USM Open Source History Text: The World at War: World History 1914-1945

A Nation of Contradictions: A Summary of the United States in the 1920

The 1920s were a decade of incredible economic growth that concealed fundamental economic weakness. They were a period of great progressive movements (women’s rights, Harlem Renaissance) coupled with social conservatism (prohibition, anti-communism, religious fundamentalism, Nativism and anti-immigration policy). It was a decade of economic globalization and political isolation. It was a decade of the individualist “myth” and that of the creation of a conformist consumer society, symbolized perfectly by mass production of Ford’s Model T. Cars were individualist icons, but led to lives of increasing standardization and conformity, not least in the pressures that mounting debt placed on the individual (almost all cars were debt-financed). In sum, the 1920s were a decade of stark contradictions. The end of the 1920s, the 1929 crash of the New York Stock Exchange, brought these tensions in American life into stark relief.

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