Chapter 15: Years of Crisis 1919-1939 By: Savannah dishman

Section 1: Postwar Uncertainty-

The horrors of World War I shattered the Enlightenment belief that progress would continue and reason would prevail. People began questioning traditional beliefs in the postwar period. Some found answers in new scientific developments which challenged the way people looked at the world. As society became more open women demanded more rights and young people adopted new values. Unconventional styles and ideas in literature, philosophy, and music reflected the uncertain times.

1. A New Revolution in Science- Albert Einstein's and Sigmund Freud's ideas had an enormous impact on the 20th century. They were part of a scientific revolution.

A.) Impact of Einstein's Theory of Relativity- Albert Einstein was a German-born physicist who offered startling new ideas on space, time, energy, and matter. Scientists discovered that light travels at exactly the same speed no matter what direction it moves in relation to earth. In 1905, Einstein theorized that while the speed of light is constant, other things that seem constant (ex; space and time) are not. Space and time change when measured relative to an object moving near the speed of light--- about 186,000 miles per second. Einstein's ideas were called the theory of relativity because relative motion is the key. They had implications not only for science but also for how people viewed the world.

B.) Influence of Freudian Psychology- Sigmund Freud was an Austrian Physician who's ideas were as revolutionary as Einstein's. Freud treated patients with psychological problems and he constructed a theory about the human mind. He believed that much of human behavior is irrational/beyond reason. He called the irrational part of the mind the unconscious. There, the number of drives existed of which the conscious mind was unaware. His ideas weakened faith in reason. By the 1920's his theories had developed widespread influence.

Picture of a brain to illustrate his work as a psychologist

2.) Literature in the 1920s- the brutality of World War I caused philosophers and writers to question accepted ideas about the reason and progress. Many people also feared the future and expressed doubts about traditional religious beliefs. Some writers and thinkers expressed their anxieties by creating disturbing visions of the present and the future. In 1922, T.S. Eliot (an American poet that lived in England and wrote that Western society had lost its spiritual values. He also described the postwar world as a barren "wasteland" drained of hope/faith. In 1921, William Butler Yeats (an Irish poet) conveyed a sense of dark times ahead in the poem "The Second Coming".

A.) Writers Reflect Society's Concerns- The horror of the war made a deep impression on many writers. Franz Kafka (Czech-born author) wrote eerie novels that featured people caught in threatening situations they cannot understand or escape. These struck a chord among readers during the uneasy postwar years. Many novels showed the influence of Freud's theories on the unconscious. James Joyce (Irish-born author) gained widespread attention with his stream-of-consciousness novel which focused on a single day in the lives of three people in Dublin, Ireland. Joyce broke with normal sentence structure and vocabulary in a bold attempt to mirror the workings of the human mind.

B.) Thinkers React to Uncertainties- Some thinkers in their search for meaning in an uncertain world turned to the philosophy known as existentialism. Jean Paul Sartre was a major leader of this movement. Existentialists believed that there is no universal meaning to life. Each person creates their own meaning in life through choices and actions. They were influenced by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. In the 1880's he wrote that the western ideas (reason, democracy, and progress) had stifled peoples creativity/actions. He urged a return to ancient heroic values of pride, assertiveness, and strength. His ideas attracted growing attention in the 20th century had a great impact on politics in Italy and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s.

3.) Revolution in the Arts- Many of the new directions in painting/music began in the prewar period but they evolved after the war.

A.) Artists Rebel Against Tradition- Artists rebelled against earlier realistic styles of painting and they wanted to depict the inner world of emotion/imagination rather than showing realistic representations of objects. Expressionist painters like Paul Klee & Wassily Kandinsky used bold colors/distorted/exaggerated forms. Georges Braque (France) and Pablo Picasso (Spain), inspired by traditional African art, founded Cubism in 1907. Cubism transformed natural shapes into geometric forms and objects were broken down into different parts with sharp angles and edges. Surrealism, an art movement that sought to link the world of dreams with real life, was inspired by Freud's ideas. Surreal means beyond/above reality. Surrealists tried to call on the unconscious part of their minds and many of their paintings have an eerie, dreamlike quality & depict objects in unrealistic ways.

Geometric shapes (building)

B.) Composers Try New Styles- In Classical and popular music composers moved away from traditional styles. In his ballet masterpiece the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky used irregular rhythms/dissonances, or harsh combinations of sound. The Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg rejected traditional harmonies/musical scales. A new popular music called jazz emerged in the U.S. It was developed by musicians in New Orleans, Memphis and Chicago. It swept the U.S. and Europe and the lively, loose beat of jazz seemed to capture the new freedom of the age.


4.) Society Challenges Convention- WWI disrupted traditional social patterns. New ideas & ways of life led to a new kind of individual freedom during the 1920's. Young people were especially willing to break with the past and experiment with modern values.

A.) Women's Roles Change- The independent spirit of the times showed clearly in the changes women were making in their lives. The war had allowed women to take on new roles. Their work in the war effort was decisive in helping them win the right to vote. After the war women's suffrage became law in many countries including the U.S., Britain, Germany, Sweden, and Austria. Women abandoned restrictive clothing and hairstyles. They wore shorter/looser garments and had their hair "bobbed" (cut short), and wore makeup, drove cars, drank, and smoked in public. Most women still followed traditional paths of marriage and family (a growing # spoke for greater freedom in their lives). Margaret Sanger & Emma Goldman risked arrest by speaking in favor of birth control. As women sought new careers the # of women in medicine, education, journalism, and others professions increased.

5.) Technological Advances Improve Life- In WWI scientists developed new drugs & medical treatments that helped millions of people in the postwar years. The wars technological advances were put to use to improve transportation & communication after the war.

A.) The Automobile Alters Society- the automobile benefitted from a host of wartime innovations and improvements -- electric starters, air-filled tires, and more powerful engines. In prewar Britain autos were owned exclusively by the rich. British factories produced 34,000 autos in 1913. After the war prices dropped and the middle class could afford cars also. By 1937, the British were producing 511,000 autos a year. Increased auto use by the average family led to lifestyle changes. In Europe & the U.S. new businesses opened to serve the mobile tourist and the auto also affected where people lived and worked and people moved to suburbs and commuted to work in the cities.

B.) Airplanes Transform Travel- International air travel became an objective after the war. In 1919, two British pilots made the first successful flight across the Atlantic, from Newfoundland to Ireland. In 1927, an American pilot named Charles Lindbergh captured world attention with a 33-hour solo flight from New York to Paris. Most of the worlds major passenger airlines were established during the 1920's. Amelia Earhart- an American who in 1932 became the first women to fly solo across the Atlantic.

C. Radio and Movies Dominate Popular Entertainment- Guglielmo Marconi conducted his first successful experiments with radio in 1895. The real push for radio development came during WWI. In 1920, the worlds first commercial radio station -- KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-- began broadcasting. Every major city had stations broadcasting news, plays, and even live sporting events. Motion pictures were also a major industry in the 1920's. Many countries (Cuba to Japan) produced movies. In Europe film was a serious art form but in the Hollywood district of LA, where 90% of all films were made, movies were entertainment. The king of Hollywood's silent screen was an english-born Charlie Chaplin. In the late 1920's the addition of sound transformed movies. The advances in transportation & communication that followed the war had brought the world in closer touch. Global prosperity came to depend on the economy well-being of all major nations, especially the U.S.

Section 2: A Worldwide Depression

By the late 1920's European nations were rebuilding war-torn economies. They were aided by loans from the more prosperous U.S. Only the U.S. & Japan came out of the war in better financial shape than before. Americans seemed confident that the country would continue on the road to even greater economic prosperity and one sign of this was the booming stock market. However the American economy had serious weaknesses that were soon to bring about the most severe economic downturn the world had yet known.

1.) Postwar Europe- The cost of WWI was immense. The Great War left every major European country nearly bankrupt and Europe's domination in world affairs declined after the war.

A.) Unstable New Democracies- At the end of the war the rise of of new democracies rose. From 1914 to 1918, Europe's last absolute rulers had been overthrown and in 1917 the first of the new governments was formed. The Provisional Government hoped to establish Constitutional & Democratic rule but within months it had fallen to a Communist dictatorship. Most had Democratic governments and the citizens of the new democracies had little experience with representative governments. Some countries had a dozen or more political groups and it was almost impossible for 1 party to win enough support to govern effectively. When no party won a majority a coalition government, or temporary alliance of several parties, was needed to form a parliamentary majority. Frequent changes in government made it hard for democratic countries to develop strong leadership & move toward long-term goals.

2.) The Weimar Republic- Germany's new democratic government was set up in 1919 known as Weimar Republic (named after city where the national assembly met). It had serious weaknesses from the start and Germany lacked a strong democratic tradition. Postwar Germany had several major political parties & many minor ones.

A.) Inflation Causes Crisis in Germany- Germany also faced enormous economic problems that had begun during the war and had not greatly increased its wartime taxes. To pay the expenses of the war the Germans printed money. After they lost the war this money lost its value. Germany printed even more money. As a result Germany's currency fell sharply and severe inflation set in. Germans needed more and more money to buy basic goods.

B.) Attempts at Economic Stability- Germany recovered from the 1923 inflation because of the work of an international committee. The committee was headed by Charles Dawes (an American banker). The Dawes Plan provided for a $200 million loan from American banks to stabilize German currency & strengthen its economy and also set a more realistic schedule for Germany's reparations payments. Put into effect in 1924, the Dawes Plan helped slow inflation. By 1929, German factories were producing as much as they had before the war.

C.) Efforts at a Lasting Peace- As prosperity returned Germany's foreign minister Gustav Stresemann and Frances foreign minister Aristide Briand and tried to improve relations between their countries. In 1925, the two ministers met in Locarno, Switzerland with officials from Belgium, Italy, and Britain. They signed a treaty promising that France & Germany would never again make war against each other. In 1928 the hopes raised by the "spirit of Larcano" led to the Kellogg-Briand peace pact. Frank Kellogg (U.S. Secretary of State) arranged this agreement with France's briand and almost every country in the world including the Soviet Union signed. They pledged "to renounce war as an instrument of national policy. The treaty had no means to enforce its provisions and the League of Nations had no armed forces. The refusal of the U.S. to join the league weakened it.

3.) Financial Collapse- In the late 1920's American economic prosperity largely sustained the world economy and if the U.S. economy weakened the worlds economic system might collapse, in 1929 it did.

A.) A Flawed U.S. Economy- Several weaknesses in the U.S. economy caused serious problems such as uneven distribution of wealth, overproduction by business and agriculture, and the fact that many Americans were buying less. By 1929, American factories were turning out nearly half of the worlds industrial goods. The rising productivity led to enormous profits and this new wealth was not evenly distributed. Most families were too poor to buy the goods being produced and store owners cut back their orders from factories. Factories reduced production and laid off workers. A downward economic spiral began. In the 1920's overproduction affected American farmers as well. As a result, a worldwide surplus of agricultural products drove prices & profits down. The farmers unable to sell their crops as a profit many farmers could not pay off the bank loans so the banks were weakened and closed down.

B.) The Stock Market Crashes- In 1929, New York City's Wall Street was the financial capital of the world and BAnks and investment companies lined its sidewalks. At Wall Streets New York Stock Exchange, made soaring prices for stocks. Many middle-income people started buying stocks on margin. They paid a small % of the stocks price as a down payment and borrowed the rest from a stockbroker. It worked well as long as the stocks prices were rising. In September 1929, some investors began to think that stock prices were unnaturally high. They started selling their stocks -- caused an downhill slide & panic. The market collapsed.

4.) The Great Depression- People couldn't pay the money they owed on margin purchases. Stocks bought at high prices were worthless. Unemployment rates rose as industrial production, prices, and wages declined. Great Depression (long business slump) followed. The stock market crash alone didn't cause the Great Depression, it quickened the collapse of the economy and make it harder. By 1932, factory production had been cut in half and about 9 million people had lost their money in their savings account. By 1933, 1/4th of all American workers had no jobs.

Picture taken during the Great Depression, shows how bad things really were at the time.

A.) A Global Depression- The collapse of the American economy sent shock waves around the world and worried American bankers demanded repayment of their overseas loans and American investors withdrew their money from Europe. The American market for European goods dropped sharply as the U.S. Congress placed high tariffs on imported goods. The policy backfired and conditions worsened for the U.S. Many countries that depended on exporting goods to the U.S. also suffered. World trade dropped by 65%.

B.) Effects Throughout the World- Because of the war debts & dependence on American loans & investments. Germany & Austria were particularly hard hit. IN 1931, Austria's largest bank failed and in Asia both farmers and urban workers suffered because the value of exports fell by half between 1929 & 1931. The crash was felt heavily in Latin America and as European and the U.S. demanded for the Latin American products as sugar, beef, & copper dropped, prices collapsed.

5.) The World Confronts the Crisis- The Depression confronted democracies with a serious challenge to their economic & political systems and each country met the crisis in its own way.

A.) Britain Takes Steps to Improve Its Economy- The Depression hit Britain severely and as a result British voters elected a multiparty coalition known as the National Government. It passed high tariffs, increased taxes, regulated the currency, and lowered the interest rates to encourage industrial growth. This brought a slow & steady recovery. By 1937, unemployment had been cut in half & production rose above 1929 levels. Britain avoided political extremes and preserved democracy.

B.) France Responds to Economic Crisis- France had a more self-sufficient economy than Britain. In 1930, it was still heavily agricultural & less dependent on foreign trade. By 1935, 1 million French workers were unemployed and the economic crisis contributed to political instability. In 1933, 5 coalition governments formed and fell. Many political leaders were frightened by the growth of anti-democratic forces in both in France & in other parts of Europe. In 1936, moderates, Socialists, and Communists formed a coalition. The popular front passed a series of reforms to help the workers but price increases quickly offset wage gains. Unemployment remained high. France also preserved democratic government.

C.) Socialist Governments Find Solutions- The Socialists governments in the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway also met the challenge of economic crisis successfully. They built their recovery programs on an existing tradition of cooperative community action. In Sweden the government sponsored massive public works projects that kept people employed & producing. The Scandinavian countries raised pensions for the elderly and increased unemployment insurance, subsidies for housing and other welfare benefits. To pay for these benefits the government taxed all citizens, Democracy remained intact.

D.) Recovery in the United States- In 1932, the 1st U.S. president election after the Depression had begun and U.S. voters elected Franklin D. Roosevelt. His confident manner appealed to millions that felt bewildered by the Depression. On March 4, 1933, the new president sought to restore Americans faith in their nation. He began a program of government reform called the New Deal. The New Deal eventually did reform the American economic system. His leadership preserved the country's faith in its democratic political system.

Section 3: Fascism Rises in Europe

Many democracies including the U.S., Britain, & France remained strong despite the economic crisis caused by the Great Depression. Millions of people lost faith in democratic government. They turned to an extreme system of government called fascism. Fascists promised to revive the economy and punish those responsible for hard times, and restore order & national pride.

1.) Fascism's Rise in Italy- Fascism was a new militant political movement that emphasized loyalty to the state & obedience to its leader. Fascism had no clearly defined theory/program. They believed that nations must struggle-- peaceful states were doomed to be conquered. They wore uniforms in a certain color, used special salutes, and held mass rallies. It was similar to communism.

A.) Mussolini Takes Control- Fascism's rise in Italy was fueled by bitter disappointment over the failure to win large territorial gains in the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. Rising inflation and unemployment also contributed to widespread social unrest. To growing numbers of Italians the democratic government seemed helpless to deal with the country's problems and they wanted a leader to take action. A newspaper editor & politician named Benito Mussolini boldly promised to rescue Italy by reviving its economy & rebuilding its armed forces, and vowed to give Italy strong leadership. He founded the Fascist Party in 1919. As economic conditions worsened his popularity rapidly increased. In October 1922, about 30,000 Fascists marched on Rome, they demanded the King put Mussolini in charge. The king decided this was the best hope and Mussolini took power.

B.) II Duce's Leadership- Mussolini was now II Duce or the leader. He abolished democracy and outlawed all political parties except the Fascists. Mussolini outlawed strikes and sought to control the economy by allying the Fascists with the industrialists and large landowners but he never had the total control achieved by Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union or Adolf Hitler in Germany.

2.) Hitler Rises to Power in Germany- Mussolini became dictator of Italy in the mid-1920's Adolf Hitler was a little known political leader whose early life had been marked by disappointment. When World War I broke out Hitler found a new beginning and volunteered for the volunteered for the German Army and was awarded the Iron Cross (medal for bravery) two times.


A.) The Rise of the Nazis- At the end of the war, Hitler settled in Munich. In 1919 he joined a tiny right-wing political group and shared his belief that Germany had to overturn the Treaty of Versailles & combat communism. The group named itself the National Socialist German Workers Party called Nazi for short. Its policies formed the German brand of fascism known as Nazism. The party adopted swastika or hooked cross as its symbol. He was later chosen as the leader of the Nazi's. He was arrested and served less than 9 months. While in prison he wrote Mein Kampf. He also declared that Germany was overcrowded and needed more lebensraum (living space). After leaving prison in 1924 he revived the Nazi Party.

3. Hitler becomes Chancellor- The Nazis had become the largest political party by 1932 and conservative leaders mistakenly believed that they could control Hitler and use him for their purposes. In January 1933 they advised President Paul von Hindenburg to name Hitler chancellor and Hitler came to power legally.

A.) The Fuhrer Is Supreme- Hitler wanted more than just economic & political power, he wanted control over every aspect of German life. He turned the press, radio, literature, painting and film into propaganda tools.

B.) Hitler Makes War on the Jews- Hatred of Jews, or anti-Semitism was a key part of Nazi ideology. Jews were less than 1 percent of the population but Nazis used them as scapegoats for all Germany's troubles since the war. This led to a wave of anti-Semitism across Germany. Beginning in 1933 the Nazis passed the laws depriving Jews of most of their rights and violence against Jews mounted. On the night of November 9, 1938 Nazi mobs attacked Jews in their homes and on the streets and destroyed thousands of Jewish-owned buildings.

4.) Other Countries Fall to Dictators- While Fascists took power in Italy & Germany the nations formed in eastern Europe after WWI were also falling to dictators. In Hungary in 1919 after a brief Communist regime the military forces and wealthy landowners joined together to make Admiral Miklos Jozef Pilaudski the 1st European postwar dictator. By the mid-1930's the powerful nations of the world were split into 2 antagonistic camps-- democratic and totalitarian.

Section 4: Aggressors Invade Nations

By the mid-1930's Germany & Italy seemed bent on military conquest. The major democracies-- Britain, France, and the U.S.-- were distracted by economic problems at home & longed to remain at peace.

1.) Japan Seeks an Empire- During the 1920s the Japanese gov. became more democratic. In 1922, Japan signed an international treaty agreeing to respect Chinas borders. In 1928 it signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact renouncing war. Japans parliamentary system had several weaknesses but its constitution put strict limits on the powers of the prime minister and the cabinet. Civilian leaders had little control over the armed forces. Military leaders reported only to the emperor.

map of japan

A.) Militarists Take Control of Japan- When the Great Depression started in 1929, many Japanese said the government was to blame. Military leaders soon took over the country. They aimed to restore control of the government to the military. The militarists made the emperor the symbol of state power. They wanted to solve the country's economic problems through foreign expansion and planned a Pacific empire that included a conquered China. The empire would provide Japan with raw materials & markets for its goods and give Japan room for its rising population.

B.) Japan Invades Manchuria- Japanese businesses had invested in China's northeast province, Manchuria. It was rich in iron & coal. In 1931 the Japanese army seized it and the army set up a puppet gov. The attack was the 1st direct challenge to the League of Nations. The League consisted of 3 nations: Germany, Japan, Italy. Japan withdrew from the League in 1933.

2.) European Aggressors on the March- Seeing the League's failure to stop the Japanese, European fascists were encouraged to make plans of their own. Mussolini dreamed of building an empire in Africa.

A.) Mussolini Attacks Ethiopia- Ethiopia was one of Africa's 3 independent nations. The Ethiopians had successfully resisted an Italian attempt at conquest during the 1890's. He ordered a mass invasion of Ethiopia (Oct. 1935) and the spears and they spears/swords of the Ethiopians were no match fir Italian airplanes, tanks, guns, and poison gas. The emperor appealed to the League for help and its members did nothing.

B.) Hitler Defies Versailles Treaty- Hitler had long pledged to undo the Versailles Treaty (limited size of Germany's army). March 1935, the Fuhrer announced that Germany wouldn't obey these restrictions. The League's failure to stop Germany from rearming convinced Hitler to take greater risks. March 7, 1936 German troops moved into the Rhineland and the French were unwilling to risk war. The British urged appeasement - giving into a aggressor to keep peace. Germany, Italy, and Japan came to be called the Axis Powers.

3.) Democratic Nations Try to Preserve Peace- instead of taking a stand against Fascist aggression in the 1930's Britain and France made concessions hoping to keep peace. Both were dealing with serious economic problems because of the Great Depression.

A.) U.S. Follows an Isolationist Policy- Many Americans supported Isolationism- the belief that political ties to other countries should be avoided. In 1935, Congress passed 3 Neutrality Acts that banned loans and the sell of arms to nations at war.

B.) The German Reich Expands- On Nov. 5, 1937, Hitler announced his plans to absorb Austria & Czechoslavakia into the Third Reich ( German Empire). March 1938, he sent his army into Austria and annexed it. France & Britain ignored their pledge to protect Austrian independence. Hitler turned to Czechoslovakia and in Sep. 1938, Hitler demanded that the Sudentenland be given to Germany and the Czechs refused and asked France for help.

C.) Britain and France Again Choose Appeasement- France & Britain were preparing for war when Mussolini proposed a meeting of Germany, France, Britain, and Italy in Germany. The Munich Conference was held on Sep. 29, 1938. The Czechs weren't invited and Britain & France agreed that Hitler could take Sudentenland. Hitler took Czechoslovakia. Mussolini seized Albania.

D.) Nazis and Soviets Sign Nonaggression Pact- Britain & France asked the Soviet Union to join them in stopping Hitlers aggression. As Stalin talked with Britain and France he also bargained with Hitler. They reached an agreement and Fascist Germany and Communist Russia publicly pledged never to attack one another. August 23, 1939, their leaders signed a nonaggression pact and the Axis Powers moved unchecked at the end of the decade. War appeared inevitable.

By: Savannah Dishman


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