Modern History Unit 1: 20th Century History (1918 - 1939)
There are no prerequisites for this unit.
In this unit students explore the nature of political, social and cultural change in the period between the world wars.
World War I is regarded by many as marking the beginning of twentieth century history since it represented such a complete departure from the past and heralded changes that were to have impact for decades to come. The post-war treaties ushered in a period where the world was, to a large degree, re-shaped with new borders, movements, ideologies and power structures. These changes affected developments in Europe, the USA, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Economic instability caused by the Great Depression also contributed to the development of political movements. Despite ideals about future peace, reflected in the establishment of the League of Nations, the world was again overtaken by war in 1939.
The period after World War I was characterised by significant social and cultural change in the contrasting decades of the 1920s and 1930s. New fascist governments used the military, education and propaganda to impose controls on the way people lived, to exclude particular groups of people and to silence criticism. In Germany, the persecution of the Jewish people became intensified. In the USSR, millions of people were forced to work in state-owned factories and farms and had limited personal freedom. Japan became increasingly militarised and anti-western. In the USA, the consumerism and material progress of the 1920s was tempered by the Great Crash of 1929. Writers, artists, musicians, choreographers and filmmakers reflected, promoted or resisted political, economic and social changes.
Areas of Study
Ideology and Conflict
- What impact did the treaties which concluded World War I have on nations and people?
- What were the dominant ideologies of the period?
- What impact did the post-war treaties, the development of ideologies and the economic crisis have on the events leading to World War II?
In this area of study, students explore the events, ideologies and movements of the period after world War I; the emergence of conflict; and the causes of World War II. They investigate the impact of the treaties which ended the Great War and which redrew the map of Europe and broke up the former empires of the defeated nations. They consider the aims, achievements and limitations of the League of Nations.
While democratic governments initially replaced the monarchies and authoritarian forms of government in European countries at the end of the war, new ideologies of socialism, communism and fascism gained popular support. Communism emerged in Russia after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Fascism first emerged in Italy where the Italian Fascist Party gained power in 1922 and before the end of the decade fascist parties existed in several European countries. In 1933, Adolf Hitler's National Socialist (Nazi) Party gained power in Germany. In Japan, the government was increasingly influenced by the military and by anti-Western attitudes, shaping much of its political and social action. In the wake of World War I, the USA pursued an isolationist policy and while the ‘Roaring Twenties’ was a decade of economic growth, the thirties saw considerable suffering as a result of the Depression.
Economic instability, territorial aggression and totalitarianism combined to draw the world into second major conflict in 1939.
Social and Cultural Change
- What continuity and what change is evident between the 1920s and 1930s in social and cultural life?
- How did ideologies affect the daily lives of people?
- How did cultural life both reflect and challenge the prevailing political, economic and social circumstances?
In this area of study, students focus on the social life and cultural expression in the 1920s and 1930s and their relation to the technological, political and economic changes of the period. Students explore particular forms of cultural expression from the period in one or more of the following contexts: Italy, Germany, Japan, USSR and/or USA.
The period between the wars was characterised by significant social and cultural change. While the 1920s was largely marked by optimism and material prosperity in the West, by contrast the 1930s was a period of severe economic hardship for many dominated by the impact of the Great Depression. The emergence of new governments in Italy, Germany and Japan at the end of World War I led to the emergence of societies driven by new ideologies and in some countries the consequent oppression and persecution of certain groups, the most extreme case being the Holocaust of Nazi Germany. In the USSR, the establishment of a communist regime in 1917 was initially greeted with support by a large proportion of the people, but under Stalin millions of people were forced to work in state-owned factories and farms and dissenters were sent to labour camps.
In the USA controls such as prohibition and race segregation affected the lives of many people during the decades between the wars. While the 1920s was characterised by material progress, increased personal freedoms and unprecedented economic growth, the Great Depression brought hardship. The creative arts both reflected and challenged social life and change in this period where mass entertainment and information by means of radio and film became widespread.
Ascertain the principal features of the post-World War I peace treaties, such as the re-drawing of borders, reparations, loss of territory and population by the defeated countries, and economic and political sanctions.
A historical inquiry and an analysis of primary sources.
Determine the influence of political, economic and technological change on the ways in which society was organised and people lived their lives including: working conditions and workers’ rights and the positions and roles of men, women and children; and law and order, social control and personal freedoms.
An analysis of historical interpretations and an essay.
Overall Final Assessment
End of Semester Examination – 1.5 hours.
Information can be obtained from the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, Victoria, Australia: www.vcaa.vic.edu.au