International Relations 1919-1939

Dow Jones in the Great Depression

Account of the Dow Jones at its lowest point in the Great Depression

On the 8th July 1932, the Dow Jones Industrial Average – a key indicator of the value of America’s biggest companies – fell to its lowest point during the Great Depression that began with the Wall Street Crash. From its high of 381.17 on September 3rd 1929, the Dow plummeted by almost 90 per cent to 41.22. The last time it had closed that low was in June 1897.

The spectacular collapse of the Dow reflected the issue at the heart of the Great Depression – the panic selling of US stocks that wiped out private investors and many of the companies they had invested in. This had a knock-on effect outside the stock market, where those very companies were forced to lay off workers. In Cleveland, 50 per cent of the city’s workers were unemployed by the end of 1932. The downward economic spiral was eventually reversed, but the Dow itself didn’t return to its 1929 high point until 1954.

The response of American President Herbert Hoover to the economic crisis was not viewed favourably by ordinary American people. He gave numerous radio speeches in which he attempted to reassure them that things would improve. Although he never actually said, “prosperity is just around the corner” his speeches suggested it. But things continued to decline and shanty towns, known as Hoovervilles, appeared around the country as people moved from place to place in search of work. Protesting war veterans were attacked by the army. And, with promises of a ‘New Deal’ Franklin D Roosevelt went on to defeat Hoover in the 1932 presidential election.

The League of Nations in the 1930s

This GCSE and IGCSE revision podcast focuses on the period following the Wall Street crash in 1929, when the world was plunged into a huge economic depression which ultimately led to strained relations between countries as they tried to survive at all costs.  While the 1920s saw presented a mix of both success and failure for the League of Nations, the 1930s arguably saw its complete collapse.

The first section of the podcast looks at the Manchurian Crisis.  Beginning with an explanation of its causes, the episode goes on to describe the League’s response and the effect that this had on the long-term reputation of the League.  This is followed by a brief description of the World Disarmament Conference of 1932-33.

The second part of the podcast focuses on the Abyssinia Crisis.  Again beginning with the causes of the crisis, the podcast then describes the League’s response.  Reference is made to the immensely damaging Hoare-Laval Pact, followed by an explanation of how the League’s failure to deal decisively with Mussolini’s aggression against Abyssinia rendered the League of Nations powerless to deal with Hitler’s subsequent aggression.

The major events of the 1930s for the League of Nations including the Manchuria Crisis, the World Disarmament Conference and the Abyssinia Crisis.

          

Manchuria Crisis

Japan and the Manchuria Crisis

An overview of the Manchurian Crisis. Presents an explanation of the background to Japan’s economic situation and the reasons for the militarisation of Manchuria.  Goes on to describe the response from the League of Nations and how Japan reacted to the Lytton Report.

The League of Nations in the 1930s – Disarmament and Abyssinia

This video presents an overview of the key issues surrounding the League of Nations’ attempts to achieve disarmament in the 1930s, and goes on the examine Italy’s invasion of Abyssinia.

Wal-Wal Incident

The Wal-Wal incident between Italy and Abyssinia

On the 5th December 1934, the Wal-Wal Incident took place which laid the foundations for the Abyssinia Crisis. A skirmish between a Somali garrison in the service of Italy, and Ethiopian troops who sought the withdrawal of Italian forces from the area, resulted in over 150 deaths and a diplomatic crisis that ended in the Italian invasion of Abyssinia the following year.

A 1928 treaty had agreed the boundary between Italian Somaliland and Ethiopia. However, in 1930 Italy built a fort at the Wal-Wal oasis that was approximately 50 miles inside the Abyssinian side of the border and so contravened the agreement.

At first the Italian presence was tolerated by the Abyssinians with their only response being an increase in their military personnel in the area. However, in November 1934 a force of approximately 1000 Abyssinian soldiers arrived at the fort and demanded it be handed over: this demand was refused by the garrison’s commander.

The following day, a group of British and Abyssinian surveyors arrived at the fort and found themselves caught up in the dispute. The British withdrew in order to avoid any bloodshed, but the Abyssinians stayed and joined their countrymen in a face-off with the garrison. Although the exact cause of the skirmish that began on the 5th December is unclear, it’s generally accepted that neither side tried particularly hard to avoid it.

Despite this, both sides protested the actions of the other. While Abyssinia went to the League of Nations, Italy outright demanded compensation. The diplomatic crisis that ensued eventually led to the Italian invasion of Abyssinia in October 1935.

League of Nations sanctions on Italy

League of Nations sanctions on Italy after the invasion of Abyssinia

On the 19th October 1935, the League of Nations voted to impose sanctions on Italy after it invaded Abyssinia. The sanctions were limited, however, and failed to restrict oil sales to Italy or access to the Suez Canal which was used to transport troops, equipment and supplies.

The Italian invasion began without a declaration of war on the 3rd October 1935, although the two nations had previously been embroiled in a territorial dispute over the Walwal Oasis throughout which both countries had flexed their military muscles. However, the decisive invasion of Ethiopia by Italian troops stationed in nearby Eritrea saw the League of Nations declare Mussolini’s country the aggressor four days later.

Although the speed at which the League acted was considerably quicker than during the Manchuria Crisis in which the League took a year to respond, the sanctions themselves were virtually worthless. Concerned about the rise of Hitler and the danger of a European conflict, Britain and France were reluctant to punish Italy in case they were driven to ally with the Nazi dictator. They even began to formulate the secret Hoare-Laval Plan that would have granted large parts of Abyssinia to Italy, but were forced to cancel this when details became public and were met with popular opposition.

Even after it became evident that Mussolini was using chemical weapons, the League continued in its failure to impose stringent sanctions. With Hitler’s remilitarisation of the Rhineland in March 1936, France was desperate to keep Mussolini as an ally. When Abyssinia was finally captured on May 5th, all the sanctions were dropped.

Abyssinia Crisis 1935-6

The Road to World War II, 1933-39

This podcast is designed to present the key reasons for the breakout of World War 2 by explaining the different impacts of Hitler’s aims and actions, the policy of appeasement, the problems caused by the peace treaties, the Nazi-Soviet Pact and the failures of the League of Nations.

The first part of the podcast deals with Hitler’s aims: abolish the Treaty of Versailles, expand German territory, and remove the threat of communism.  It explains how his policies were designed to fulfill these aims.  Key actions from the first years of Hitler’s Chancellorship that are described include: rearmament, remilitarisation of the Rhineland, his role in the Spanish Civil War, and Anschluss with Austria.

The podcast then goes on to assess appeasement.  Arguments in favour of, and against, the policy of appeasement are presented.  This is followed by an explanation of the Sudetenland Crisis, the Munich Agreement and the Nazi-Soviet Pact.  The views of historians are considered.

This episode concludes with a brief explanation of how to answer an examination question on this topic.

          

If You Tolerate This poster

German involvement in the Spanish Civil War

This revision podcast was originally created for IGCSE History students completing a Paper 2 (sources) exam based on the Spanish Civil War.  However, it is appropriate for other students who wish to gain an overview of Germany’s involvement as it looks at three key issues.  Firstly a quick background to the Civil War itself, secondly a consideration of why Germany got involved, and finally a discussion of what Germany contributed to the Spanish Civil War.

The first part of the podcast presents an overview of General Franco’s nationalist uprising with reference to the republican government, the forces on each side in the conflict, and the Non-Intervention Committee.

The second section looks at reasons for why Germany got involved in the Spanish Civil War.  The causes assessed in the revision podcast are Hitler’s hatred of communism, the opportunity to test new equipment, the possibility of developing an alliance with Italy, and access to Spanish raw materials.

The final part of the episode considers the impact of German involvement.  Particular attention is given to the impact of the Condor Legion at Guernica.

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Germany and Italy support Franco

Why did Germany and Italy agree to support Franco?

On the 26th July 1936, Adolf Hitler informed General Francisco Franco that Germany would support his Nationalist rebellion in Spain.

Benito Mussolini, the leader of Italy, also agreed to intervene in the war on the Nationalist side after being encouraged to do so by Hitler. Although both countries later signed the Non-Intervention Agreement, they continued to send troops and equipment to support Franco’s forces.

The Spanish Civil War broke out on the 17th July, when an army uprising against the Spanish Second Republic that began in Morocco spread to the mainland. In the face of early rebel gains, the Republican government sought assistance from France and the USSR. Meanwhile the Nationalists turned to the right-wing governments of Germany and Italy.

Hitler in particular had a number of reasons for getting involved. As well as giving him the opportunity to take action against what he called “communist barbarism”, assisting Franco would win Germany an important ally and access to Spain’s natural resources. Militarily, German involvement also provided an opportunity to test the new equipment developed since the Nazi rearmament programme began in 1933.

Both Hitler and Mussolini were concerned about the risk of the Spanish Civil War escalating into a European-wide conflict, so at first their support for the Nationalists was small-scale and consisted mainly of transporting existing Spanish troops from Morocco to the mainland. However, as the war progessed their involvement grew. The German Condor Legion in particular began to take an active role in the aerial bombing of Republican areas, most notably the Basque town of Guernica, on the 26th April 1937.