hitler propaganda

German children read an anti-Jewish propaganda book titled DER GIFTPILZ ( “The Poisonous Mushroom”). The girl on the left holds a companion volume, the translated title of which is “Trust No Fox.” Germany, ca. 1938.

This post is slightly abridged from

“Propaganda tries to force a doctrine on the whole people… Propaganda works on the general public from the standpoint of an idea and makes them ripe for the victory of this idea.”  These are Adolf Hitler’s words in Mein Kampf (1926).

Following the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, Hitler established the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda headed by Joseph Goebbels. The Ministry’s aim was to ensure that the Nazi message was successfully communicated through art, music, theater, films, books, radio, educational materials, and the press.

There were several audiences for Nazi propaganda. Germans were reminded of the struggle against foreign enemies and Jewish subversion. During periods preceding legislation or executive measures against Jews, propaganda campaigns created an atmosphere tolerant of violence against Jews, particularly in 1935 (before the Nuremberg Race Laws of September) and in 1938 (prior to the barrage of antisemitic economic legislation following Kristallnacht). Propaganda also encouraged passivity and acceptance of the impending measures against Jews, as these appeared to depict the Nazi government as stepping in and “restoring order.”

Real and perceived discrimination against ethnic Germans in east European nations which had gained territory at Germany’s expense following World War I, such as Czechoslovakia and Poland, was the subject of Nazi propaganda. This propaganda sought to elicit political loyalty and so-called race consciousness among the ethnic German populations. It also sought to mislead foreign governments—including the European Great Powers—that Nazi Germany was making understandable and fair demands for concessions and annexations.

After the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Nazi propaganda stressed to both civilians at home and to soldiers, police officers, and non-German auxiliaries serving in occupied territory themes linking Soviet Communism to European Jewry, presenting Germany as the defender of “Western” culture against the “Judeo-Bolshevik threat, and painting an apocalyptic picture of what would happen if the Soviets won the war. This was particularly the case after the catastrophic German defeat at Stalingrad in February 1943. These themes may have been instrumental in inducing Nazi and non-Nazi Germans as well as local collaborators to fight on until the very end.

Films in particular played an important role in disseminating racial antisemitism, the superiority of German military power, and the intrinsic evil of the enemies as defined by Nazi ideology. Nazi films portrayed Jews as “subhuman” creatures infiltrating Aryan society. For example, The Eternal Jew (1940), directed by Fritz Hippler, portrayed Jews as wandering cultural parasites, consumed by sex and money. Some films, such as The Triumph of the Will (1935) by Leni Riefenstahl, glorified Hitler and the National Socialist movement. Two other Riefenstahl works, Festival of the Nations andFestival of Beauty (1938), depicted the 1936 Berlin Olympic Gamesand promoted national pride in the successes of the Nazi regime at the Olympics.

Newspapers in Germany, above all Der Stürmer (The Attacker), printed cartoons that used antisemitic caricatures to depict Jews. After the Germans began World War II with the invasion of Polandin September 1939, the Nazi regime employed propaganda to impress upon German civilians and soldiers that the Jews were not only subhuman, but also dangerous enemies of the German Reich. The regime aimed to elicit support, or at least acquiescence, for policies aimed at removing Jews permanently from areas of German settlement

During the implementation of the so-called Final Solution, the mass murder of European Jews, SS officials at killing centers compelled the victims of the Holocaust to maintain the deception necessary to deport the Jews from Germany and occupied Europe as smoothly as possible. Concentration camp and killing center officials compelled prisoners, many of whom would soon die in the gas chambers, to send postcards home stating that they were being treated well and living in good conditions. Here, the camp authorities used propaganda to cover up atrocities and mass murder.

In June 1944, the German Security Police permitted an International Red Cross team to inspect the Theresienstadt camp-ghetto, located in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (today: Czech Republic). The SS and police had established Theresienstadt in November 1941 as an instrument of propaganda for domestic consumption in the German Reich. The camp-ghetto was used as an explanation for Germans who were puzzled by the deportation of German and Austrian Jews who were elderly, disabled war veterans, or locally known artists and musicians “to the East” for “labor.” In preparation for the 1944 visit, the ghetto underwent a “beautification” program. In the wake of the inspection, SS officials in the Protectorate produced a film using ghetto residents as a demonstration of the benevolent treatment the Jewish “residents” of Theresienstadt supposedly enjoyed. When the film was completed, SS officials deported most of the “cast” to the Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center.

The Nazi regime used propaganda effectively to mobilize the German population to support its wars of conquest until the very end of the regime. Nazi propaganda was likewise essential to motivating those who implemented the mass murder of the European Jews and of other victims of the Nazi regime. It also served to secure the acquiescence of millions of others—as bystanders—to racially targeted persecution and mass murder.

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Lusitania: A Hundred Years on…

The Lusitania Conspiracy?

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For one brief shining moment, the Lusitania, a British-built ocean liner, was the largest, fastest and most luxurious ship in the world. When she was torpedoed by a German submarine in May 1915, she sunk in just under fifteen minutes, taking over 1200 passengers and crew to their death. The New York Times reported a “grave crisis… at hand” which was the question of Washington’s response to this outrage. Would the American government retaliate against this “monstrous act of aggression” by joining Britain and her allies against the Kaiser’s Germany? And here we come, immediately, to the first whiff of historical discussion which may, (or may not), validate the use of the word “Conspiracy.” Was there more going on here than meets the eye? If the writer for the New York Times could identify such a consequence with such rapidity, might not others do so too? In fact, if America’s joining the war was such an obvious consequence, could the calamity itself have been engineered to produce it?
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Churchill: Worst Lord of the Admiralty?

Ken’s new book on Churchill’s role as First Lord of the Admiralty (1911-1915)was presented as a lecture last month, at the National Maritime Museum, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin and is available here

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1923 Kanto: Japan’s last major Earthquake

memorial to victims of 1923 Great Kantō earthq...

Image by Nemo's great uncle via Flickr

Echoes From Japan’s Past

With the massive quake and tsunami that struck Japan last week, the specter of another devastating event has returned: The 1923 Kanto earthquake, which shook the region around Tokyo, was the country’s last “big one.” The 7.9-magnitude quake reduced much of Tokyo to rubble, and as refugees tried to leave, firestorms swept through the city. More than 100,000 people died during the Kanto quake and its aftermath. This archival image, drawn from the U.S. Geological Survey, AP, and Brown University‘s Dana and Vera Reynolds Collection, show the horrifying wreckage. 

It’s a reminder that Japan has faced brutally difficult rebuilding efforts before, and succeeded in building back better. [ See the January 1924 edition of the Atlantic Magazine:

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Gustav Stresemann, one of Germany's most influ...

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Gustav Stresemann (1878-1929) was the son of a well-to-do restauranteur. He worked in the family business and studied hard. After attending the Andreas Real Gymnasium in Berlin, Stresemann studied literature, philosophy, and political economy at Berlin and Leipzig. During these student days, he discovered that he had powers of leadership as well as a capacity for literary attainment. He wrote critical essays on Thomas More’s Utopia  and historical pieces on Bismarck  and Napoleon, and acted as spokesman for his student association. His doctoral dissertation was an  economic investigation of the Berlin beer trade,   assessing the pressures of big business capitalism on the independent middle class of Berlin.

Stresemann entered the real world of commerce in 1901 at the age of twenty-two as a clerk in the Association of German Chocolate Manufacturers in Dresden. A year later he took over the business management of the local branch of the Manufacturers Alliance, an association of entrepreneurs. With his organizing talent and his persuasiveness, he increased the number of members in the alliance from 180 in 1902 to 1,000 in 1904 and to approximately 5,000 in 1912. Although he represented capital, Stresemann nonetheless supported the idea, novel at the time, that management should accept labor’s right to organize and should recognize its representatives as official negotiators of collective bargaining demands.

Always convinced of the relationship between economics and politics, however, Stresemann sought elective office. In 1906 he was elected to a seat on the town council of Dresden, which he held until 1912; in 1907 he won election to the Reichstag. In 1917 he was elected leader of the National Liberal Party.

While in Dresden, Stresemann married Käthe Kleefeld; they had two sons. One of Stresemann’s biographers remarks that his devotion to his wife was «the axis on which his whole life turned [so that he was free to fling] his entire intellect and energy, his almost superhuman powers of concentration, into his one concern, politics»
Stresemann passionately supported Germanic policy both before and during World War I. He believed in force, in authority, in discipline. He argued as early as 1907 for the creation of a strong navy, seeing in it the instrument by which to extend and protect German overseas trade; in 1916, he supported unrestricted submarine warfare; he helped to defeat the government of Bethmann-Hollweg which he thought too temperate; he opposed the Treaty of Versailles.

Dismayed, however, to discover Germany’s true military position in the fall of 1918, Stresemann found his ideas of the world changing. Disillusioned with an imperial government that believed in force yet did not possess adequate force, and indeed realizing that the policy of force and conquest in itself is ultimately ruinous, he began to see the world as a jigsaw of political and commercial interrelationships, each nation an individual piece in the puzzle and each fitting into another.

A month after the armistice of November 11, 1918, Stresemann formed the German People’s Party, was elected to the national assembly which gathered at Weimar in 1919 to frame a new constitution, was elected to the new Reichstag in 1920 and spent the next three years in opposition. From August 13 to November 23, 1923, Stresemann was chancellor of a coalition government. In his short-lived ministry he dealt firmly with insurrection in Saxony, restored order in Bavaria after Hitler’s Putsch failed, ended the passive resistance of Germans in the Ruhr to the French occupying forces, and began the work of stabilizing Germany’s currency.

In 1924 Stresemann’s successor chose him as his secretary of foreign affairs, an office he was to fill with such distinction under four governments that he was called the greatest master of German foreign policy since Bismarck. He enjoyed immediate success with the acceptance of the Dawes Plan, which restructured reparations on the basis of Germany’s ability to pay. With his note of February 9, 1925, he took the initiative in arriving at a rapprochement with the Western Allies, especially with France, in guaranteeing the maintenance of the boundaries established at Versailles. After careful preparation for a conference, Gustav Stresemann, Aristide Briand, and Austen Chamberlain, along with representatives of the other four nations involved, met at Locarno, Switzerland, to draw up mutual security pacts. The three were a study in contrasts: Chamberlain, tall, elegant, monocled, schoolmasterish, cool; Briand, slightly stooped, hair disheveled, moustached, informal, amused; Stresemann, stiffly erect, bald head reflecting the light, cautiously formal. But they shared a common goal: to provide general security so that political and economic stability could be achieved.

After initialing the Locarno Pact on October 16, Stresemann hurried home to insure its acceptance by the government. In a speech broadcast to the nation on November 3, 1925, he appealed for support, saying: «Locarno may be interpreted as signifying that the States of Europe at last realize that they cannot go on making war upon each other without being involved in common ruin.»

As another part of his peace offensive, Stresemann signed a rapprochement with Russia, called the Treaty of Berlin, in April of 1926. And, following an unsuccessful trip to Geneva in March, he finally saw on September 8, 1926, the unanimous acceptance of Germany’s admission into the League of Nations.

Despite his health, which declined rapidly after the Christmas of 1927, and against medical advice, Stresemann retained his position as German foreign minister. In 1929 at The Hague, he accepted the Young Plan which named June 30, 1930, as the final date for the evacuation of the Ruhr.

Stresemann did not live to see that evacuation. The victim of a stroke, he died in Berlin in October of 1929.

Posted in A Level History, Economic History, Germany, Historical Interpretation, Hitler, Nazi Germany, Weimar | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Raising the GCSE History Standard

During the last couple of weeks radio and TV stations have been running the story of King Charles I School in Kidderminster, which has seen its GCSE results rise by an extraordinary 18% in one year.

In interviews with the media Geraint Roberts, deputy head at the school, has spoken about the causes of this dramatic rise in results, and in particular cites a change that has seen the level of A* to C grades rise from 59% to 77%.

One year ago King Charles School introduced a remarkable new approach to revision in the school – using iPods loaded with curriculum-based podcasts.   

The aim was to make the learning more accessible (one is almost tempted to say “more cool”) to those students for whom learning from text books is particularly difficult.

The students have responded incredibly well to this and have found the approach of revision notes on their iPod a much more accessible way to learn as it utilises technology that has more in common within their culture.

To make the system work the school has introduced their own iPods that they book out to the students (through the library) – which overcomes any thoughts that the students might be pretending to use the system while listening to something else. 

Obviously, if this is not a concern, students could also use their own machines to watch the curriculum material at school or home.

There is a copy of one of the programmes that covers King Charles School’s breakthrough on 

There is also a BBC article on the issue at

If you would like to know more about introducing GCSEPod to your school then you can find out more:

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The Cold War: Introduction

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The Cold War was the most important political and diplomatic issue of the early postwar period. The main Cold War enemies were the United States and the Soviet Union. The Cold war got its name because both sides were afraid of fighting each other directly. In such a “hot war,” nuclear weapons might destroy everything. So, instead, they fought each other indirectly. They played havoc with conflicts in different parts of the world. They also used words as weapons. They threatened and denounced each other. Or they tried to make each other look foolish.

The term “Cold War” was first used in 1947 by Bernard Baruch, senior advisor to Harry Truman, the 33rd president of the United States, in reference to the frequently occurring and exacerbating crises between the United States and the former Soviet Union, despite having fought side-by-side against Nazi Germany in the Second World War.

Dating the end of the Cold War requires dating its begining, and defining what it was about. By one reaconing, the Cold War began in the 1945-1948 timeframe, and ended in 1989, having been a dispute over the division of Europe. By another account, the Cold War began in 1917 with the Bolshevik Revolution, and ended in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union, having been a conflict between Bolshevism and Democracy.

The Cold War grew out of longstanding conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States that developed after the Russian Revolution of 1917. The Soviet Communist Party under V.I. Lenin considered itself the spearhead of an international movement that would replace the existing political orders in the West, and indeed throughout the world.

The Cold War can be said to have begun in 1917, with the emergence in Russia of a revolutionary Bolshevik regime devoted to spreading communism throughout the industrialized world. For Vladimir Lenin, the leader of that revolution, such gains were imperative. As he wrote in his August 1918 Open Letter to the American Workers, “We are now, as it were, in a besieged fortress, waiting for the other detachments of the world socialist revolution to come to our relief.”

Western governments generally understood communism to be an international movement whose adherents foreswore all national allegiance in favor of transnational communism, but in practice received their orders from and were loyal to Moscow. In 1918, the United States joined briefly and unenthusiastically in an unsuccessful Allied attempt to topple the revolutionary Soviet regime. Suspicion and hostility thus characterized relations between the Soviets and the West long before the Second World War made them reluctant allies in the struggle against Nazi Germany.

The United States and Great Britain fought against the Bolsheviks, unsuccessfully, between 1918 and 1920. In 1918 American troops participated in the Allied intervention in Russia on behalf of anti-Bolshevik forces. In the two decades thereafter, Soviet attitudes towards the West oscillated wildly. American diplomatic recognition of the Soviet Union did not come until 1933. Even then, suspicions persisted. During World War II, however, the two countries found themselves allied and downplayed their differences to counter the Nazi threat.

The Cold War was a decades-long struggle for global supremacy that pitted the capitalist United States against the communist Soviet Union. Although there are some disagreements as to when the Cold War began, it is generally conceded that mid- to late-1945 marks the time when relations between Moscow and Washington began deteriorating. This deterioration ignited the early Cold War and set the stage for a dynamic struggle that often assumed mythological overtones of good versus evil.

At the close of World War II, the Soviet Union stood firmly entrenched in Eastern Europe, intent upon installing governments there that would pay allegiance to the Kremlin. It also sought to expand its security zone even further into North Korea, Central Asia, and the Middle East. Similarly, the United States established a security zone of its own that comprised Western Europe, Latin America, Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. From the long view of history, it is clear that both sides were jockeying for a way to secure their futures from the threat of another world war, but it was the threat that each side perceived from the other that allowed for the development of mutual suspicion. It was this mutual suspicion, augmented by profound distrust and misunderstanding that would ultimately fuel the entire conflict.

Over the years, leaders on both sides changed. Yet the Cold War continued. It was the major force in world politics for most of the second half of the twentieth century. Historians disagree about how long the Cold War lasted. A few believe it ended when the United States and the Soviet Union improved relations during the nineteen-sixties and early nineteen-seventies. Others believe it ended when the Berlin Wall was torn down in 1989, or when the Soviet Union collapsed in late 1991.

For the first few years of the early Cold War (between 1945 and 1948), the conflict was more political than military. Both sides squabbled with each other at the UN, sought closer relations with nations that were not committed to either side, and articulated their differing visions of a postwar world. By 1950, however, certain factors had made the Cold War an increasingly militarized struggle. The communist takeover in China, the pronouncement of the Truman Doctrine, the advent of a Soviet nuclear weapon, tensions over occupied Germany, the outbreak of the Korean War, and the formulation of the Warsaw Pact and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as rival alliances had all enhanced the Cold War’s military dimension. U.S. foreign policy reflected this transition when it adopted a position that sought to “contain” the Soviet Union from further expansion. By and large, through a variety of incarnations, the containment policy would remain the central strategic vision of U.S. foreign policy from 1952 until the ultimate demise of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Successive American presidents and successive Soviet premiers tried to manage the Cold War in different ways, and the history of their interactions reveals the delicate balance-of-power that needed to be maintained between both superpowers. Dwight Eisenhower campaigned as a hard-line Cold Warrior and spoke of “rolling back” the Soviet empire, but when given a chance to dislodge Hungary from the Soviet sphere-of-influence in 1956, he declined. The death of Stalin in 1953 prefaced a brief thaw in East-West relations, but Nikita Kruschev also found it more politically expedient to take a hard line with the United States than to speak of cooperation.

The United States and the Soviet Union were the only two superpowers following the Second World War. The fact that, by the 1950s, each possessed nuclear weapons and the means of delivering such weapons on their enemies, added a dangerous aspect to the Cold War. The Cold War world was separated into three groups. The United States led the West. This group included countries with democratic political systems. The Soviet Union led the East. This group included countries with communist political systems. The non-aligned group included countries that did not want to be tied to either the West or the East.

By 1960, both sides had invested huge amounts of money in nuclear weapons, both as an attempt to maintain parity with each other’s stockpiles, but also because the idea of deterring conflict through “mutually assured destruction” had come to be regarded as vital to the national interest of both. As nuclear weapons became more prolific, both nations sought to position missile systems in ever closer proximity to each other’s borders. One such attempt by the Soviet government in 1962 precipitated the Cuban Missile Crisis, arguably the closest that the world has ever come to a large-scale nuclear exchange between two countries.

It was also in the early 1960s that American containment policy shifted from heavy reliance on nuclear weapons to more conventional notions of warfare in pursuit of a more “flexible response” to the spread of communism. Although originally articulated by President Kennedy, it was in 1965 that President Johnson showcased the idea of flexible response when he made the initial decision to commit American combat troops to South Vietnam. American thinking had come to regard Southeast Asia as vital to its national security, and President Johnson made clear his intention to insure South Vietnam’s territorial and political integrity “whatever the cost or whatever the challenge.”

The United States ultimately fought a bloody and costly war in Vietnam that poisoned U.S. politics and wreaked havoc with its economy. The Nixon administration inherited the conflict in 1969, and although it tried to improve relations with the Soviets through detente – and even took the unprecedented step of establishing diplomatic relations with Communist China – neither development was able to bring about decisive change on the Vietnamese battlefield. The United States abandoned the fight in 1973 under the guise of a peace agreement that left South Vietnam emasculated and vulnerable.

Although Nixon continued to negotiate with the Soviets and to court Maoist China, the Soviet Union and the United States continued to subvert one another’s interests around the globe in spite of detente’s high-minded rhetoric. Leonid Brezhnev had been installed as Soviet premier in 1964 as Kruschev’s replacement, and while he too desired friendlier relations with the United States on certain issues (particularly agriculture), genuinely meaningful cooperation remained elusive.

By the end of the 1970s, however, the chance for an extended thaw had utterly vanished. Jimmy Carter had been elected president in 1976, and although he was able to hammer out a second arms limitation agreement with Brezhnev, the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan significantly soured U.S.-Soviet relations. Seeking to place a greater emphasis on human rights in his foreign policy, Carter angrily denounced the incursion and began to adopt an increasingly hard line with the Soviets. The following year, Americans overwhelmingly elected a president who spoke of waging the Cold War with even greater intensity than had any of his predecessors, and Ronald Reagan made good on his promises by dramatically increasing military budgets in the early 1980s.

Nonetheless, by 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev had replaced Brezhnev in Moscow, and he quickly perceived that drastic changes to the Soviet system were necessary if the USSR. was to survive as a state. He instituted a series of liberal reforms known as perestroika, and he seemed genuinely interested in more relations with the West, known as glasnost. Although President Reagan continued to use bellicose language with respect to the Soviet Union (as when he labeled it an “evil empire”), the Gorbachev-Reagan relationship was personally warm and the two leaders were able to decrease tensions substantially by the time Reagan left the White House in 1989.

Despite improved East-West relations, however, Gorbachev’s reforms were unable to prevent the collapse of a system that had grown rigid and unworkable. By most measures, the Soviet economy had failed to grow at all since the late 1970s and much of the country’s populace had grown weary of the aged Communist hierarchy. In 1989 the spontaneous destruction of the Berlin Wall signaled the end of Soviet domination in Eastern Europe, and two years later the Soviet government itself fell from power.

The DoD Cold War Recognition Certificate was approved for service during the “Cold War era” from 02 September 1945 to 26 December 1991. By this account, after 45 years of protracted conflict and constant tension, the Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union. This is, upon reflection, a rather tendentious reading of history, since it takes the central conflict of the Cold War to have been the struggle between the two competing social systems, which could only end with one or the other being consigned to the ash heap of history.

President Bush presented the Medal of Freedom award to former President Ronald Reagan at a ceremony in the East Room on January 13, 1993. President Bush said that Reagan” … helped make ours not only a safer but far better world in which to live. And you yourself said it best. In fact, you saw it coming. We recall your stirring words to the British Parliament. Here were the words: “the march of freedom and democracy . . . will leave Marxist-Leninism on the ashheap of history.” Few people believe more in liberty’s inevitable triumph than Ronald Reagan. None, none was more a prophet in his time. Ronald Reagan rebuilt our military; not only that, he restored its morale.”

During the Cold War 325 Americans died as a result of hostile action; More than 200 airmen were killed by Communist air defenses, and more than 40 American intelligence aircraft were shot down, killing 64 Cryptologists and 40 crew members. Countless other Americans had their lives disrupted through military service in support of the Cold War.

Posted in A Level History, American History, Cold War, Historians, Historical Interpretation, History, History in the news, Roosevelt | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Roosevelt’s first war…on the Depression

Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to four term...
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By late winter 1933, the nation had already endured more than three years of economic depression. Statistics revealing the depth of the Great Depression were staggering. More than 11,000 of 24,000 banks had failed, destroying the savings of depositors. Millions of people were out of work and seeking jobs; additional millions were working at jobs that barely provided subsistence. Currency values dropped as the deflationary spiral continued to tighten and farm markets continued to erode.

During the previous summer the Democratic Party had unveiled a generalized plan for economic recovery in its platform. They called their platform a “contract” and set forth in it a series of provisions to remedy the economic disaster. Although frequently lacking specifics, the platform addressed a wide range of issues: among them were agricultural relief, Prohibition, unemployment, and old age insurance. While not followed very closely by Franklin Roosevelt’s administration, the platform did indicate that election of the Democratic candidate would result in unprecedented governmental growth to deal with the problems pressing on the nation. Roosevelt set about to prepare the nation to accept expansion of federal power. Roosevelt recognized that the programs he was about to introduce for congressional legislative action to relieve the dire effects of the Great Depression were unprecedented in peacetime.

In his 1933 inaugural address Roosevelt stated: “Our Constitution is so simple and practical that it is possible always to meet extraordinary needs by changes in emphasis and arrangement without loss of essential form. That is why our constitutional system has proved itself the most superbly enduring political mechanism the modern world has produced. It has met every stress of vast expansion of territory, of foreign wars, of bitter internal strife, of world relations.” Yet, at the same time, he was prepared to recommend measures that he knew could succeed only with strong public pressure in support of extraordinary federal powers to deal with “extraordinary needs.”

The first document featured with this article is the speech given on Inauguration Day in March 1933. It is particularly memorable for its attack on the psychology of the Great Depression. Less memorable but more enduring is the justification that Roosevelt planned to use to expand the power of the federal government to achieve his legislative objectives and thereby ease the effects of the Great Depression. Woven throughout his inaugural address was his plan. He aimed to declare war on the Great Depression and needed all the executive latitude possible in order to wage that war. For in addition to his famous statement “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” he also said “I shall ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis — broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.”


Graham, Otis L., Jr. An Encore for Reform: The Old Progressives and the New Deal. New York: Oxford University Press, 1967.

Leuchtenburg, William. Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932-1940. New York: Harper and Row, 1963.

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The Consequences of the Great Depression

Though the U.S. economy had gone into depression six months earlier, the Great Depression may be said to have begun with a catastrophic collapse of stock-market prices on the New York Stock Exchange in October 1929. During the next three years stock prices in the United States continued to fall, until by late 1932 they had dropped to only about 20 percent of their value in 1929. Besides ruining many thousands of individual investors, this precipitous decline in the value of assets greatly strained banks and other financial institutions, particularly those holding stocks in their portfolios. Many banks were consequently forced into insolvency; by 1933, 11,000 of the United States’ 25,000 banks had failed. The failure of so many banks, combined with a general and nationwide loss of confidence in the economy, led to much-reduced levels of spending and demand and hence of production, thus aggravating the downward spiral. The result was drastically falling output and drastically rising unemployment; by 1932, U.S. manufacturing output had fallen to 54 percent of its 1929 level, and unemployment had risen to between 12 and 15 million workers, or 25-30 percent of the work force.

The Great Depression began in the United States but quickly turned into a worldwide economic slump owing to the special and intimate relationships that had been forged between the United States and European economies after World War I. The United States had emerged from the war as the major creditor and financier of postwar Europe, whose national economies had been greatly weakened by the war itself, by war debts, and, in the case of Germany and other defeated nations, by the need to pay war reparations. So once the American economy slumped and the flow of American investment credits to Europe dried up, prosperity tended to collapse there as well. The Depression hit hardest those nations that were most deeply indebted to the United States, i.e., Germany and Great Britain. In Germany, unemployment rose sharply beginning in late 1929, and by early 1932 it had reached 6 million workers, or 25 percent of the work force. Britain was less severely affected, but its industrial and export sectors remained seriously depressed until World War II. Many other countries had been affected by the slump by 1931.

Almost all nations sought to protect their domestic production by imposing tariffs, raising existing ones, and setting quotas on foreign imports. The effect of these restrictive measures was to greatly reduce the volume of international trade: by 1932 the total value of world trade had fallen by more than half as country after country took measures against the importation of foreign goods.

The Great Depression had important consequences in the political sphere. In the United States, economic distress led to the election of the Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt to the presidency in late 1932. Roosevelt introduced a number of major changes in the structure of the American economy, using increased government regulation and massive public-works projects to promote a recovery. But despite this active intervention, mass unemployment and economic stagnation continued, though on a somewhat reduced scale, with about 15 percent of the work force still unemployed in 1939 at the outbreak of World War II. After that, unemployment dropped rapidly as American factories were flooded with orders from overseas for armaments and munitions. The depression ended completely soon after the United States’ entry into World War II in 1941. In Europe, the Great Depression strengthened extremist forces and lowered the prestige of liberal democracy. In Germany, economic distress directly contributed to Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1933. The Nazis’ public-works projects and their rapid expansion of munitions production ended the Depression there by 1936.

At least in part, the Great Depression was caused by underlying weaknesses and imbalances within the U.S. economy that had been obscured by the boom psychology and speculative euphoria of the 1920s. The Depression exposed those weaknesses, as it did the inability of the nation’s political and financial institutions to cope with the vicious downward economic cycle that had set in by 1930. Prior to the Great Depression, governments traditionally took little or no action in times of business downturn, relying instead on impersonal market forces to achieve the necessary economic correction. But market forces alone proved unable to achieve the desired recovery in the early years of the Great Depression, and this painful discovery eventually inspired some fundamental changes in the United States’ economic structure. After the Great Depression, government action, whether in the form of taxation, industrial regulation, public works, social insurance, social-welfare services, or deficit spending, came to assume a principal role in ensuring economic stability in most industrial nations with market economies.

Big Brother had come to stay.

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Gladstone & The Irish Question

What was Gladstone’s level of success in dealing with the “Irish Question”? He looked at the whole complex of issues in a fresh way and that gave the Irish Catholics hope for the future.

Evidence for
The disestablishment of the Church of Ireland was an act of genius! So obvious, so simple, but no-one had done it already. Yes, in a country where 7/8ths of the population was Catholic, it didn’’t make any sense to have an established Protestant Church, and certainly, its existence only served to discredit the English presence in Ireland.
Maybe it was only Gladstone who could disestablish it? Maybe his impeccable credentials as a staunch Anglican helped him. Had anyone else tried, fears about the status of the Church of England might have quashed the whole enterprise? (bit like Nixon and détente)
What bravery, to examine the land issue; most people (inc Disraeli) were awed by its complexity and steered well-clear… OK, the first Land Act wasn’’t successful, but it does pave the way for the Second Land Act of 1880 which, by all accounts, does give the Irish the 3Fs and does finally bring Irish tenants onto a level playing field with their English counter-parts.
Wasn’’t the University Bill far-sighted? A noble failure, at least. I mean, even today, politicians are looking for ways in which to make the Northern Irish educational system more integrated for Catholics and Protestants. It’s the key to peace! And there’’s Gladstone grasping that fact 150 years beforehand.
Yes, with the 3 pieces of reform, Gladstone shows that he takes Ireland seriously, and is keen to deal with its problems. He’s trying to show that Westminster government CAN work for them. It’s difficult to point to a C19th ministry that did more for Ireland.
Moreover, if PACIFICATION was his aim, then it worked for a while:
Fenianism DID die down.
Ireland WAS peaceful through the 1870s?
Isaac Butt’s fledgling Home Rule Party DID struggle through the early 1870s; most Irish didn’’t seem interested. Gladstone maybe had won them round to the Union?

Evidence against
The Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland did little to help the everyday lives of the Irish peasantry. So much for hope for the future”. Ireland’s problems were all about a lack of cultivatable land and a lack of industrialization…….Had Gladstone even considered these, let alone formulated policies for their alleviation??
The Irish Land Act was rubbish, as lots of Irishmen recognized. Most of the Irish MPs, who ha’d voted with the Liberals since 1859 (if not before) deserted them in 1874 and instead join Isaac Butt’s new Irish Home Rule Party. Gladstone had to come back in 1880 for a second bite of the cherry.
Ireland went berserk in 1879, once a bad summer plunged the nation back into economic calamity. The Irish Land War begins, led by Michael Davitt and his Land League; the rule of English absentee landlords is very seriously jeopardized……So much for successful pacification. Its effects didn’’t even last out the decade…..By 1885, even Gladstone realized that pacification had failed and that some measure of Home Rule was inevitable. So even he realized that he’d failed.

Comments? Conclusion?

Posted in A Level History, British Empire, Empire and Expansion, Imperial Expansion 1815-1870, Ireland, Victorian | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment