The Twenties in America: Politics and History

The Twenties in America: Politics and History

The Twenties in America: Politics and History

The Twenties in America: Politics and History

Synopsis

This new, revisionist approach to the Twenties in America offers the first balanced account of the history and politics of this much-maligned decade. Focusing on the two Presidents of the 1920s, the book points out key distinctions between the governing styles and political philosophies of Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge. It suggests Harding's executive style and achievements were not as poor as traditional portraits have claimed. Coolidge is presented in terms of his largely successful efforts to distance himself from the financial scandals associated with his predecessor and his encouragement of the major revival of much of the US economy. The author argues that the pace of social and technological change resulted in lines of conflict over poverty, race, religion and employment rights being redrawn as living standards rose, home and working conditions changed and old prejudices were challenged. Consequently, politicians found that old solutions became increasingly irrelevant to new realities. The narrative is placed in the familiar context of the Twenties: the motor car, jazz, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hollywood, mass consumerism and the flapper. Key Features
• The only balanced overview of the history and politics of America in the 1920s
• Revises the traditional views of the Presidencies of Harding and Coolidge
• Places the politics in its social and cultural context

Excerpt

This book attempts to present an examination of American politics and society during the decade of the 1920s. Inevitably, the treatment of any ten-year time-span as a cohesive historical period has its problems. ‘Decades’ are artificial, chronological divisions. Important events and cultural patterns rarely stay within their margins but spill over the edges. The heated political arguments of one decade mostly have their origins in the past, whilst their resolution lies somewhere in the future. Similarly, the social and economic developments of a particular decade result from many factors, including demographic change and world trade patterns. Both of these influences are usually in evidence before the opening of one decade and may continue long after it has passed into history.

It is also important to note that academic assessments of a decade are strongly influenced by the disciplinary tools employed for the analysis. Cultural and sociological analysts, for example, consider the ‘Sixties’ to have opened with the advent of the Beatles and the first stirrings of the ‘counterculture’ around 1964. Using this yardstick, the years 1960–3 are represented merely as ‘holdovers’ from the previous decade. Political historians are divided, however, in their treatment of the Sixties. Some perceive the inaugural speech of John F. Kennedy in January 1961 as the decade’s curtain-raiser, whilst others focus upon Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas as the Sixties’ ‘true’ beginning. Similarly, the Fifties are often identified by historians and political scientists with the eight-year presidency of Dwight Eisenhower, which does not begin until 1953. Consequently, the last Truman years (1950–2), slip into a historical limbo.

Approaches to the 1920s do not usually diverge so significantly. Political scientists and historians are in the habit of using the tag ‘Twenties’ to refer to the period of economic prosperity between 1924 and 1929, years which also encompass most of the Calvin Coolidge administration. The period 1920–3 is often referred to as the ‘post-war period’, years when American society and its economy recovered from the shocks of . . .

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