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The USA 1919-1941

Unit 1: The Growth of ISOLATION

1.1 How did the USA react to the end of World War One?
Woodrow Wilson wanted America to be a part of the League of Nations. However, the
American people voted against and refused to join. They wanted ISOLATION or as
return to ‘normalacy’ as the new president, Harding said.
‰ People thought Europe was too far away and didn’t really concern them.
‰ Nobody wanted more American soldiers being killed trying to keep peace.
‰ People were worried that America would have to pay lots of money helping
foreign countries. ‘America First’.

1.2 How did the policies of the America Government encourage isolation?
‰ TARIFFS: Foreign goods coming into America had high taxes (called Tariffs)
making them more expensive than American goods. This protected America
‰ IMMIGRATION: America had allowed many thousands of foreigners live in the
USA before WW1. With Isolation this changed. People thought that foreigners
would take American jobs because they would work for cheap labour.
o Literacy Tests: Only educated English speakers could enter USA.
o Quotas: Restricted the numbers allowed in to 357,000 but more people
allowed in from UK and Ireland than countries such as Russia and Italy
that USA didn’t like. Numbers reduced again in 1924.

UNIT 2: The Promised Land? The USA in the 1920s.

2.1 How far did the USA achieve economic prosperity in the 1920s?
The 1920s were known as the boom years, why?
‰ USA economy was strong following WW1, good trade with other countries.
‰ Tariffs protected American goods (see above)
‰ Mass Production: Henry Ford’s idea to make more and quicker.
‰ Consumer Boom: (see cycle of prosperity)
‰ Advertising: Made people want to buy, often on radio and in magazines.
‰ Consumer Goods: New products such as fridges, radios, cars
‰ Hire Purchase or Credit: Pay back over time, made things affordable.
‰ Share Prices: Speculation on the stock exchange, buy on the margin.

‰ POVERTY: Although known as the boom years, more than 40% lived in poverty
in the 1920s, especially farmers and blacks.

2.2 Was the USA a free society in the 1920s?

‰ Ku Klux Klan: People, manly in Southern States, who wished to save ‘true
Americans’ from Catholics, Immigrants and blacks. 5 million members in the
1920s. White robes and strange religious ceremonies. Victims could be lynched
which means arrested, attacked and often hung without a trial.
‰ Prohibition: Illegal to buy or sell alcoholic drinks. Christian groups thought that
alcohol was bad for families and society. But prohibition FAILED:
‰ People still wanted to drink so used speakeasies, moonshine or
‰ There were not enough agents stopping people from buying and selling.
‰ GANGSTERS such as Al Capone were in charge of the police through

‰ 1920s Lifestyle: Jazz Age, Flapper Girls, Hollywood

UNIT 3: America in the Depression 1929-1933

3.1: Why did the USA fall into depression in 1929?

‰ OVER-PRODUCTION: People had bought what they needed so American

industry slowed down.
‰ UNEQUAL DISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH: Many people in America were
poor already and would easily slip into depression. (see above)
‰ TARIFFS: Foreign countries put Tariffs back on American goods stopping
American exports from selling well
‰ WALL STREET CRASH: October 1929, panic set in, millions of shares sold
and prices collapse. Suicides but leads to much bigger problems = Depression.

3.1: What were the effects of the depression on American people?

‰ Businesses collapse which leads to UNEMPLOYMENT (12 million)

‰ People have no money to spend so more businesses go under.
‰ HOMELESSNESS: People can’t afford mortgage repayments, many end up
living in HOOVERVILLES (Shanty Towns which mocked the President)
‰ President Hoover did not believe the Government should interfere in the
economy. What he did do was TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE. He is a much-
criticised President: Bonus Army.

UNIT 4: Recovery from Depression, 1933-1941

4.1: What measures did Roosevelt introduce to bring “Relief, Recovery and
Reform” to the USA?

‰ Roosevelt won the 1932 election easily. Nobody wanted Hoover again and FDR
offered a ‘NEW DEAL’
‰ FIRESIDE CHATS: Roosevelt talked about his plans with the people of
America. He was seen as a friend.
‰ BANKING CRISIS: All banks closed, inspected and then re-opened if
financially secure. People confident and start investing money again.
‰ ALPHABET AGENCIES: Plans to restart economy (see cycle of recovery)
o TVA: Tennessee Valley had new dams built to give jobs and improve the
o NRA: workers were given Trade Union Rights.
o WPA: Jobs created doing public work such as building roads or painting.
o CCC: Young men sent to work for a dollar a day planting trees etc.
o AAA: Prices of farm produce were raised by destroying some crops.

4.2: How far was the NEW Deal successful in ending the Depression in the USA?

‰ The New Deal did give many jobs, more confidence, better rights etc.
‰ HOWEVER, 6 million were still unemployed.
‰ Some people were against the amount of money spent of the NEW DEAL,
wasted money. Some people did not like the idea of the President interfering in
the economy especially businessmen. Some people didn’t think that he was
doing enough and wanted more money spent. Some Alphabet Agencies were
declared illegal by the Supreme Court.
‰ When America joined World War Two in 1941many jobs were created and the
depression was truly lifted.

Past Questions: (prepare your answers)

ƒ How could Americans afford to buy consumer goods in the 1920s?

ƒ Describe the effects of the Depression on American people.
ƒ Explain how the USA developed a policy of isolation in the period
after the First World War.
ƒ Explain why the USA fell into Depression in 1929?
ƒ How did the Ku Klux Klan stir up racist hatred in the 1920s?
ƒ Why did Over-Production lead to the Depression?
ƒ How was Roosevelt’s approach in tackling the problems of the
Depression different from that of Hoover?
ƒ Explain how the USA achieved economic prosperity in the 1920s.
ƒ What measures did Roosevelt take in the NEW DEAL to solve the
problems of banking and agriculture?
ƒ Why did the USA not become a member of the League of Nations?
ƒ Why did some people not share the economic prosperity of the 1920s?
ƒ How did the Wall Street Crash affect business and industry in the
ƒ Why did Roosevelt defeat Hoover so easily in the election for
President in 1932?
ƒ Explain how prohibition and organised crime affected the American
people in the 1920s.
ƒ Explain why the American Government took steps to reduce the
number of immigrants to the USA in the 1920s.
ƒ Why did the USA fall into depression in 1929?