THE HISTORY OF THE INTER-WAR YEARS 1919 to 1939
Following the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on the 28th June 1919, France insisted Germany be held responsible for reparations as they were the instigators of the First World War. The relatively short period between November 1918 and September 1939 of the inter-war period brought about massive changes worldwide. The former Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian and German Empires were dismantled. The Empires of Britain, France and others faced challenges as imperialism was increasingly viewed negatively in Europe. Independence movements in British India, French Vietnam, Ireland and other regions gathered momentum. Politically, communism and fascism came to the fore with the main perpetrators being Russia, China, Germany and Italy. Russia and China took the communist route, with Germany and Italy taking the fascist route.
Mechanisation expanded dramatically leading to economic prosperity and growth for the middle classes in North America, Europe and the populations of the developed world. The Great Depression of the late 1920s brought a collapse in world trade. Some economies were beginning to recover by the early 1930s.
In Italy during 1919, Benito Mussolini created the Fascist Party by organising several right-wing groups into a single force. He became Prime Minister in 1922 and by 1925 he had made himself dictator taking the title ”Il Duce” (“the Leader”). In 1939 Italy and Germany signed a military alliance known as the “Pact of Steel”.
In Germany during 1923, France and Belgium occupied the Ruhr in order to compel Germany to increase its war reparation payments. This was to lead to massive inflation (stagflation) of the German economy and the value of the “mark” was destroyed. Adolf Hitler came to power in January 1933 and in August 1934 he became the Fuhrer of Germany and promoted a massive re-building project. He also started a re-armament campaign. His territorial ambitions led to the annexing of the surrounding countries which set the stage for the subsequently Second World War.
Following the death of Vladimir Lenin in 1924, communism in Russia began to be a major force when Joseph Stalin became the uncontested leader of the Soviet Union. Stalin was to remain the leader until his death in March 1953. Communism in China began in 1921. The 1900 Boxer Rebellion and the subsequent Great Revolution of 1914 to 1918, led to the civil war between the government of the Republic of China and the Communist Party of China, which began in August 1927.
In civilian life the “Roaring Twenties” highlighted novel and highly visible social and cultural trends and innovations. These trends, made possible by sustained economic prosperity, were most visible in major cities like New York, Chicago, Paris, Berlin and London. The Jazz Age began and Art Deco was at its peak. For women, knee-length skirts and dresses became socially acceptable, as did bobbed hair. The women who pioneered these trends were frequently referred to as flappers.
The Great Depression began in October 1929 following the Wall Street Crash which was the most devastating stock market crash in the history of the United States. The crash affected all Western industrialised countries for the following ten years. Effectively the depression ended after America entered the Second World War in 1941, when many unemployed people were drafted into the war effort either through the military or manufacturing services. The classic property trading board game “Monopoly” was invented in America during the Great Depression. The object of the game is about dealing in big money and getting rich quickly.