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Each respectively distilled the experience and defined the historical legacy of a century.
Each embraced a pair of episodes with lastingly transformative impacts. From to the Revolutionary War and the adoption of the Constitution brought national independence and established the basic political framework within which the nation would be governed ever after.
To understand the logic and the consequences of those three moments is to understand much about the essence and the trajectory of all of American history.
To a much greater degree than in the earlier cases, the changes set in motion by the Great Depression and World War II had their origins outside the United States—a reminder of the increasing interdependency among nations that was such a salient feature of the twentieth century.
The Great Depression was a worldwide catastrophe whose causes and consequences alike were global in character. Economists and historians continue to this day to debate the proximate causes of the Great Depression.
The war exacted a cruel economic and human toll from the core societies of the advanced industrialized world, including conspicuously Britain, France, and Germany. The lingering distortions in trade, capital flows, and exchange rates occasioned by the punitive Treaty of Versailles, as the economist John Maynard Keynes observed at the time, managed to perpetuate in peacetime the economic disruptions that had wrought so much hardship in wartime.
To those abundant physical and institutional ills might be added a rigidly doctrinaire faith in laissez-faire, balanced national budgets, and the gold standard. The United States had participated only marginally in the First World War, but the experience was sufficiently costly that Americans turned their country decidedly inward in the s.
Congress in effectively closed the American market to foreign vendors with the Fordney-McCumber Tariff, among the highest in United States history, and the Smoot-Hawley Tariff eight years later. Washington also insisted that the Europeans repay the entirety of the loans extended to them by the US Treasury during the war.
And in the republic for the first time in its history imposed a strict limit on the number of immigrants who could annually enter the country. Among those eventually excluded though none could yet know it were thousands of Jewish would-be fugitives from Nazi persecution.
Militarily, diplomatically, commercially, financially, even morally, Americans thus turned their backs on the outside world. American prosperity in the s was real enough, but it was not nearly as pervasive as legend has portrayed.
And well before the Great Depression, almost as soon as the Great War concluded ina severe economic crisis had beset the farm-belt. It did not entirely lift until the next world war, more than twenty years later. Virtually none enjoyed such common urban amenities as electricity and indoor plumbing.
Other maladies began to appear, faintly at first, but with mounting urgency as the Depression began to unfold. Some twenty-five thousand banks, most of them highly fragile "unitary" institutions with tiny service areas, little or no diversification of clients or assets, and microscopic capitalization, constituted the astonishingly vulnerable foundation of the national credit.
As for government—public spending at all levels, including towns, cities, counties, states, and the federal government itself, amounted only to about 15 percent of the gross domestic product in the s, one-fifth of which was federal expenditures.
Ideology aside, its very size made the federal government in the s a kind of ninety-pound weakling in the fight against the looming depression. Then in the autumn ofthe bubble burst. The Great Crash in October sent stock prices plummeting and all but froze the international flow of credit.Pound was living in Italy at the time of World War II and publicly wrote and spoke in favor of the Axis.
He highly disagreed with the involvement of the United States, despite the fact that he was. Following the end of the First World War, an economic shift took place as America's industrial might was unleashed for peacetime production. By the early s, the economy was booming.
However, the war's end allowed the resumption of normal European production, and suddenly, the world faced a huge glut of agricultural products, with no market of buyers. From to , farm prices fell at a catastrophic rate. From Neutrality to War: The United States and Europe, – (4 Lessons) Tools.
The United States and World Affairs, – A comprehensive student interactive giving the user a full scope of America's political and diplomatic responses to world events between the two world wars. The impact of the slump.
Economically, Europe emerged from World War I much weakened, partly by the purchases that had had to be made in the United States. Even in the United States had been the world’s leading economic power.
By profits had enabled it to invest more than $9 billion abroad, compared with $ billion before the war. The two-ocean moat that for centuries had shielded the New World from the Old World continued to insulate the United States in World War II—though the advent of America’s own long-range, ocean-spanning strategic bombers clearly signaled the end of the republic’s long era of "free security.".