GCSE and IGCSE History Revision

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.

          

The origins of the Cold War

This podcast aims to look at three key areas – why the alliance between the USA and the USSR broke down in 1945, how Stalin take control of eastern Europe in 1945 and America’s reaction to it, and the consequences of the Berlin Blockade.

The podcast opens with a short explanation of the deteriorating relationship between the USA and the USSR through the Second World War.  It goes on to present an overview of the two major Allied conferences – Yalta and Potsdam – and outlines the key agreements and disagreements that emerged from them.

Opening with an extract from Churchill’s famous Iron Curtain speech, the second part of this episode explores the way in which Stalin extended Soviet control over eastern Europe to establish a ‘buffer zone’ of communist states around the USSR.  It then goes on to detail the USA’s response in terms of the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan.  Examples are given of each.

The third section of the podcast focuses on the Berlin Blockade of 1948-9.  It begins with the background of the divided Germany after the Second World War.  An explanation is then given of how Berlin became further divided between the communist and non-communist zones leading to Stalin launching the Berlin Blockade.  The Allied ‘air lift’ is then described.

The episode finishes with some exam tips on how to answer a question about who was to blame for the Cold War in a balanced way.

          

Yalta Conference

Brief introduction to the Yalta Conference

On the 4th February 1945 the Yalta Conference began. Attended by the “Big Three” Allied leaders, the conference saw United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin meet to discuss the government of post-war Europe.

The three leaders had previously met at the Tehran Conference in 1943 where they set out a unified military strategy, but at Yalta the focus was exclusively on the end of the war and its aftermath. It was clear that the war in Europe was in its final stages, so they agreed to demand Germany’s unconditional surrender after which the country – and Berlin – would be split into four zones of occupation. Germany was to undergo a process of demilitarization and denazification, and Nazi war criminals were to be hunted down and brought to justice.

Furthermore, the three allies considered the fate of Eastern European countries that had been under Nazi occupation. Poland was the focus of much of the discussion, but the agreement reached was intended to apply to every country. The Protocol of Proceedings stated that the allies would assist the liberated countries to form “interim governmental authorities broadly representative of all democratic elements in the population…and the earliest possible establishment through free elections of governments responsive to the will of the people.”

The terms of the agreement, when they were made public, were met with harsh criticism in Britain and the United States. Some of these criticisms came to be justified when, at the end of the war, the Soviet Union installed communist governments throughout Eastern Europe.