I just watched a video lecture that was send to me by the Notre Dame Alumni Association. Professor Christopher Waller, the Gilbert Schaefer Chair of Economics at the University of Notre Dame explained the causes of the recent financial crisis. He started with the history of the Great Depression and explained the chain of events that lead to the present situation.
His lecture was given the day after the bailout was signed, so his take on how the bailout will work is a little dated. For example: he did think the Fed should inject equity into the banks and recapitalize them. However, it turns out that is exactly what the Fed did.
The lecture was enlightening. I recommend it to anyone interested in knowing this crisis came about.
You can read a summary of the presentation or watch the complete video (You Tube).