UNIT 7 (part 2): 1920-1945 Roaring Twenties, Great Depression, World War II

Unit 7
Period 7 Part 2
The Roaring TwentiesThe Great Depression
and World War II

Unit 7 (Period 7) Textbook Chapters: 

AMSCO Chapters 23-25 / American Pageant Chapters 32-36 Reading Guides (Optional but HIGHLY ENCOURAGED): 
Chapter 23:  The Modern Era of the 1920s
Chapter 24:  The Great Depression and the New Deal 1929-1939
Chapter 25:  Diplomacy and World War II 1929-1945

American Pageant chapters 32-36: 
If you do  not have your textbook yet, you may read American Pageant chapters online:

Chapter 32:  The Politics of Boom and Bust 1920-1932

Chapter 33:  The Great Depression and the New Deal 1933-1939

Chapter 34:  Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Shadow of War 1933-1941

Chapter 35:  America in World War II 1941-1945

Chapter 36:  The Cold War Begins 1945-1952


All videos are approximately 20 minutes each.

The 1920s

Depression and New Deal (1929-1940)

WWII: Battle Front (1939/41-1945)

WWII: Home Front (1941-45)


(alternate recorded lectures!)



Unit 7 Terms:


American Life in the “Roaring Twenties,” 1919–1929

Chapter Themes

Theme: A disillusioned America turned away from idealism and reform after World War I and toward isolationism in foreign affairs, domestic social conservatism and the pleasures of prosperity.

Theme: New technologies, mass-marketing techniques, and new forms of entertainment fostered rapid cultural change along with a focus on consumer goods. But the accompanying changes in moral values and uncertainty about the future produced cultural anxiety as well as sharp intellectual critiques of American life.

chapter summary

After the crusading idealism of World War I, America turned inward and became hostile to anything foreign or different. Radicals were targeted in the red scare and the Sacco-Vanzetti case, while the resurgent Ku Klux Klan joined other forces in bringing about pronounced restrictions on further immigration. Sharp cultural conflicts occurred over the prohibition experiment and evolution.

A new mass-consumption economy fueled the spectacular prosperity of the 1920s. The automobile industry, led by Henry Ford, transformed the economy and altered American lifestyles.

The pervasive media of radio and film altered popular culture and values. Birth control and Freudian psychology overturned traditional sexual standards, especially for women. Young literary rebels, many originally from the Midwest, scorned genteel New England and small-town culture and searched for new values as far away as Europe. The stock-market boom symbolized the free-wheeling spirit of the decade.


·              Concerned about the success of the Bolshevik Revolution, The US, Britain, and other nations send troops to participate in the Russian Civil War in the hope of toppling Lenin’s communist government.  Domestically, a systematic effort to suppress Bolsheviks, or reds, is launched.

·              Intolerance grows in the nations after WWI.    A new and more virulent strain emerges in the reborn KKK, which has expanded it influence across the nation.

·              To shrink immigration from certain areas of the world, a quota system is put in place.  That and the Immigration Act of 1924 dramatically reduce eastern and southern European immigration.

·              To control social and moral behavior, the prohibition movement addresses alcohol consumption.  In 1919 the 18th Amendment is ratified, eliminating “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors.”

·              Automotive production becomes an integral part of the economy as it stimulates demand in other businesses, among them the gas and oil industry, and gives Americans relatively easy access to shopping (which itself is transformed by the auto), schools, and the workplace.

·              The decade known as the roaring twenties witnesses cultural, social, and economic challenges to Victorian values.  Women begin to defy gender stereotypes through, for example, fashion, smoking cigarettes in public, and jazz dancing.

·              Henry Ford paid his workers handsomely (about $5/day) and shortened their workday, but he expected their loyalty and established a paternalistic relationship with them that went even beyond the workplace – their personal lives were monitored by the company.  Other companies followed suit, hoping to prevent labor strikes and other interferences in the production process.

·              Charles Lindberg, known as “Lucky Lindy” because of his unprecedented feat of flying nonstop from NYC to Paris, initiated a new age of air travel.  The airplane fundamentally changed the nation and the world, allowing personal air travel and revolutionizing the military.

1920s documents for writing practice


The Politics of Boom and Bust, 1920–1932

Chapter Themes

Theme: The Republican administrations of the prosperous 1920s pursued conservative, pro-business policies at home and economic unilateralism abroad.

Theme: The great crash of 1929 led to a severe, prolonged depression that devastated the American economy and spirit, and resisted Hoover’s limited efforts to correct it.

chapter summary

The Republican governments of the 1920s carried out active, pro-business policies while undermining much of the progressive legacy by neglect. The Washington Naval Conference indicated America’s desire to withdraw from international involvements. Sky-high tariffs protected America’s booming industry but caused severe economic troubles elsewhere in the world.

As the Harding scandals broke, the puritanical Calvin Coolidge replaced his morally easygoing predecessor. Feuding Democrats and La Follette progressives fell easy victims to Republican prosperity.

American demands for strict repayment of war debts created international economic difficulties. The Dawes plan provided temporary relief, but the Hawley-Smoot Tariff proved devastating to international trade.

The stock-market crash of 1929 brought a sudden end to prosperity and plunged America into a horrible depression. Herbert Hoover’s reputation collapsed as he failed to relieve national suffering, although he did make unprecedented but limited efforts to revive the economy through federal assistance.


·              Harding is incorruptible, but some friends and appointees lack his honesty and tarnish Harding’s administration.

·              Shocked by the enormous devastation that the war brought to Europe, the victorious world powers hold disarmament talks (Washington Naval conference) and agree to reduce the size of their navies.  As part of the government, Japan is not permitted to have a higher tonnage amount than Britain and the US but is granted hegemonic power in the Far East.

·              Congress raises the protective tariff to augment the already big profits businesses are amassing.  European countries retaliate with their own high tariffs, which stymie int4ernational trade and debilitate Germany, already financially pressed by its obligation to pay for war reparations.

·              Determined to be repaid its war loans, the US create s the Dawes Plan, a complicated method of financial payments that fails to get repayment but places considerable strain on European finances.

·              The stock-market collapse starts a deep depression from which the nation will not fully recover until WWII.  The rest of the world shares in this calamity.

·              Near the end of Hoover’s term in office the Japanese invade China.  The US response is tepid and does little to deter the Japanese from taking future aggressive action.

·              Farmers who purchase labor-saving technology such as mechanical harvesters and reapers dramatically increased production but at a considerable cost: the price of their crops plummeted.

·              Aggravating the problem of underconsumption was the Mellon tax plan, which had lowered taxes on the rich, thereby concentrating even more wealth in a small percentage of the population.

·              Hoover’s solution to the economic collapse reflected his faith in the resiliency of American capitalism.  While he adopted drastic measures inconsistent with his own monetary philosophy, he still relied on volunteerism, local-government assistance to the unemployed, and rugged individualism to see the nation through, methods that were inadequate for the depression.

·              Hoover’s brutal response to the Bonus Marchers eroded even further his rapidly declining popularity, a trend that did not bode well for the president’s reelection prospects. 

1920s Review

End of 1920s and Beginning of the Great Depression


The Great Depression and the New Deal, 1933–1939

What Caused the Great Depression?

Class notes on G.Dep., Hoover's Response, New Deal, and Oppostition

Chapter Themes

Theme: Roosevelt’s New Deal tackled the Great Depression with massive federal programs designed to bring about relief, recovery, and reform.

Crash and New Deal Review

chapter summary

Confident, aristocratic Roosevelt swept into office with an urgent mandate to cope with the depression emergency. His bank holiday and frantic Hundred Days lifted spirits and created a host of new agencies to provide for relief to the unemployed, economic recovery, and permanent reform of the system.

Roosevelt’s programs put millions of the unemployed back on the job through federal action. As popular demagogues like Huey Long and Father Charles Coughlin increased their appeal to the suffering population, Roosevelt developed sweeping programs to reorganize and reform American history, labor, and agriculture. The TVA, Social Security, and the Wagner Act brought far-reaching changes that especially benefited the economically disadvantaged.

Conservatives furiously denounced the New Deal, but Roosevelt formed a powerful coalition of urbanites, labor, “new immigrants,” blacks, and the South that swept him to victory in 1936.

A decade after the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, women began to exercise their rights, both politically and intellectually. 

Roosevelt’s Court-packing plan failed, but the Court finally began approving New Deal legislation. The later New Deal encountered mounting conservative opposition and the stubborn persistence of unemployment. Although the New Deal was highly controversial, it saved America from extreme right-wing or left-wing dictatorship.


·              The first hundred days if FDR’s presidency witness a torrent of executive and legislative programs, act, and policies that attempt to deal with the Great Depression and to reform the economic system so that the nation will never again experience such a devastating economic collapse.

·              To jumpstart the economy, FDR institutes an inflationary policy in which deficit spending is used to create jobs.  It is hoped that this will reduce the number of people needing government aid and increase consumer spending, further stimulating demand and, consequently, higher employment.  Income would be taxed to help defray the cost of federally funded jobs.

·              The TVA creates thousands of jobs and brings electricity to rural areas along the Tennessee River.  Critics claim that the TVA eliminates competition and is akin to government control of utilities similar to that found in socialist economies

·              One of the longest-lasting legacies of the New Deal is Social Security, which provides economic assistance to some of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens such as retired senior citizens.

·              When the conservative Supreme Court starts ruling the New Deal programs such as the NRA unconstitutional, FDR devises a plan to “pack” the court, an undertaking that is met with a storm of criticism.  He withdraws the plan.

·              Uncomfortable with deficit spending, FDR tries to balance the budget during the depression.  Unemployment again rises, and capacity utilization declines significantly before he returns to his original economic plan.

·              Francis Perkins, secretary of labor, was the first female cabinet member in US History

·              Eleanor Roosevelt, one of the most active and energetic First Ladies in American History, actively campaigned for the rights of women, blacks, and labor.

·              At a time when many were out of work and going hungry, the government paid hard-pressed farmers not to grow food in order to boost the value, and therefore the price, of their crops.

·              Most historians agree that unemployment was fixed only when the nation entered WWII.

 Opposing Viewpoints

 Every picture tells a story...

New Deal Documents for Writing Practice

Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Shadow of War, 1933–1941

Chapter Themes

Theme: In the early and mid-1930s, the United States attempted to isolate itself from foreign involvements and wars. But by the end of the decade, the spread of totalitarianism and war in Europe forced Roosevelt to provide more and more assistance to desperate Britain, despite strong isolationist opposition.

Causes of WWII

chapter summary

Roosevelt’s early foreign policies, such as wrecking the London economic conference and establishing the Good Neighbor policy in Latin America, were governed by concern for domestic recovery and reflected America’s desire for a less active role in the world. America virtually withdrew from all European affairs, and promised independence to the Philippines as an attempt to avoid Asian commitments.

Depression-spawned chaos in Europe and Asia strengthened the isolationist impulse, as Congress passed a series of Neutrality Acts designed to prevent America from being drawn into foreign wars. The United States adhered to the policy for a time, despite the aggression of Italy, Germany, and Japan. But after the outbreak of World War II in Europe, Roosevelt began to provide some aid to the Allies.

After the fall of France, Roosevelt gave greater assistance to desperate Britain in the destroyers-for-bases deal and in lend-lease. Still-powerful isolationists protested these measures, but Wendall Willkie refrained from attacking Roosevelt’s foreign policy in the 1940 campaign.

Roosevelt and Winston Churchill issued the Atlantic Charter, and by the summer of 1941, the United States was fighting an undeclared naval war with Germany in the North Atlantic. After negotiations with Japan failed, the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor plunged the United States into World War II.


· The US withdrawal from the London Economic conference illustrates FDR’s determination not to associate his New Deal (inflationary) agenda with an international attempt to combat the effects of global depression by stabilizing international currencies.

· The Spanish Civil War is a prelude to WWII in that the two major fascist powers, Germany and Italy, provide economic and military aid to help General Franco defeat Spain’s Loyalists. The Loyalists get assistance from the Soviet Union and volunteers from many countries. Western governments, however, remains aloof to the plight of the antifascist forces.

· To forestall another bloodbath like WWI, Britain and France adopt a policy of appeasement in dealing with German, Italian, and Japanese aggression and territorial expansion. In the summer of 1939, the world is stunned to learn the ideological archenemies Germany and USSR have signed a nonaggression pact.

· To assist Britain, which stood alone against Germany after the fall of France in 1940, FDR circumvents the neutrality acts, giving the British destroyers in return for British military bases. The next step in providing much needed aid to Britain is the Lend-lease Act.

· Six months after the German invasion of the USSR, Japan launches a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor bringing the US into the war.

· Many historians maintain that the US adopted an isolationist policy or, at the very least, a policy of neutrality in the interwar years, pointing to the refusal to join the League of Nations and to support the Loyalist forces in the Spanish Civil War. Other historians challenge this interpretation and cite the numerous cases of US intervention in the post-WWI era as well as the economic and political agreements and treaties made with foreign governments.

· In 1940, FDR sought an unprecedented thirds term as president. The Constitution placed no limits on how many terms one could serve, but George Washington had, set a tradition that had been followed ever since.

WWII Timeline

WWII Notes

America in World War II, 1941–1945

Chapter Themes

Theme: Unified by Pearl Harbor, America effectively carried out a war mobilization effort that produced vast social and economic changes within American society.

Theme: Following its “get Hitler first” strategy, the United States and its Allies invaded and liberated conquered Europe from Fascist rule. The slower strategy of “island-hopping” against Japan also proceeded successfully until the atomic bomb brought a sudden end to World War II.

chapter summary

America was wounded but roused to national unity by Pearl Harbor. Roosevelt settled on a fundamental strategy of dealing with Hitler first, while doing just enough in the Pacific to block the Japanese advance.

With the ugly exception of the Japanese-American concentration camps, World War II proceeded in the United States without the fanaticism and violations of civil liberties that occurred in World War I. The economy was effectively mobilized, using new sources of labor such as women and Mexican braceros. Numerous African Americans and Indians also left their traditional rural homelands and migrated to war-industry jobs in the cities of the North and West. The war brought full employment and prosperity, as well as enduring social changes, as millions of Americans were uprooted and thrown together in the military and in new communities across the country. Unlike European and Asian nations, however, the United States experienced relatively little economic and social devastation from the war.

The tide of Japanese conquest was stemmed at the Battles of Midway and the Coral Sea, and American forces then began a slow strategy of “island hopping” toward Tokyo. Allied troops first invaded North Africa and Italy in 1942–1943, providing a small, compromise “second front” that attempted to appease the badly weakened Soviet Union as well as the anxious British. The real second front came in June 1944 with the D-Day invasion of France. The Allies moved rapidly across France, but faced a setback in the Battle of the Bulge in the Low Countries.

Meanwhile, American capture of the Marianas Islands established the basis for extensive bombing of the Japanese home islands. Roosevelt won a fourth term as Allied troops entered Germany and finally met the Russians, bringing an end to Hitler’s rule in May 1945. After a last round of brutal warfare on Okinawa and Iwo Jima, the dropping of two atomic bombs ended the war against Japan in August 1945.

Atomic Bombs Review

· Gar Alperovitz, Atomic Diplomacy (rev. ed., 1985).

A view of the atomic bomb as aimed at Russia rather than Japan:

“The decision to use the weapon did not derive from overriding military considerations.…Before the atomic bomb was dropped each of the Joint Chiefs of Staff advised that it was highly likely that Japan could be forced to surrender ‘unconditionally,’ without use of the bomb and without an invasion.…Unquestionably, political considerations related to Russia played a major role in the decision; from at least mid-May American policy makers hoped to end the hostilities before the Red Army entered Manchuria.…A combat demonstration was needed to convince the Russians to accept the American plan for a stable peace.”

· Martin Sherwin, A World Destroyed (1975).

A view of the atomic bomb as primarily aimed at Japan:

“Caught between the remnants of war and the uncertainties of peace, policymakers and scientists were trapped by their own unquestioned assumptions.…The secret development of this terrible weapon, during a war fought for a total victory, created a logic of its own: a quest for a total solution of a set of related problems that appeared incapable of being resolved incrementally.…As Szilard first suggested in January 1944, the bomb might provide its own solution.…The decision to use the bomb to end the war could no longer be distinguished from the desire to use it to stabilize the peace.”


· Early in the war, Germany, Japan, and Italy have considerable military success. The Allies, except for France, which had surrendered in 1940, are fortunate not to be overwhelmed completely.

· Fearing that they will be disloyal, FDR orders the detention of Japanese Americans, a serious violation of basic American civil rights.

· Millions die in the Holocaust, a systematic attempt by the Nazis to destroy those they consider to be inferior – Slavs, the mentally ill, homosexuals, political prisoners, and, especially, Jews.

· The war occasions extensive demographic changes. Urban areas expand to meet the demand for labor in war-related industries. Rural and less-developed areas in the West and Southwest grow as well, a result of receiving government military contracts.

· As in every American war, blacks contribute significantly in WWII despite the obstacles placed before them. But the military will not be desegregated until 1948.

· The considerable financial resources needed to wage war drive up the national debt. In fact, New Deal spending pales in comparison with wartime military expenditures.

· The success of the D-Day landing in the summer of 1944 affords the Allies a bridgehead in France from which they can move inland and ultimately invade Germany itself. With the USSR counterattacking from the east and the British and Americans closing in from the west, Hitler’s Third Reich is doomed. In April, 1945, shortly after Hitler killed himself, Germany surrenders, a victory FDR does not see, having died suddenly the month before.

· With the war in Europe over, the Allies turn all of their attention to defeating Japan. After bloody battles in the Pacific, Truman orders atomic bombs cropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, inflicting enormous civilian casualties. Japan soon surrenders.

· Women play an important role in the war effort; they replace male workers who were in the military and fill supporting roles in the military.

· In 1944 FDR won reelection for a 4th term, in large part because of military success and grassroots support from the CIO and other organized labor political action groups.

Foreign Policy Documents for Writing Practice 

Review Materials: