interwar usa

With Europe exhausted from World War I (1914–1918), the United States became the world leader in industrial progress. New energy sources of oil and electricity fueled newly mechanized industrial production systems. As a result, an increasingly mechanized United States greatly influenced developments in Europe and the rest of the world. World modernization arrived Americanized.  

 

The decades of the 1920s and 1930s were separated from the past and the future by two catastrophic world wars. Frequently the two decades are contrasted. The 1920s are known as a period of economic boom - the 'Roaring Twenties'. The 1930s are mostly associated with the economic hardships of the Great Depression and FDR's New Deal economy. They were far more similar to each other, however, than to any other time period before or after. Major trends begun in the 1920s were carried through the 1930s, only colored by economic difficulties.

 

For many Americans their daily lives were not drastically different between the two decades. Just as not all people experienced the great prosperity of the 1920s, not all people suffered severely through the 1930s. In terms of overall traits, the two decades shared more in common than is often acknowledged. Together they represented a period of dramatic change in U.S. society involving economics, politics, technology, the arts, and general lifestyle.

The Roaring Twenties

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- Watch CCWH and answer qs on left

- Read the article above and outline what the Roaring Twenties were and how did they affect American society....

Who benefitted from the Roaring 20s?

Although the USA did not enter World War One until April 1917, the conflict cast a shadow over American society that would take a while to pass. There was a brief economic recession at the start of the 1920s, but, as the decade moved on, the economy boomed and America began the age of consumerism - many Americans bought cars, radios, fridges etc. Major cities such as New York and Chicago grew rapidly and the building of skyscrapers like the Empire State Building, which was completed in 1931, seemed to show the self-confidence of American society.

The 1920s were prosperous for some.  At the same time, many Americans wanted to enjoy themselves as much as they could by perhaps listening to the new jazz music, or doing the new dances such as the charleston and the black bottom. Crowds flocked to watch film stars like Charlie Chaplin and baseball stars like Babe Ruth. The emphasis on having fun and spending money has led to the 1920s being called the Roaring Twenties.

However, for many Americans, the 1920s was a decade of poverty. Generally, groups such as African-Americans, women and farmers did not enjoy the prosperity of the Roaring Twenties. More than 40 per cent of Americans lived just below the poverty line. Life was particularly hard for African-Americans in the Deep South states where the majority of black people endured a combination of poverty and racism. Although some women were able to enjoy more independence and wear the latest fashions, the reality was that most women were poorly paid and were employed in roles such as cleaners or waitresses.

Economic Crisis

  • The stock market crash of 1929 was one of the worst in U.S. history. 

  • The three key trading dates of the crash were Black Thursday, Black Monday, and Black Tuesday. The latter two days were among the four worst days the Dow has ever seen, by percentage decline.

  • Overconfidence during the Roaring Twenties created an unsustainable stock market bubble.

  • Overnight, many people lost their businesses and life savings, setting the stage for the Great Depression.

  • The Great Depression was the worst economic downturn in US history. It had already begun by 1930 but then deepened and continued through the 1930s.

  •  By 1933, unemployment was at 25% and more than 5,000 banks had gone bust.

  • Although President Hoover attempted to spark growth in the economy through measures like the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, these measures did little.

  • Franklin Roosevelt was elected president in November 1932 & his New Deal offered a new approach to the Great Depression.

Using the two Word documents above, outline the main causes of:

- The Wall Street Crash of October 1929

- the Great Depression

( NOTE - these are two different events!!)

Economic Recovery

  • The New Deal was a set of domestic policies enacted under President Franklin D. Roosevelt that dramatically expanded the federal government’s role in the economy in response to the Great Depression.

  • It utilised emergent supply side economic theory that later became known as Keynesian economics after the economist John Maynard Keynes whose key work “The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money" was published in 1936 and who came to represent this new branch of economic theory.

  • This explained how government action and involvement in the economy through increased public sector spending was a positive, as opposed to the non-involvement doctrine of laissez-faire economics that had dominated the Roaring Twenties economy in the USA over the previous 15 years.

  • Historians commonly speak of a First New Deal (1933-1934), with the “alphabet soup” of relief and recovery, and the agencies this created, and a Second New Deal (1935-1938) that offered further legislative reforms and created the groundwork for today’s modern social welfare system.

  • It was the massive military expenditures of World War II, not the New Deal, that eventually pulled the United States out of the Great Depression.

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