The aftermath of WAR (1919-1939)


After the first world war, Europe was no longer the leading role as a banker. United States was starting

to grow its power economically, Japan was getting stronger and North America ruled over the great routes from Atlantic to the Pacific. Europe however spent a lot of money on war for four years, thus at the end of the war the leaders of the European countries faced complications with the wish to return their country to the way it was before the war.

Economic problems in Britain

Britain cherished the return of the veterans with their slogan “Homes fit for heroes”, however sadly the returning soldiers came back to no jobs. The British Island was depended a lot on their trade for prosperity, so in 1920 the country faced severe economic blows to its export industries (cotton textiles, steel and coal). Other complications would be :

  • German submarines destroyed 40% of the British merchant fleet during the war.

  • The trading nations, specifically USA and Japan competed with Britain in many oversea markets.

  • Many nations imposed high tariffs on import after the war, even though they were actually aimed for domestic domestic industries from foreign competition, they still damaged Britain.

  • Britain also had a lack of developed technology, thus also cutting deeply into the British trading system. Even though Britain was the first country to industrialize, many of its factories were old and equipments were outdated ever since before the war. Coal mines needed replacement and outdated equipment hit hard on the British steel and shipbuilding industries, thus facing harsh competition from newer industrial nations.

As the trade and economy declined, British manufactures cut down on their production and by 1920, 700,000 were unemployed and by 1921 it went up to 2 million (almost a quarter of the work force). However by 1922, it fell to 1 million unemployed and the 1 million continued being jobless for a complete decade. In 1926, Coal exports fell thus the coal owners cut down the wages which led to a General Strike and it lasted for nine days. However, troops and nonunion workers supplied vital services, thus the strike failed. The government responded with a anti-labor legislation, thus spreading bitterness among the workers. Britain had also borrowed money from US and because of the trade decline, they could not pay it back and at the same time Germany could not make the reparation payments owed to Britain under the Versaille treaty, so in conclusion even though Britain was going through a lot of economic declines, they remained as a stable democratic nation.

An independent Ireland

The Irish have fought for centuries to become free from the British. The British Parliament had passed a home rule bill in 1914, however it got delayed when the focus switched onto the war. In 1916, the nationalistic leaders of Ireland organized the Easter Rebellion against Britain but were defeated by the British troops and leaders were executed. The executions agitated the Irish people more and the Irish Republican Army gained more supporters.

Britain tried to end this conflict by splitting Ireland into two sections. The southern countries, which were Catholic became the Irish Free State, a dominion in the British Commonwealth. The northern section of Ulster, which were largely Protestants remained part of the Great Britain. Many Protestants in the northern section did not want to be a part of the Irish Free State and many Catholics in the Northern section demanded a united Ireland, which is all an issue still remaining till today.

Postwar recovery in France

In similarity to Britain, France also suffered economically with heavy blows on the Western Front and like Britain borrowed a lot of money during the War. Ten million acres of farmland had been turned into wasteland and 20,000 factories and 6,000 public buildings were destroyed by the war. In contrast to Britain, France was able to keep their unemployed relatively low in the 1920’s. However, The french government borrowed double to be able to reconstruct the country and bring it into its original shape. As a result, this led to a huge burden on the french to pay it back as well as inflation and a decrease in the french currency. By 1926, The head of the government, Raymond Poincaré reduced government expenses, increased taxes and stabilized the currency. With the help of the many reforms, France gained a strong economic recovery.

France also invested a lot in military preparations, considering Germany had invaded France within the same range. By the 1920’s, France was determined to prevent the invasion to ever happen again, thus building the Maginot Line, which was an elaborate system of fortifications, along the french borders with Germany and Luxemburg.

German Inflation

The Versaille Treaty forced Germany to pay stiff preparations with the total of 33 Billion dollars. The German government tried to pay of the debt by printing out more paper money, which on its own led to inflation. The peak of the inflation was in 1923, where a person had to fill a wheelbarrow with money for just a loaf of bread. This inflation led to political issues as well for the Germans. As a response to the crisis the German government chose to call a temporary halt to reparations payments, which in 1923 France took advantage of by calling troops and occupy the Ruhr (industrial heartland of Germany). The french wanted to collect German steel mills and coal mines, which they did not succeed in doing considering the Ruhr workers responded with Passive Resistance, meaning nonviolent opposition - they refused to work. The inflation worsened ever more as more people started to support the German workers.

An international committee headed by an American banker Charles G. Dawes came to the rescue with his plan of 1924, which meant that Germany had to continue paying her debts but on a smaller scale and the US had to promise to provide loans for Germany to recover. Thus France had withdraw its troops from Ruhr in 1925. As the German economy recovered, the reparation payment increased and this allowed Britain and France to pay some of their debts back to the US.

The Diplomacy Of Peace

During 1920’s, leaders of the Western European countries were hopeful of a new era with international relations. They all chose to reject the Balance-of power politics and the Alliance system, which many people had believed had contributed to the Great War. The people chose to depend on the League of Nations to keep their peace. The League was based on the idea of Collective Security, meaning an organized community of nations, acting together to preserve peace. The League settled disputes between small nations with ease, however could not settle peace among the major powers. Moreover, the three major powers being USA, Germany and Russia were not members of the League. Germany’s complications with the Versaille treaty continued haunting Europe until 1925 where the Allies met up with Germany (Britain and France) and signed the Locarno pact, which was a series of agreements. The Western European nations agreed to guarantee existing borders and seek peaceful solutions to any dispute as well as Germany promising a peaceful settlement of borders disputes with Poland and Czechoslovakia, thus the Locarno pact improved relations in Western Europe. People believed in the Locarno pact and by 1926, Germany entered the League of Nations and finally became a part of the world community. Throughout the 1920’s, the great powers discussed about disarmament, especially naval ones. USA and Japan joined in a disarmament conference in Washington D.C., and Geneva, Switzerland. In 1928, American secretary of state Frank.B Kellogg and French foreign minister Aristide Briand created the Kellogg-Briand pact, which symbolized the optimism of that period for wanting to maintain the ongoing peace. 62 nations including USA signed the pact and agreed upon “renouncing war as an instrument of national policy” as well as banishing wars and to not enforce peace through machinery.

Expanded Horizons for Women

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but with a whimper//Eliot’s poem The Hollow Men.

This poem represents the people's mourn over all the kills caused by and built up disgust over all the leaders who led their friends to their deaths. Progress was no longer a belief and people were stuck in a spacetime continuum. Slow but continuous changed created new patterns of life in Europe. Before the war, women had won suffrage in some countries but after the war, women had won the right to vote in most of Western Europe as well as Russia, USA and India. In 1924, the Danes elected the first women to a national cabinet post. The changes in women's styles were one of the indications to the change in women's role in the society. While the short skirts, makeup (which was unacceptable in 1914) and bobbed hair styles became more widely accepted, so did the notion that women could contribute to the society. In Britain, women over 21 won the vote in 1928, but in France they had to wait until 1944.

Women profited from the war, considering they got the chance to work in factories for the war effort. However, when the war ended either many employers changed a lot of the women with men or the women returned home on their own. But the amount of working women was still more in 1920’s in comparison to 1914. During the war some single women moved into their own apartments and earned their own money instead of living with big families and relatives, thus getting the chance to feel more independent. During the 1920’s they gained more political and economical rights. Moreover, American and European families became smaller, which meant less kids to feed, thus the women had more time to be active in the society.

The impact of new technology

The traditional jobs of the women in the households were easier with the new technologies. Canned and packaged foods, vacuum cleaner and electric irons were just a few of the many new household tools that increased the women's free time. The air age was beginning with the Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic. The first international airmail was carried between London and Paris in 1919, big cities built airports as the air flight's became more common and in 1930 the first transcontinental airline service was started in USA, 1939 regular transatlantic passenger service by air was begun. An example would be the change of the amount of vehicles in France from 125,000 in 1913 to over 2 million by 1938. People's lives were in general a lot more fun with the postwar technology like the many theatres and the phonographs which bloomed the record business.

Postwar currents of thoughts

Ideas were flourishing before 1914, but in the postwar after the many slaughters the people rejected the enlightenment ideas of progress and faith and the developments in science and industries were no longer celebrated. Many of the European writers in the 1920’s expressed a sense of helplessness and pessimism. French writer Paul Valéry wrote about the post war saying “The storm had died away, and still we are restless, uneasy, as if the storm were about to break. Almost all the affairs of men remain in a terrible uncertainty. We think of what has disappeared, and we are almost destroyed by what has been destroyed; we do not know what will be born, and fear the future, not without reason”. Another writer would be German novelist Erich Maria Remarque “All quiet in the western front”. T.S. Eliot expressed aguish and disillusionment with the poem “The waste land”, German playwright Bertolt Brecht attacked capitalism in “The three penny opera! And other plays. Sigmund Freud, who was a Viennese physician influenced many writers with that irrational, unconscious forces shaping the human behavior. Many writers also used the stream of consciousness to probe the unconscious minds of their characters, which the Irish author James Joyce used in “Ulysses” to show a day of a middle class Dubliner. Joyce used unusual grammar, bits of thoughts and unconventional language to suggest a confusion of the unconscious mind in similarity to the English writer Virginia Woolf characters with “To the lighthouse” with complex internal monologues.

Modern painting

Artists in the early 1900’s used unconventional means to explore the human emotions and heavily disliked realism and impressionism, because they saw them as increasingly abstract. Cubists used geometric forms in complex patterns to represent an object's form or a human form. One of the founders of cubism, Pablo Picasso went on to paint equally famous paintings in a variety of modern styles and others followed by abandoning realism and stressed colors, lines and forms. In composition with red, yellow and blue the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian presented a series of brightly colored boxlike shapes without a meaning. Another famous artistic move was Dada “Hobby horse” in french, which implied nonsense. Artists painted in traditional artistic forms, such forms they saw meaningless in a world upside down from all the slaughters from the war. Marcel Duchamp was a leading Dada artist who exhibited shovels, another artist produced a Mona Lisa portrait with a mustache and ridiculous graffiti. Dada writers wrote poems by picking out words from a hat.

Postwar isolation

US : Events in Europe grew an isolationist feeling among the US people, thus trying as much as they can to avoid the European turmoil. However, the President of the US, Wilson tried hard to win approval for the Versaille treaty and tried to get US into the League of Nations, but the Senator William E. declined this request in November 1919. During the Russian revolution, the Bolsheviks party under Lenin led Russia to turn into a communist country. Bombs exploded in several cities of America during 1919-1920, thus many Americans believing that foreign-born people were trying to kick of a Bolsheviks uprising. In response the attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer started started arresting thousands of people he believed were “Red Scare”. The Isolationism and the Red Scare caused tension and led all the Americans to demand a change in the immigration policy. USA already limited the amount of immigrants from Japan and China to visit US, but not Europe, thus in 1921 and 1924 the congress paced acts placing quotas on European immigration. However, US did not cut off from the world entirely, considering they continued being active in the naval disarmament negotiations, Dawes plan with the German reparation and Kellog-Briand Pact to keep peace.