Section 1: Postwar Uncertainty
A New Revolution in Science:
The ideas of Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud were important in the 20th century. These people were part of the scientific revolution.
Literature in the 1920's:
The Brutal killings in WWI caused people to question ideas of reason and progress. They then questioned religion because that is what a lot of people biased there reason on. Some writers tried to scare people by showing them disturbing visions of the present and the future. In 1922, T. S. Eliot, an American poet living in England, said the people have lost their spiritual values, said it was almost like they were in a wasteland with our hope and faith. In 1921, the Irish poet William Butler Yeats says there are dark time coming.
Writers Reflect Society’s Concerns: Many writers were horrified by the war. The Czech-born author Franz Kafka wrote eerie novels about it. His books were about people caught in threatening situations they can neither understand nor escape. Many of these novels showed the influence of unconscious. James Joyce gained attention with his stream of consciousness novel Ulysses (1922). This book focuses on a single day in the lives of three people in Dublin, Ireland. Joyce wrote this uniquely in a bold attempt to mirror the workings of the human mind.
Thinkers React to Uncertainties: Some thinkers now turned to existentialism. A major leader was Jean Paul Sartre. People started to believe that there is no meaning to life. Each person creates his or her own meaning in life through choices made and actions taken. In the 1880s, Nietzsche wrote that Western ideas such as reason, democracy, and progress had stifled people’s creativity and actions. Nietzsche urged a return to the ancient heroic values of pride, assertiveness, and strength. His ideas attracted attention because he had a great impact on politics in many places.
Artists Rebel Against Tradition: Artists rebelled against earlier styles of painting. They wanted to depict the inner world of emotion and imagination. Inspired by traditional African art, Georges Braque of France and Pablo Picasso of Spain founded Cubism in 1907. Cubism transformed natural shapes into geometric forms. Often several views were depicted at the same time. Surrealism, an art movement that sought to link the world of dreams with real life, was inspired by Freud’s ideas. Surrealists tried to call on the unconscious part of their minds. Many of their paintings have an eerie, dreamlike quality, looked unrealistic.
Motion pictures were also a major industry in the 1920s. Many countries, from Cuba to Japan, produced movies. In Europe movies was a serious art form and in the Hollywood district of Los Angeles movies were entertainment. The king of Hollywood’s silent screen was the English-born Charlie Chaplin, a comic genius best known for his portrayal of the lonely little tramp bewildered by life. In the late 1920s, the addition of sound transformed movies.
The advances in transportation and communication that followed the war had brought the world in closer touch. Global prosperity came to depend on the economic well-being of all major nations, especially the United States.
Section 2: A Worldwide Depression
By the late 1920s, European nations were rebuilding wartorn economies. They were aided by loans from the more prosperous United States. Only the United States and Japan came out of the war in better financial shape than before. In the United States, Americans seemed confident that the country would continue on the road to even greater economic prosperity. One sign of this was the booming stock market. Yet the American economy had serious weaknesses that were soon to bring about the most severe economic downturn the world had yet known.
In both human suffering and economic terms, the cost of World War I was great. The Great War left every major European country nearly bankrupt. In addition, Europe’s domination in world affairs declined after the war.
Inflation Causes Crisis in Germany: Germany also faced enormous economic problems that had begun during the war. Unlike Britain and France, Germany had not greatly increased its wartime taxes. To pay the expenses of the war, the Germans had simply printed money. Burdened with heavy reparations payments to the Allies and with other economic problems, Germany printed even more money. As a result, the value of the mark, as Germany’s currency was called, fell sharply. Severe inflation set in. Germans needed more and more money to buy even the most basic goods. People took wheelbarrows full of money to buy food. As a result, many Germans questioned the value of their new democratic government.
Attempts at Economic Stability: Germany recovered from the 1923 inflation thanks largely to the work of an international committee. The Dawes Plan provided for a $200 million loan from American banks to stabilize German currency and strengthen its economy. Put into effect in 1924, the Dawes Plan helped slow inflation. As the German economy began to recover, it attracted more loans and investments from the United States. By 1929, German factories were producing as much as they had before the war.
Efforts at a Lasting Peace: As prosperity returned, Germany’s foreign minister, Gustav Stresemann, and France’s foreign minister, Aristide Briand, tried to improve relations between their countries. In 1925, the two ministers met in Locarno, Switzerland, with officials from Belgium, Italy, and Britain. Germany also agreed to respect the existing borders of France and Belgium. It then was admitted to the League of Nations. In 1928, the hopes raised by the “spirit of Locarno” led to the Kellogg-Briand peace pact. Frank Kellogg, the U.S. Secretary of State, arranged this agreement with France’s Briand. They pledged “to renounce war as an instrument of national policy.” Unfortunately, the treaty had no means to enforce its provisions. The refusal of the United States to join the League also weakened it. Nonetheless, the peace agreements seemed a good start.
In the late 1920s, American economic prosperity largely sustained the world economy. If the U.S. economy weakened, the whole world’s economic system might collapse. In 1929, it did.
The Stock Market Crashes: In 1929, New York City’s Wall Street was the financial capital of the world. Banks and investment companies lined its sidewalks. At Wall Street’s New York Stock Exchange, optimism about the booming U.S. economy showed in soaring prices for stocks. This meant that they paid a small percentage of a stock’s price as a down payment and borrowed the rest from a stockbroker. However, if they fell, investors had no money to pay off the loan. In September 1929, some investors began to think that stock prices were unnaturally high. They started selling their stocks, believing the prices would soon go down. A panic resulted. Everyone wanted to sell stocks, and no one wanted to buy. A record 16 million stocks were sold. Then the market collapsed.
The Great Depression
People could not pay the money they owed on margin purchases. Stocks they had bought at high prices were now worthless. Within months of the crash, unemployment rates began to rise as industrial production, prices, and wages declined. A long business slump, which would come to be called the Great Depression, followed. By 1932, factory production had been cut in half. Thousands of businesses failed, and banks closed. Around 9 million people lost the money in their savings accounts when banks had no money to pay them. By 1933, one-fourth of all American workers had no jobs.
France Responds to Economic Crisis: In 1930, it was still heavily agricultural and less dependent on foreign trade. Nevertheless, by 1935, one million French workers were unemployed. The economic crisis contributed to political instability. In 1933, five coalition governments formed and fell. Many political leaders were frightened by the growth of antidemocratic forces both in France and in other parts of Europe. So in 1936, moderates, Socialists, and Communists formed a coalition. Unfortunately, price increases quickly offset wage gains. Unemployment remained high. Yet France also preserved democratic government.
Mussolini Takes Control: Fascism’s rise in Italy was fueled by bitter disappointment over the failure to win large territorial gains at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. Rising inflation and unemployment also contributed to widespread social unrest. A newspaper editor and politician named Benito Mussolini boldly promised to rescue Italy by reviving its economy and rebuilding its armed forces. Finally, Mussolini publicly criticized Italy’s government. Groups of Fascists wearing black shirts attacked Communists and Socialists on the streets. Because Mussolini played on the fear of a workers’ revolt, he began to win support from the middle classes, the aristocracy, and industrial leaders. In October 1922, about 30,000 Fascists marched on Rome. The king decided that Mussolini was the best hope for his dynasty to survive.
Il Duce’s Leadership: He abolished democracy and outlawed all political parties except the Fascists. Government censors forced radio stations and publications to broadcast or publish only Fascist doctrines. Mussolini outlawed strikes. He sought to control the economy by allying the Fascists with the industrialists and large landowners. However, Mussolini never had the total control achieved by Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union or Adolf Hitler in Germany.
Hitler Rises to Power in Germany
When Mussolini became dictator of Italy in the mid-1920s, Adolf Hitler was a little-known political leader whose early life had been marked by disappointment. He volunteered for the German army and was twice awarded the Iron Cross, a medal for bravery.
The Führer Is Supreme: Hitler wanted more than just economic and political power he wanted control over every aspect of German life. To shape public opinion and to win praise for his leadership, Hitler turned the press, radio, literature, painting, and film into propaganda tools. Books that did not conform to Nazi beliefs were burned in huge bonfires. Churches were forbidden to criticize the Nazis or the government. Schoolchildren had to join the Hitler Youth (for boys) or the League of German Girls. Hitler believed that continuous struggle brought victory to the strong. He twisted the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche to support his use of brute force.
Hitler Makes War on the Jews: Hatred of Jews, or anti-Semitism, was a key part of Nazi ideology. Although Jews were less than one percent of the population, the Nazis used them as scapegoats for all Germany’s troubles since the war. Beginning in 1933, the Nazis passed laws depriving Jews of most of their rights. 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.
Militarists Take Control of Japan: As long as Japan remained prosperous, the civilian government kept power. Unlike the Fascists in Europe, the militarists did not try to establish a new system of government. Instead of a forceful leader like Mussolini or Hitler, the militarists made the emperor the symbol of state power. Keeping Emperor Hirohito as head of state won popular support for the army leaders who ruled in his name. They wanted to solve the country’s economic problems through foreign expansion. The empire would provide Japan with raw materials and markets for its goods. It would also give Japan room for its rising population.
United States Follows an Isolationist Policy: Many Americans supported isolationism, the belief that political ties to other countries should be avoided. Isolationists argued that entry into World War I had been a costly error. These laws banned loans and the sale of arms to nations at war.
The German Reich Expands: On November 5, 1937, Hitler announced to his advisers his plans to absorb Austria and Czechoslovakia into the Third Reich, or German Empire. The Treaty of Versailles prohibited Anschluss, or a union between Austria and Germany. However, many Austrians supported unity with Germany.France and Britain ignored their pledge to protect Austrian independence. In September 1938, Hitler demanded that the Sudetenland be given to Germany.