W2.08 The World of 1930
Hi. Welcome back. Make yourself comfortable. Let's take a look around the world of 1930. A big point I want to make is that we look back on this period, let's say 1930, and a common term historians use for it is to call it the: Inter-War Period. See, we're so conscious that Word War II is coming, and that World War I had just ended, that this looks almost like a brief interval. Some historians even write of it almost like a truce period, an armistice, between the two wars. And actually, it's very common for people to think: Yeah, because of the way the first war ended, it was so unsatisfactory, we were bound to have the second war. So, this is just a pause, an interval, in the general descent. My point here is this is not such a linear story. That actually the world of 1930 hadn't solved its problems, but it was actually slowly rebuilding, reconstructing, holding the center together, though it was fragile. Let's take a look at what's going on among the Great Powers. Among the Great Powers, the Americans are very involved commercially, financially, and politically in East Asia. But the Great Powers were still thought of as being mainly centered in Europe; the Americans sometimes playing a role. And in Europe in the late 1920s, there's a feeling of cautious optimism because the British, French and Germans have reconciled some of their differences, during the middle of the 1920s, through meeting of the minds: a pact at the city of Locarno, in which the three leaders agree to respect the postwar status quo, at least in the West; the Germans are still pretty uneasy about their borders with Poland. A key figure in the spirit of Locarno was the leader of the German Republic, this man: Gustav Stresemann. Stresemann is what we would now think of as a conservative figure, but very much a centrist figure, very nationalist. But he wants to hold the republic together by making some concessions to German nationalism, anger, resentment but also finding a stable working relationship with the British and the French. Some people argue that Stresemannï¿½s premature death is one of the tragedies of German politics in this era. In addition to a fragile but meaningful understanding among the Great Powers in Europe, there's also an international institution, the League of Nations, meant to help regulate disputes. It's up and running at its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. One of its principal buildings is this one, named for Woodrow Wilson, a founding spirit of the League, this is the Palais Wilson, though the United States itself is not a member of the League. The League of Nations is up and running, getting involved in some disputes, creating some international organizations, building up an ideal that there might be a way of managing disputes through institutions of international cooperation: courts to arbitrate dispute, treaties to regulate the use of weapons in war had become increasingly important since the early 1900s. And in the late 1920s, those ideas looked to a lot of people like the wave of the future, getting a lot of attention in universities around the world. There's an active agenda of disarmament. There had been an important treaty to regulate the size of navies that was signed in Washington at the beginning of 1922. That treaty was seen as working out reasonably successfully; the agenda was moving to how to regulate armies, which, by the way, turns out to be a much, much harder problem. But anyway, there was an active agenda for disarmament being pursued by the Great Powers. In the economic/financial side, the gold standard is coming back. That was the standard money that had knitted much of the world together before World War I. After the war, it's being revived, with a lot of help from the United States, though less from the United States government and more from various United States private firms working in cooperation with the US government, helping effectively to provide loans to countries that didn't have enough gold, didn't have enough hard currency, and using American credit to help rebuild an international financial system built on the gold standard. One of the principal initiatives in the late 1920s was named for its American author: the Young Plan. Meanwhile, the Europeans still are maintaining their empires which are increasingly on the defensive and embattled, as they try to give somewhat more autonomy to the local peoples but find that actually local peoples disagree over what their states should be like and that the imperial powers becoming an umpire between warring local parties, in some cases, a very reluctant umpire. One reason for these battles is because all kinds of new nation states are being built and all kinds of new nation states are being envisioned. Just to offer you a contrast between the world before World War I, see Russian Empire, German Empire, Austro-Hungarin Empire, Ottoman Empire; then look at the reorganization of Eastern Europe, of the Ottoman Empire into all these different states, each of them trying to decide what their states should be like. What should it be modeled on? For instance, the Arabs are being given states; they had been on the fringes of the Ottoman Empire. One of the leading Arab princely families is represented here: that's Prince Faisal in the foreground, behind him are some of his British and French advisors, perhaps best known is this man right here: T.E. Lawrence, sometimes known as Lawrence of Arabia. And Prince Faisal's family becomes the ruling family of this new country, here in Iraq, and this new country, here in Trans-Jordan, both made up of remnants from the Ottoman Empire. This area here, Palestine, is divided between both Arab and Jewish populations. During World War I, the British had made contrasting promises to both Arabs and Jews about who could live in Palestine, and the British find themselves being the umpire in the growing disputes between those national communities. The French were finding themselves being an umpire in ethnically divided Syria, and so on. You'll note here over at the side, Persia, which through much of the 1800s was ruled by the decaying warrior dynasty Qajars, is also remaking itself, at the beginning of the 1900s, into a nation state with a constitution, and in the 1920s, a new constitutional monarchy whose ruler is the Shah. Of course, not everybody is included happily in these settlements. The Soviet Union is kind of cast out on the outside, kept at arm's length, because, after all, it's dedicated to overthrowing all the others. But the Soviet example, and the example of communism, is appealing for some. For instance these young Indonesians, they're looking for their inspiration, see the Soviet Union as a model, and form a Communist Party of Indonesia. They take the Dutch East Indies, a unit created by colonialism, and want to turn that into a nation state called Indonesia, which could be organized on the principles of communism, opposing Dutch imperialism. There is a rich menu of examples and quarreling ideologies for people to choose from at the end of the 1920s and in 1930. Still a lot of division. One of the more attractive models you would look at, if you were a new nation state, would be Turkey, which has remade itself into a vigorous nation state under its strongman ruler Ataturk. Here Ataturk is showing his devotion to education. Ataturk, by the way Mustafa Kemal, very interested in the theories of the American liberal educator John Dewey. He's adopting a whole new alphabet for Turkey that he thinks is more progressive. He's aggressively secular, trying to wipe all Muslim habits out of Turkish public life. There's also the example, attractive to many, of fascist rule in Italy, where Mussolini, it is commonly said, now can get the trains to run on time. In Barcelona, Spain is now ruled by the military dictator Primo de Rivera, a National Conservative, a top-down modernizer. To show off Spain's new strength, its desire to welcome the world, he actually hosts, in Barcelona, an International Exhibition in 1929. The International Exhibition shows off some of the diversity of choices in architecture. You see here, the emphasis on neoclassical architecture, remolding older designs for the modern era. Or for instance in this illustration. Including, you see, these modern clock towers, illuminated at night with beautiful electric lights. Another contrasting example of modernity was provided by the German exhibition, showing off the works, in this case, of the architect Mies van der Rohe. Spare, functionalist. In fact, this German exhibition was torn Down a year later. Devotees of modern architecture have made sure that it was rebuilt in Barcelona in the 1980s. Of course, there is still a lot of dissent seething beneath the surface. For example, the German painter, George Grosz, has this bitter portrait of the pillars of society. You see in the background: the army, with the sword covered with blood; the church, represented here not very attractively; the businessmen crowding up to the bar. You might hope that all these warring political factions will somehow hold together in liberal harmony. That's actually the dream of this German cartoonist, who at the very end of the 1920s you see: here's Germany, that's the German eagle, asleep, dreaming of a sunlit, radiant dawn with a rainbow in which the communists, the liberals, the Catholic center, the national conservative businessman, the conservative Bavarian farmer, and the Nazis over here, all link hands in harmony. His dream of a happier Germany. In Shanghai, a new Republic of China is getting up on its feet. It's leader is a man in uniform. Chang Kai-Shek is a symbol of that National Conservative ideology. Top-down, modernizer, nationalizer, but also at times veering a little bit towards fascist authoritarianism, too. And if we flip back to the United States of America, go to a city like Chicago in 1928, 1929, 1930, we'd see an example of something called corporatism: businesses trying to heal the divide between business and labor by businessmen engaging in welfare capitalism, giving their workers better wages, providing more services to their workers. The kinder, gentler face of big business. Business trying to use the economic growth of the 1920s to take better care of laborers, to head off further disputes. And in the city, local government juggling the claims of different ethnic groups. A liberal model, holding together. But this world of 1930 I'm describing, it's a broken world that's being reconstructed, but the cement isn't really dry. The structure is still really fragile, and it's about to get buffeted by a terrific storm. And that's going to be our subject for next week, both the storm and what came of it. See you then.