ESSAY II: GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE (Choose One)
1. The “Jazz Age,” the “Roaring Twenties,” the “Turbulent Twenties,” and the “Dollar Decade” all describe the decade of the 1920s. Which label, in your opinion, is most accurate? Justify your answer in an essay describing the decade’s major events and problems.
2. The actions of African-American civil rights activists had a broader effect on activists for other minorities. Agree or disagree. Explain your answer with examples.
3. What role, if any, did the notion of a “balance of power” play in the international relations of a period you have studied? Explain your answer.
4. From your readings on the Vietnam War, evaluate the American role in Vietnam from 1961 to 1975. Was the United States able to fulfill its objectives?
5. The cold war had profound implications for U.S. domestic policy and culture. Discuss the ways in which heightened tension with the Soviet Union influenced America’s national scene from 1945 to 1989. What were the benefits and losses of this “great fear” on American culture?
The Roaring Twenties
The 1920s left an indelible mark on America’s political social and economic life. Indeed, the years following the first world war witnessed radical changes in the country’s social, political and economic landscape, thus informing the name “roaring twenties”. For instance, the decade saw the emergence of the mass media, a discovery that transformed society in many respects, mostly by enhancing information gathering and sharing. The economic depression of 1929 was also a significant event that caused immeasurable suffering on American citizens; in particular, it created a surge in the price of essential commodities. Other notable events include the women’s suffrage and its related consequences, as well as the development of African American art and literature, popularly known as the Harlem Renaissance. In general, the radical changes that took place in the 1920s and their related consequences justify the description ‘roaring twenties’.
The Great Depression
The economic depression of 1929, also known as the Great Depression was one of the most significant events of the 1920s. Indeed, the period is regarded as the worse economic recession not only in the history of the US but in the broader industrialized world. The October 1929 crushing of the New York stock market that informed significant losses for investors was the primary cause of the economic nosedive. The event had significant impacts not only for the affected companies but also for the American and global economy. For instance, it caused massive job losses as companies resulted in laying off workers. Besides, decreased economic activity reduced investment, ultimately causing negative impacts on industrial action. Tied together, decreased economic activities, job losses and a decline in industrial output led to skyrocketing prices, making it challenging to afford life’s necessities. On the whole, the great depression was one of the most significant events of the 1920s.
Impacts of the depression
The Great depression had severe economic consequences. Although several economic challenges had started manifesting before the 1929 economic collapse, the years that followed the actual event witnessed significant financial problems. For instance, it is estimated that the American economy shrank by nearly 50% in the next five years. Decreased economic activity and the loss of jobs also led to inflation and a reduction in the consumer price index. The collapse of major banks and other financial institutions was also a significant result of the depression. Cumulatively, these challenges caused significant suffering as people struggled to afford necessities such as food and housing. Overall, the great depression caused far-reaching economic consequences that saw people face challenges providing essential items.
The great depression had a significant impact on America’s social fabric. Indeed, the economic destruction occasioned several changes that saw society turn to new ways aimed at ensuring survival in the wake of dwindling economic fortunes. For example, alongside the dust bowl drought, the depression undermined farming, especially in the Midwest, forcing farmers to migrate in search of work. The ensuing migrations caused homelessness and the development of shantytowns. The unfortunate economic situation also forced cloth manufacturers to switch to cheaper artificial fabrics. Also, cloth designers started incorporating sullen and dark colours in their designs as an indication of the current challenges.
The economic and social challenges occasioned by the great depression had far-reaching impacts on America’s politics. In particular, the fast-changing economic landscape informed intensive debates, especially on the suitability of capitalism. In particular, left-wing political groups questioned President Herbert Hoover’s laissez-faire economic policies, arguing that such a model was not suitable for solving the nation’s economic challenges. The perceived failure of Hoover’s economic ideas led to the election of Franklin Roosevelt, who advocated for Keynesian economics characterized by increased government spending. On the whole, the great depressed informed political dialogue that focused on the suitability of laissez-faire policies and the need for increased government spending.
The Women’s Suffrage
The 1920s saw increased activism on women’s suffrage. In particular, the denial of voting rights for women informed increased political activity and activism aimed at securing voting rights for women and all minority groups whom the law had continuously barred from voting. Although the women’s suffrage movement existed earlier, its influence and national reach peaked in the 1920s, thus making women’s voting rights one of the nation’s critical political agenda. In pursuit of voting rights and other fundamental freedoms, women suffrage groups partnered with congress, hence resulting in the passage and enactment of the 19th amendment that granted women the much sort after voting rights. On the whole, the 1920s saw increased political activism concerning women’s voting rights and the need for other fundamental freedoms, therefore resulting in the ratification of the 19th amendment.
Besides securing women’s voting rights, the women’s suffrage movement and the related political and social consciousness among women led to the emergence of the flappers. Indeed, the freedom to vote and other social liberties gave rise to a new generation of women who were eager to demonstrate independence. For example, having secured political and social freedoms, the flappers switched from the decades-old Victorian dressing style to new types of clothes such as knee revealing dresses and skirts. The adoption of boyish looks and trimming of hair was also a common practice among the flappers. On the whole, the flapper generation, an offshoot of the women’s suffrage movement, was a significant feature of the roaring twenties.
The Emergence of Jazz Music
The development of jazz music was one of the most significant features of the 1920s. Although the genre existed previously, the 1920s saw the music and its related dance styles gain nationwide attention. The rapid adoption of jazz is attributable to technological innovations such as the phonograph, which made recording and production easy and convenient. The development of the radio also played a significant role in entrenching the jazz culture among Americans. Previously, music lovers attended concert venues and night clubs in order to listen and dance to jazz music. However, the emergence of the radio-enabled people to listen to music at home, therefore enhancing access to those who could not access night clubs and other entertainment facilities. On the whole, the development of jazz music and related dance styles and excitement were the main features of the 1920s.
The Emergence of Mass Media
The emergence of the mass media was one of the major highlights of the 1920s. In particular, the development of the radio occasioned by technological innovations such as the transistor enhanced information gathering and sharing, consequently leading to significant cultural and social changes. America’s first commercial radio station hit the nation’s airwaves in November 1920. Since the radio’s launch coincided with the presidential elections, its first assignment was to provide live coverage of the polls, especially the results transmission. Live coverage of presidential elections was a milestone that ushered the country into a new era of increased radio usage. Indeed, by 1926, America had approximately 700 licensed commercial radio stations. Besides the radio, the 1920s saw the emergence of different types of magazines such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and The Queen. Alongside the radio, these magazines influenced fashion by popularizing make-up and other popular styles. On the whole, the 1920s saw the development of mass media, an element that had significant impacts on fashion.
The Harlem Renaissance
The roaring twenties saw the development of African American art, ranging from music to literature and poetry. Commonly known as the Harlem Renaissance, the development of African American art caused a social and artistic explosion not only in New York’s Harlem neighbourhood but also across the entire nation. Several factors informed the new movement. In particular, mass immigrations by African Americans from the southern states led to an increase in the former’s population in New York’s Harlem, which became a popular destination for the immigrants. The surge in African American population in the city led to the development of the black pride movement that encouraged blacks to credit for their culture and art. On the whole, the 1920s saw the growth and flourishing of African American art, mostly in Harlem, New York.
The mass consumerism that characterized the 1920s is a demonstration that the decade deserved the tag “roaring twenties”. Indeed, the decade witnessed unprecedented economic growth, mainly attributed to the development of industries after world war 1. The increase in economic activity enhanced people’s income, therefore, increasing their purchasing power. The result was the emergence of consumer culture that entailed an increasing demand for different types of utilities such as automobiles, home appliances and other types of consumer goods. The availability of such products and increasing disposable incomes informed a culture of material affluence, where owing such utilities became a symbol of success and sophistication. On the whole, although the great depression undermined economic activity in 1929, the more significant part of the 1920s witnessed unprecedented economic growth and the emergence of a culture of consumerism and desire for material affluence.
The 1920s saw American society experience radical changes that impacted profoundly on the economy, politics and social fabric. For example, the decade saw the nation experience the great depression. This period was characterized by massive job losses, an increase in the rate of homelessness, development of shantytowns and reduction in industrial output. The great depression also informed radical political changes that saw Franklin Roosevelt ascend to the presidency riding on the platform of increased government spending. Other changes that took place in the decade include the rise of jazz music primarily as a result of technological innovations that enhanced recording and production and the emergence of mass media such as radio and magazines. The women’s suffrage movement and the ratification of the 19th amendment that finally guaranteed voting rights for women was also a significant feature of the 1920s. The political and social consciousness occasioned by the women’s suffrage movement informed the rise of the flappers, a generation of women that donned boyish looks and other fancy styles to demonstrate their freedom. In general, the 1920s saw America undergo significant changes in its economic, political and social landscape, hence the name “roaring twenties”.
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 Elliot A. Rosen. Roosevelt, the Great Depression, and the economics of recovery. (University of Virginia Press, 2007).
 Alasdair, Roberts. America’s first Great Depression: economic crisis and political disorder after the Panic of 1837. (Cornell University Press, 2012), 15
 Alasdair, Roberts. America’s first Great Depression, 16
 Elliot A. Rosen. Roosevelt, the Great Depression, and the economics of recovery.
 Alasdair, Roberts. America’s first Great Depression, 86
 Jenny Eberhardt. “Fashion During the Great Depression and World War II”. Pennsylvania State University. Accessed 4 July 2020. sites.psu.edu/jennyebs/2013/10/11/fashion-during-the-great-depression-and-world-war-ii/
 Kasper, Sherryl Davis. The revival of laissez-faire in American macroeconomic theory: A case study of the pioneers. (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2003), 37
 Kasper, Sherryl Davis. The revival of laissez-faire in American macroeconomic theory, 40
 Cally Blackman. “How the Suffragettes used fashion to further the cause”. The Guardian. Accessed 4 July 2020. www.theguardian.com/fashion/2015/oct/08/suffragette-style-movement-embraced-fashion-branding
 Cally Blackman. “How the Suffragettes used fashion to further the cause”
 Cally Blackman. “How the Suffragettes used fashion to further the cause”
 Arnold Shaw. The Jazz Age: Popular Music in the 1920’s. (Oxford University Press on Demand, 1989), 58
 Arnold Shaw. The Jazz Age: Popular Music in the 1920’s, 60
 Richard Butsch. The making of American audiences: From stage to television, 1750-1990. (Cambridge University Press, 2000), 174
 Richard Butsch. The making of American audiences, 179
 Margaret A Blanchard. ed. History of the mass media in the United States: An encyclopaedia. (Routledge, 2013), 23
 Cheryl A Wall. The Harlem Renaissance: A Very Short Introduction. Vol. 479. (Oxford University Press, 2016)
 Cheryl A Wall. The Harlem Renaissance: A Very Short Introduction, 4
 John F. Sherry and Eileen Fischer, eds. Explorations in consumer culture theory. (Routledge, 2008), 69
 John F. Sherry and Eileen Fischer, eds. Explorations in consumer culture theory, 61