Unit 8- WWI, Roaring 20s, & the Great Depression

Yawp Chapters 21, 22, & 23

Chapter 21: World War I and Its Aftermath

World War I (“The Great War”) toppled empires, created new nations, and sparked tensions that would explode across future years. On the battlefield, its gruesome modern weaponry wrecked an entire generation of young men. The United States entered the conflict in 1917 and was never the same. The war heralded to the world the United States’ potential as a global military power, and, domestically, it advanced but then beat back American progressivism by unleashing vicious waves of repression. The war simultaneously stoked national pride and fueled disenchantments that burst Progressive Era hopes for the modern world. And it laid the groundwork for a global depression, a second world war, and an entire history of national, religious, and cultural conflict around the globe. Read more from Chapter 21 of the YAWP.

Questions to be thinking about as you move through the content of this chapter

  1. What factors brought on the Great War?
  2. What factors provoked the U. S. to enter the war?
  3. What was the significance of the Russian Revolution?
  4. Characterize the changes the Versailles Treaty brought to Europe.
  5. What was the significance of the Sykes-Picot Agreement?
  6. In what ways did World War I pose a challenge to American civil liberties?

Chapter 22: The New Era

On a sunny day in early March of 1921, Warren G. Harding took the oath to become the twenty-ninth President of the United States. He had won a landslide election by promising a “return to normalcy.” “Our supreme task is the resumption of our onward, normal way,” he declared in his inaugural address. Two months later, he said, “America’s present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not revolution, but restoration.” The nation still reeled from the shock of World War I, the explosion of racial violence and political repression in 1919, and, bolstered by the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, a lingering “Red Scare.”

More than 115,000 American soldiers had lost their lives in barely a year of fighting in Europe. Then, between 1918 and 1920, nearly 700,000 Americans died in a flu epidemic that hit nearly twenty percent of the American population. Waves of labor strikes, meanwhile, hit soon after the war. Radicals bellowed. Anarchists and others sent more than thirty bombs through the mail on May 1, 1919. After wartime controls fell, the economy tanked and national unemployment hit twenty percent. Farmers’ bankruptcy rates, already egregious, now skyrocketed. Harding could hardly deliver the peace that he promised, but his message nevertheless resonated among a populace wracked by instability.

The 1920s, of course, would be anything but “normal.” The decade so reshaped American life that it came to be called by many names: the New Era, the Jazz Age, the Age of the Flapper, the Prosperity Decade, and, most commonly, the Roaring Twenties. The mass production and consumption of automobiles, household appliances, film, and radio fueled a new economy and new standards of living, new mass entertainment introduced talking films and jazz while sexual and social restraints loosened. But at the same time, many Americans turned their back on political and economic reform, denounced America’s shifting demographics, stifled immigration, retreated toward “old time religion,” and revived with millions of new members the Ku Klux Klan. On the other hand, many Americans fought harder than ever for equal rights and cultural observers noted the appearance of “the New Woman” and “the New Negro.” Old immigrant communities that had predated new immigration quotas, meanwhile, clung to their cultures and their native faiths. The 1920s were a decade of conflict and tension. But whatever it was, it was not “normalcy.” Read more from Chapter 22 of the American Yawp.


Questions to be thinking about as you move through the content of this chapter

  1. What factors led to the success of the Harlem Renaissance?
  2. What was the big issues at stake in the Scopes Monkey Trial?
  3. What arguments did Women put forward for suffrage?
  4. How might celebrities be consumed in the 1920s?
  5. What factors contributed to the formation of a consumer society?
  6. In what ways was the 1920s an “Age of Contradictions” in the United States?

Chapter 23: The Great Depression

The wonder of the stock market permeated popular culture in the 1920s. Although it was released during the first year of the Great Depression, the 1930 film High Society Blues captured the speculative hope and prosperity of the previous decade. “I’m in the Market for You,” a popular musical number from the film, even used the stock market as a metaphor for love: You’re going up, up, up in my estimation, / I want a thousand shares of your caresses, too. / We’ll count the hugs and kisses, / When dividends are due, / Cause I’m in the market for you. But, just as the song was being recorded in 1929, the stock market reached the apex of its swift climb, crashed, and brought an abrupt end to the seeming prosperity of the “Roaring ‘20s.” The Great Depression had arrived. Read more from Chapter 23 of the American Yawp.

Questions to be thinking about as you move through the content of this chapter

  1. What systemic factors led to the Great Depression?
  2. What more recent behaviors led to the Great Depression?
  3. FDR asked for “broad executive power” in his 1st inaugural address:  what did this mean?
  4. How does FDR’s New Deal square with traditional laissez faire?
  5. Is the New Deal socialism?  If so, does it matter?  What surviving New Deal programs would you eliminate?