Years of Crisis By: Gregory Ryan

Section 1: Postwar Uncertainty

Setting the Stage: World War I really messed with the old Enlightenment beliefs. The time after the war led to questioning of a lot of old ideas.

1. A New Revolution in Science

The ideas of Einstein and Freud really changed the 20th Century. They continued the scientific revolution.

A. Impact of Einstein's Theory of Relativity

German physicist Albert Einstein had many new ideas about time, space, energy, and matter. He discovered that light travels at the same speed no matter the direction. He also theorized that unlike light, time and space are not constant. He believed that time and space would change at about the speed of light, this idea was called the Theory of Relativity. It not only altered scientific beliefs, but also how people viewed the world.

B. Influence of Freudian Psychology

The ideas of Austrian physician Sigmund Freud were just as revolutionary and influential as those of Albert Einstein. He treated people with psychological problems. He theorized that human behavior has no reason and is irrational. He believed that the irrational part, called the unconscious, has many drives (many that seek pleasure) that the conscious mind doesn't realize. This made everyone believe less in reason and by the 20's his ideas were widespread.

2. Literature in the 1920's

Philosophers and writers began to question reason and progress after WW1. Fear of the future spread and many began to doubt religion. T.S. Elliott wrote that Western society had lost its spiritual values. He talked about the era after WW1 as a "wasteland" lacking hope and faith

A. Writers Reflect Society's Concerns

WW1 made a big impression on many writers of the time. The Trial and The Castle were novels written by Franz Kafka and spoke of people in terrifying situations they could not escape. Many novels were also influenced by Freud. Ulysses by James Joyce tells about one day from 3 different people's perspectives in Dublin. In his writing he tried to parallel the inner workings of the human mind.

B. Thinkers React to Uncertainties

After the war, the uncertainty of the era led some to turn to existentialism(belief that there is no universal meaning to life). One leader of this movement was France's own Jean Paul Sartre. German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche greatly influenced this movement. He wrote that Western ideas had stopped creativity. He wanted us to return to the old heroic principals. These beliefs spread in the 1900's and impacted politics in Italy and Germany in the 20's and 30's.

3. Revolution in the Arts

New directions in the arts began prewar but bloomed after the war

A. Artists Rebel Against Tradition

Artists turned away from the older realistic art styles. They wanted to show inner emotions and imagination instead of realistic things. Painters like Klee and Kandinsky used exaggeration and bolder colors to show this. In 1907 Cubism was founded by Picasso and Braque. Cubism was a style that changed natural shapes into geometric figures. Freud's ideas inspired Surrealism(a movement that sought to link the real world with the dream world.

B. Composers Try New Styles

Composers began to move away from traditional styles in both classical and pop music. Stravinsky used irregular rhythms and dissonances in The Rite of Spring. Jazz music began to emerge in the US. It began in Memphis, New Orleans, and Chicago by the African American community and it swept Britain and the US.

4. Society Challenges Convention

WW1 really messed with traditional views. In the 1920's new ideas of individual freedom emerged. It was really big among younger generations.

A. Women's Roles Change

Many of these changes were big in the female population. After the war woman's suffrage was granted in many countries. They abandoned old styles and began wearing looser clothing and short hair. They also began drinking and smoking, driving, and wore makeup. Many still had traditional feelings about family but woman like Sanger and Goldman spoke ot in support of birth control. Many women sought new careers out.

5. Technological Advances Improve Life

While WW1 was going on, new discoveries in medicine helped millions. Many improvements also came to communication and transportation.

A. The Automobile Alters Society

All the advancements during WW1 helped lead to the creation and improvement of the automobile. Now they were sleeker and available to the middle class. As it grew it changed the lifestyle and led to the creation of new careers.

B. Airplanes Transform Travel

Flight between countries became a goal after the war. 2 British pilots made the first cross-Atlantic flight in 1919. Lindbergh made a 33 hour flight from New York to France in 1927.

C. Radio and Movies Dominate Popular Entertainment

KDKA in Pittsburgh was the first commercial radio station to broadcast in 1920 and then radio swept the nation. Movies were also big in the 1920's. Some countries took them as serious art but others used them for entertainment.

Section 2: A Worldwide Depression

In the late 1920's European countries focused on rebuilding their economies. Many asked the US for a loan. The US was really blossoming economically so they were in a position to lend.

1. Postwar Europe

WW1 took a huge toll not only on the population but also the economics and power of Europe.

A. Unstable New Democracies

By 1918 all of Europe's absolute rulers had been overthrown and democracy began to flourish. The first being Russia but it fell back into communism. This wave of democracy was very inexperienced and had a lot of bumps. In countries where no party could gain enough support a coalition government was formed but they rarely lasted long. This eventually led to weaker governments since no decisions could be made.

2. The Weimar Republic

The Weimar Republic was the New Democratic government of Germany founded in 1919. It was terrible at first. There was many political parties and the public blamed the Republic for their loss in WW1.

A. Inflation Causes Crisis in Germany

To counter act post war debt Germany printed more money instead of borrowing some so inflation skyrocketed. This led to doubt in the government.

B. Attempts at Economic Stability

They recovered because of the international committee headed by Dawes who proposed they borrow $200 million from American banks. It slowed inflation and led to increase in economy and by 1929 they were back to their strength before the war.

C. Efforts at a Lasting Peace

As the economy improved, German foreign minister Gustav Stresemann and French foreign minister Aristide Briand worked to improve relations between the two countries. They signed a treaty stating they would never go to war against each other again and then Germany was placed in the League of Nations. A peace pact was arranged by Kellogg and Briand and was signed by almost every country, stating to renounce war as a national policy. The only downfall was the League of Nations had no army to enforce the treaty.

3. Financial Collapse

The US helped greatly in the recovery of other national economies but in 1929, it collapsed.

A. A Flawed U.S. Economy

Even though the US was prosperous, their economy was haunted by things such as uneven wealth, overproduction, and less consumer buying. In 1929, US was producing almost half of the world's industrial goods. But the wealth was unevenly distributed and most couldn't buy goods so that led to stores closing and jobs lost and a big downfall. Also, since the worldwide agricultural market had grown so much the profits we got were lowered.

B. The Stock Market Crashes

In 1929 Wall Street was the economic center of the world. Everyone was investing, everything was good. But as September rolled around, many began selling stocks, and by October 24, a panic had happened, everyone wanted to sell, and the market collapsed.

4. The Great Depression

After the crash, unemployment rates went through the roof as production and prices fell. This slump was called the Great Depression. By '32, production had been cut in half, businesses failed, and banks closed. By '33, 25% of workers were unemployed.

A. A Global Depression

The American depression also wreaked the global market. America began demanding the loans from Europe and began withdraw money from European investments. Congress began putting high taxes on imported goods which backfired worsening the US economy and lowered world trade by 65%.

B. Effects Throughout the World

Since Germany and Austria borrowed heavily from the US it really hurt their economy too. In '31 Austria's largest bank fell. Exports fell in many countries hurting the economy too.

5. The World Confronts the Crisis

Each country recovered from the depression in their own way.

A. Britain Takes Steps to Improve Its Economy

The depression crippled British so they hired the National Government who raised taxes and tariffs, and regulated the currency so the economy steadily grew. By 1937 everything was back to normal.

B. France Responds to Economic Crisis

Even though the French were more self sufficient they were still hit hard by the depression. Many failed governments led to the 1936 creation of the Popular Front. They tried to help the workers but it failed.

C. Socialist Governments Find Solutions

Denmark, Sweden, and Norway were successful in recovering. They invested in welfare benefits to help stimulate the economy and it worked.

D. Recovery in the United States

After the Depression the US elected FDR. He wanted to restore faith in the government. He put the New Deal in place, which spread welfare to help everyone. It reformed the economy system and led to the return of faith

3. Fascism Rises in Europe

Many democracies remained strong even after the economic crisis. But many lost faith and turned to fascism because it promised to bring the world out of debt.

1. Facism's Rise in Italy

Facism was militarist and supporting of a strong central government. It was a lot like communism except it still had a class system.

A. Mussolini Takes Control

Fascism’s rise in Italy was fueled by bitter disappointment over the failure to win large territorial gains at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. Inflation and unemployment also fueled the fire. A newspaper editor and politician named Benito Mussolini was to be the savior of the country. He founded the Fascist Party in 1919 and slowly through fear he gained support. 30,000 fascists marched on Rome in 1922, demanding that Mussolini was put in power and was granted so.

B. II Duce's Leadership

As leader he did away with all other political parties and democracy. He stripped rights to stay in power but never had full control.

2. Hitler Rises to Power in Germany

Hitler was a soldier in WW1 and won the Iron Cross twice.

A. The Rise of the Nazis

After the war Hitler joined a small right wing political party that eventually evolved into the Nazis party. They adopted the swastika as its symbol and built its own militia. His leadership skills eventually made him leader of the party. The party tried to seize power in 1923 but they failed. Hitler was arrested for treason and served 9 months. While imprisoned, he wrote Mein Kampf talking about his plans for Germany and how they were the master race and that all other races were inferior. He also denounced the Treaty of Versailles and stated he would get more living room for the country by taking land. After being released he revived his party, and when the government collapsed, they turned to him.

3. Hitler Becomes Chancellor

By 1932 the Nazis were the largest party. Conservatives thought there could use him so they had him become chancellor. Hitler then called for new elections. The Parliment building was burned and the Communists were blamed which pushed the Nazi party to a narrow win. He turned the nation into a totalitarian state and built a protection squad called the SS. They murdered hundreds of Hitler's enemies and scared Germany into obeying his rule. He took control of the economy and dropped the unemployment rate severely.

A. The Führer is Supreme

Hitler wanted control of all of German life. He used propaganda to win over praise. Books and churches could not go against the party. Children were forced to join either the Hitler Youth or the League of German Girls. He twisted the philosophy of Nietzsche to justify his actions.

B. Hitler Makes War on the Jews

Anti-Semitism was a big part of their ideology. The German's used them as a scapegoat for the war. In 1933 they passed laws to strip the Jew's rights, which led to violence. On 11/9/38 (called Kristallnacht) Germans attacked Jewish houses and property, signaling the attempt to exterminate the Jews.

4. Other Countries Fall to Dictators

In Hungry, after the war, military and the wealthy pushed for Admiral Miklós Horthy the first European postwar dictator. Pilsudski took power in Poland in 1926. In Yugoslavia, Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania kings turned into more dictators. Britain, France, and the Scandinavian countries were the only democracies left.

Section 4: Aggressors Invade Nations

By the 1930's Italy and Germany were on a military conquest. The democratic states were too busy recovering to stop them. Many looked to the League of Nations, while in Asia, Japan was falling under military rule.

1. Japan Seeks an Empire

Throughout the 20's Japan became more democratic, but its Parliment was flawed. The Constitution restricted powers of the cabinet and PM, while civil leaders controlled the military

A. Militarists Take Control of Japan

When the Depression struck the civilians blamed the government. Military leaders soon gained control. They used the emperor as a symbol of power, while the military controlled. To recover from the Depression they aimed for conquest in the Pacific including China.

B. Japan Invades Manchuria

Japan had invested heavily in Manchuria and in 1931 they seized it. They set up a puppet government and began building factories and mines. The League was displeased by this so in 1933 Japan left.

C. Japan Invades China

A border dispute led to fullout war and the Chinese were no match. Beijing and Nanjing fell to the Japanese in 1937. China reestablished the capital in Chongquin as fighting continued.

2. European Aggressors on the March

When the League couldn't stop Japan it inspired the Facists to conquer as well

A. Mussolini Attacks Ethiopia

Mussolini ordered a huge invasion force for Ethiopia in 1935. The Ethiopians were no match. Ethiopia asked the League for help but they did nothing because they believed it would keep war off of Europe.

B. Hitler Defies Versailles Treaty

In 1935 Germany announced it wasn't listening to the League's rules anymore and the League barely said anything. This made Hitler get braver. In March, Germany marched into the restricted Rhineland. France did nothing as to try to keep peace. This was a huge turning point, it encouraged Germany to aggress more since there was little resistance. Mussolini saw this and wanted to join forces. So Germany, Japan, and Italy formed the Axis Powers.

C. Civil War Erupts in Spain

In July 1936, General Francisco Franco was joined by military leaders that started a revolt. The civil war that followed lasted 3 years. The Axis Powers sent troops and supplies to help Franco and eventually they crushed the Republicians, making Franco the dictator.

3. Democratic Nations Try to Preserve Peace

Britain and France did everything they could to stay out of Fascist aggression as to prevent war.

A. United States Follows an Isolationist Policy

Many Americans believed isolation was the key so in 1935, Congress passed 3 Neutrality Acts.

B. The German Reich Expands

Hitler announced to add Austria and Czechoslovakia to the German Empire in 11/5/37. The Treaty prohibited this but Germany annexed it anyways. Next, Hitler aimed for Czechoslovakia. The Sudetenland was their main defense but many Germans lived there. They began to inspire pro-Nazi feelings and then demanded for the land to be given to them. The Czechs refused and looked to France for help.

C. Britain and France Again Choose Appeasement

France and Britain were prepared for war when Mussolini wanted to meet in Munich. The Munich Conference was held in 9/29/38. They agreed to let Hitler have Sudetenland if he respected the Czechs new borders and he agreed. 6 months later Hitler took Czechoslovakia and Mussolini took Albania. Hitler demanded Danzig back from Poland but they refused and asked for help from Britain and France but they did nothing.

D. Nazis and Soviets Sign Nonaggression Pact

Britain and France asked the Soviet Union to join them in stopping Hitler. As talks with them happened, Stalin bargined with Hitler. On 8/23/39 they signed a nonaggression pact and war seemed inevitable.


Created with images by Rob Ketcherside - "She's a fashionable Buick - Oregon?, 1927"

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.