First, the US economy grew into a major world importer and exporter, eventually becoming the world’s biggest economy (as measured by Gross Domestic Product, or GDP) by the 1920s. US economic dominance would be near its height at the end of the period in 1945 with the end of World War Two (WWII) thanks partly to US war material production. This transition included smaller trends like increased urbanization, increased industrialization.
This growth was not without problems and hiccups, so Progressives tried to make the bad parts of industrial society better and the Great Depression challenged US politicians to come up with new solutions to increasing economic instability.
Technology & Migration
Thanks to new technologies that spread faster than ever, the US changed into a consumer culture, with fewer goods being made inside the home and more and more goods being “imported” from stores. Thanks to technologies like cars and radios, the US culture became more national in its scope.
People migrated within the US—suburbanization and migration westward and southward—and came in changing numbers of immigrants from other countries.
Foreign Policy Changes
The US grew into a dominant position militarily and politically through this time period. At the start of the period, the US was generally uninvolved in overseas events other than through trade. The US then began to get more involved in colonialism beyond its own continental borders in places like the Pacific Ocean and Latin America.
Participation in both World War One (WWI) and World War Two (WWII) raised questions about the US role in world affairs and how to keep the US safe. By 1945, the US was heavily involved all over the world and saw military and diplomatic engagement as necessary for its national security and for the good of the rest of the world.
1898 – Spanish American War / the beginning of imperialism
1917 – U.S. enters World War One (WWI); Wilson’s Fourteen Points
1918 – WWI ends
1919 – First Red Scare; Red Summer
1920 – 19th Amendment; Treaty of Versailles not ratified
1929 – Stock Market Crash; the beginning of the Great Depression
1933 – FDR inaugurated & the New Deal begins
1941 – Pearl Harbor, U.S. enters WWII; Great Depression ends
Major Trends Between 1890-1945
The United States becomes more urban than rural in the 1920s
The US economy continued its transition from a mostly agricultural base to a more industrialized base, thanks in part to WWI & WWII
The US moves from isolationism and unilateralism—acting mostly on our own to accomplish foreign policy goals—to multilateralism, that is, acting together with other (mostly European) countries and getting heavily involved in world affairs on a more permanent basis
Americans continued to move westward, particularly into west coast places like California and Seattle, mostly thanks to WWII and the military production facilities on the west coast.
US women and people of color continued to fight discrimination, but they made huge gains during this period, particularly through service in WWII.
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