The American Century for European Section students

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The American Century for European Section students

  1. 1. The 20thCentury: The American CenturyLesson 1 Plan- The American Model- WWI and the USA : Wilsons 14 points- Isolationism or Internationalism ?- the 1920s : politicians, politics and economic boom- the epitome of the age : the Model Ford T
  2. 2. The USA and WWIThe USA entered WWI late, on April 4th1917. The American ExpeditionaryForce (AEF) began as 13 000 men but numbered 2 million in 1918 under thecommand of General Pershing. At the end of the conflict, US casualtiesamong the « doughboys » amounted to roughly 100 000.The economic effects on the US economy were great because the progressiveWilson (Democrat) government set up a controlled war economy:- In 19 months the USA spent $22b- Gross National Product (GNP) rose from $39b in 1912 to $72b in 1919- profits rose from $26b in 1909 to $44b in 1919- US loans to belligerent countries amounted to $10b which had to be repaid …by the victors and losers alike!
  3. 3. Making PeaceWoodrow Wilsons14 PointsWilsons 14 point peace plan can be reduced to a few basic arguments:- no more secret treaties between nations (which led to WWI)- free access to the seas- the right to national self-determination according to linguistic affinity- an international policing of the world by a supranational organization: TheLEAGUE of NATIONS
  4. 4. The League of NationsInternationalism or Isolationism?Wilson, as president, signed all the treaties in Paris but only Congress could ratifythem. The League of Nations was an obligatory clause in all the treaties. TheLeague would oblige the USA to play an active rôle in international politics, affairs…and conflicts but with the president in Europe, the political climate had changed inthe USA ...- from a wartime economy to a peacetime economy: 1919 the Year of the Strikes- 1920-21 saw an economic recession in farming and unemployment rose to 5 million andsalaries dropeed by 22%- wartime patriotism became peacetime nationalism: The Red Scare / socialists /anarchists / trade unionists mostly of southern or eastern European origin, not thewhite old stock- the Progressive Wilsonian period of internationalism was over and America was movingtowards isolationism- Americans were tired of international problems and philospophical speeches and wantedto take advantage of their relative prosperity- Congress (Republican majority) consistently tried to ammend the Treaties and the League of Nations… Wilson eventually died trying to have it adopted and Congress finally refused to ratify it … the USAsigned a separate peace with Germany in 1920
  5. 5. The US 1920 ElectionsHarding (Rep) v Cox (Dem)Hardings electoral platform :- « not nostrums but normalcy »- « not submergence in internationality buttriumphant nationality »- tax reductions for the rich- end of wartime controls over theeconomy- limits on immigration- high import tariffs- « less government in business and morebusiness in government »
  6. 6. The Republican Decade 1920-1932The PresidentsWilliam Harding 1920-23« Americas present need is … not nostrums but normalcy »Calvin Coolidge 1924-1928« The business of America is business »Herbert Hoover 1928-1932« The USA was nearer to the final triumph over poverty than any other country in history … prosperity is just around the corner »
  7. 7. The Republican Decade 1920-1932The Politics- an end to the Progressive era of Wilson and a return to laissez-fairepolitics and government non-interventionism in the economy (in theory)- high tariffs on imports which closed foreign markets and forced people to buyAmerican- reduction of high income taxes for the rich (gift tax abolished / estate tax-50% / maximum surtax cut from 40% to 20%)- repealment of Child Labour Laws- Trade Unions could be sued in court court for damages in the event of astrike- Republican domination of the Supreme Court (8 out of 9 judges)- Nepotism – placing friends in position of authority
  8. 8. The Republican Decade 1920-1932The Economic BoomThe 1920s saw an enormous economic boom in the USA as America closed itsdoors to the outside world and enjoyed the fruits of prosperity brought about by itsinvolvement in WWI – huge profits, a new highly modernized industry and a largedomestic market for its products … these were the good years ...- new electricity industry : 1912 only 16% homes had electrcity in 1929 70% wereequipped- new household electricial appliances : radio sales (1921 $10,5M 1929 $411M)40% of families owned a radio ; refrigerators ;- the Hollywood film industry : 1930 - $2000M invested; 325 000 employees;$1500M in box-office admissions- in general, a 40% increase in manufacture (thanks to Taylorism and electricity) and a26% increase in farming (tractors, combine harvesters ...)But, by far the most important changes were brought about by the automobile : The Model T Ford
  9. 9. Case Study : The Model T FordThe automobile industry, and Ford in particular, was the great success storyof the 1920s which also revolutionised American society.1900 : 4000 cars in circulation1921 : 1,5 million cars in circulation1929 : 23 million cars in circulationEnd of the 1920s : 4,7 million cars produced each yearCar ownership :1/10 Americans1/43 British1/44 French1/29000 Chinese
  10. 10. The Moving Assembly Line« You can have any colour you like as long as its black »The application of Taylorism : the Rationalisation of Labour- one single model- moving assembly line reduced time spent on production- specialised posts increased production ratesThe time necessary tp roduce a Model T Ford car body went from 14 hours to 2 hoursThe price of a Model T Ford fell from $2000 in 1907 to $500 in 1925
  11. 11. The effects of the automobile industryThe Automobile Industry15% Steel production80% Rubber production7% Total workforce3,7 million Indirectly employedOther side effects :- road surface production doubled- appearance of garages, gas stations, tourism, camp sites, souvenir shops- people became mobile and moved out of cities – car became a necessity- traditional family ties were broken – young people spent time away from the home- break down in generational relationships and religious practises- road accidents increased – no driving test- the young generation became disrespectful – the generation on a wave of speed

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