roar of Waters is an 'educational epic' which shows Vermont as both a singular state and an emblematic one, like all the others in the nation, on the brink of an even farther-reaching disaster, the Great Depression, which would force America to reform its ways of governing. The country itself would turn, as did Vermont in its moment of reckoning, from a collection of localities determined to 'take care of their own,' to a people practicing a democracy not of independence but of interdependence. Teeming with vivid details and useful insights, the Cliffords' narrative is a model of micro-history, giving us a small world entire."—Megan Marshall, The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism

"This is first-rate history—meticulously researched, well organized, clearly written, insightful. Deftly placing the Vermont of 1927 in both its national and its historical context, the authors ask intriguing questions of their material and provide or suggest thoughtful answers. The book's overall quality invites comparison with David McCullough's outstanding study of the Johnstown flood of 1889."—William B. Catton, Professor of History, Emeritus, Middlebury College

Awards/Recognition:

Richard Hathaway Award from the Vermont Historical Society 2008


DEBORAH PICKMAN CLIFFORD (d. 2008) was a New England historian and the author of The Passion of Abby Hemenway (Vermont Historical Society, 2001, distributed by UPNE). NICHOLAS R. CLIFFORD has taught history at MIT, Princeton, and Middlebury and is the author of six previous books.






Fri, 21 Feb 2014 10:53:59 -0500