The 1930s (pronounced "nineteen-thirties" and commonly abbreviated as "the 30s" or "the Thirties") was a decade that began on January 1, 1930, and ended on December 31, 1939.
The decade was defined by a global economic and political crisis that culminated in the Second World War. It saw the collapse of the international financial system, beginning with the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the largest stock market crash in American history. The subsequent economic downfall, called the Great Depression, had traumatic social effects worldwide, leading to widespread poverty and unemployment, especially in the economic superpower of the United States and in Germany, which was already struggling with the payment of reparations for the First World War. The Dust Bowl in the United States (which led to the nickname the "Dirty Thirties") exacerbated the scarcity of wealth. U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, elected in 1933, introduced a program of broad-scale social reforms and stimulus plans called the New Deal in response to the crisis.
In the wake of the Depression, the decade also saw the rapid retreat of liberal democracy as authoritarian regimes emerged in countries across Europe and South America, including Italy, Spain, and in particular Nazi Germany. With the rise of Adolf Hitler, Germany undertook a series of annexations and aggressions against neighboring territories in Central Europe, and imposed a series of laws which discriminated against Jews and other ethnic minorities. Weaker states such as Ethiopia, China, and Poland were invaded by expansionist world powers, with the last of these attacks leading to the outbreak of World War II on September 1, 1939, despite calls from the League of Nations for worldwide peace. World War II helped end the Great Depression when governments spent money for the war effort. The 1930s also saw many important developments in science and a proliferation of new technologies, especially in the fields of intercontinental aviation, radio, and film.
At the outbreak of World War II, both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland; by October 1939, they had divided the occupied territory between them in accordance with the secret part of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.
Chaco War (June 15, 1932 – June 10, 1935) – fought between Bolivia and Paraguay over the disputed territory of Gran Chaco, resulting in a Paraguayan victory in 1935; an agreement dividing the territory was made in 1938, formally ending the conflict
World War II (September 1, 1939 – September 2, 1945) – global war centered in Europe and the Pacific but involving the majority of the world's countries, including all of the major powers such as Germany, Russia, America, Italy, Japan, France and the United Kingdom.
Chinese Civil War (1927–1949) – The ruling Kuomintang and the rebel Chinese Communist Party fought a civil war for control of China. The Communists consolidated territory in the early 1930s and proclaimed a short-lived Chinese Soviet Republic that collapsed upon Kuomintang attacks, forcing a mass retreat known as the Long March. The Kuomintang and Communists attempted to put away their differences after 1937 to fight the Japanese invasion of China, but intermittent clashes continued through the remainder of the 1930s. Even with some clashes they all fought the Japanese.
Castellammarese War (1929 – September 10, 1931) – Italian-American criminal organizations engaged in a gang war for control of the American Mafia on the East Coast of the United States.
Major political changes
Germany – Rise of Nazism
German dictator Adolf Hitler (right) and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini (left) pursue agendas of territorial expansion for their countries in the 1930s, eventually leading to the outbreak of World War II in 1939
The assassination of the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath by a German-born Polish Jew triggers the Kristallnacht ("Night of Broken Glass") which occurred between 9 and 10 November 1938, carried out by the Hitler Youth, the Gestapo, and the SS, during which much of the Jewish population living in Nazi Germany and Austria was attacked – 91 Jews were murdered, and between 25,000 and 30,000 more were arrested and sent to Nazi concentration camps. Some 267 synagogues were destroyed, and thousands of homes and businesses were ransacked. Kristallnacht also served as the pretext for the wholesale confiscation of firearms from German Jews.
In 1939, several countries of the Americas, including Canada, Cuba, and the United States, controversially deny asylum to hundreds of German Jewish refugees on board the MS St. Louis who are fleeing the Nazi regime's racist agenda of anti-Semitic persecution in Germany. In the end, no country accepts the refugees, and the ship returns to Germany with most of its passengers on board. Some commit suicide, rather than return to Nazi Germany.
Franklin D. Roosevelt is elected President of the United States in November 1932. Roosevelt initiates a widespread social welfare strategy called the "New Deal" to combat the economic and social devastation of the Great Depression. The economic agenda of the "New Deal" was a radical departure from previous laissez-faire economics.
In 1930, Miguel Primo de Rivera, Prime Minister of Spain and head of a military dictatorship is forced to resign in response to a financial crisis (part of the Great Depression). Alfonso XIII of Spain, who had previously backed the dictatorship, attempts to return gradually to the previous system and restore his prestige. This failed utterly, as the King was considered a supporter of the dictatorship, and more and more political forces called for the establishment of a republic. In 1931, republican and socialist parties won a major victory in the local elections, while the monarchists were in decline. Street riots ensued, calling for the removal of the monarchy. The Spanish Army declared that they would not defend the King. Alfonso flees the country, effectively abdicating and ending the Bourbon Restoration phase which had started in the 1870s. A Second Spanish Republic emerges.
The "Great Purge" of "Old Bolsheviks" from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union takes place from 1936 to 1938, as ordered by Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin, resulting in hundreds of thousands of people being killed. This purge was due to mistrust and political differences, as well as the massive drop in Grain produce. This was due to the method of collectivization in Russia. The Soviet Union produced 16 million lbs of grain less in 1934 compared to 1930. This led to the starvation of millions of Russians.
Referendum in the Irish Free State in December 1937 on whether Ireland should continue to be a constitutional monarchy under King George VI or to become a republic results in citizens voting in favour of a republic, ending the remains of British sovereignty through monarchial authority over the state.
Hertzog of South Africa, whose National Party had won the 1929 election alone after splitting with the Labour Party, received much of the blame for the devastating economic impact of the Depression.
Canada and other countries under the British Empire sign the Statute of Westminster in 1931, establishing effective parliamentary independence of Canada from the parliament of the United Kingdom.
United States Marine Corps general Smedley Butler confesses to the U.S. Congress in 1934 that a group of industrialists contacted him, requesting his aid to overthrow the U.S. government of Roosevelt and establish what he claimed would be a fascist regime in the United States.
Amelia Earhart receives major attention in the 1930s as the first woman pilot to conduct major air flights. Her disappearance for unknown reasons in 1937 while on flight prompted search efforts that failed.
Mao Zedong's Chinese communists begin a large retreat from advancing nationalist forces, called the Long March, beginning in October 1934 and ending in October 1936 and resulting in the collapse of the Chinese Soviet Republic.
Colonial India's Muslim League leader Muhammed Ali Jinnah delivers his "Day of Deliverance" speech on December 2, 1939, calling upon Muslims to begin to engage in civil disobedience against the British colonial government starting on December 12. Jinnah demands redress and resolution to tensions and violence occurring between Muslims and Hindus in India. Jinnah's actions are not supported by the largely Hindu-dominated Indian National Congress whom he had previously closely allied with. The decision is seen as part of an agenda by Jinnah to support the eventual creation of an independent Muslim state called Pakistan from British Empire.
The 1935 Labor Day Hurricane makes landfall in the Florida Keys as a Category 5 hurricane and the most intense hurricane to ever make landfall in the Atlantic basin. It caused an estimated $6 million (1935 USD) in damages and killed around 408 people. The hurricane's strong winds and storm surge destroyed nearly all of the structures between Tavernier and Marathon, and the town of Islamorada was obliterated.
The New England Hurricane of 1938, which became a Category 5 hurricane before making landfall as a Category 3. The hurricane was estimated to have caused property losses of US$306 million ($4.72 billion in 2010), killed between 682 and 800 people, and damaged or destroyed over 57,000 homes, including the home of famed actress Katharine Hepburn, who had been staying in her family's Old Saybrook, Connecticut, beach home when the hurricane struck.
The Dust Bowl, or "Dirty Thirties", a period of severe dust storms causing major ecological and agricultural damage to American and Canadian prairie lands from 1930 to 1936 (in some areas until 1940). Caused by extreme drought coupled with strong winds and decades of extensive farming without crop rotation, fallow fields, cover crops, or other techniques to prevent erosion, it affected an estimated 100,000,000 acres (400,000 km2) of land (traveling as far east as New York and the Atlantic Ocean), caused mass migration (which was the inspiration for the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck), food shortages, multiple deaths and illness from sand inhalation (see History in Motion), and a severe reduction in the going wage rate.
A plan to kill the English film star Charlie Chaplin, who had arrived in Japan on May 14, 1932, at a reception for him, was planned by activists eager to ingest a nativist Yamato spirit into politics. Chaplin's murder would facilitate war with the U.S., and anxiety in Japan, and lead on to "restoration" in the name of the emperor. However, excepting the death of the prime minister, the coup came to nothing, and the murderers gave themselves in to the police willingly.
The entire decade is marked by widespread unemployment and poverty, although deflation (i.e. falling prices) was limited to 1930–32 and 1938–39. Prices fell 7.02% in 1930, 10.06% in 1931, 9.79% in 1932, 1.41% in 1938 and 0.71% in 1939.
In an effort to reduce unemployment, the United States government created work projects such as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) which was a public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942 to maintain National Parks and build roads. Other major U.S. government work projects included Hoover Dam which was constructed between 1931 and 1936.
In 1930, Warner Brothers released the first All-Talking All-Color wide-screen movie, Song of the Flame; in 1930 alone, Warner Brothers released ten All-Color All-Talking feature movies in Technicolor and scores of shorts and features with color sequences;
In 1937, flying the same H-1 Racer fitted with longer wings, the ambitious Hughes sets a new transcontinental airspeed record by flying non-stop from Los Angeles to Newark in 7 hours, 28 minutes, and 25 seconds (beating his own previous record of 9 hours, 27 minutes). His average ground speed during the flight was 322 mph (518 km/h).
First intercontinental commercial airline flights.
Near the end of the decade, two of the world's most iconic superheroes and recognizable fictional characters were introduced in comic books; Superman first appeared in 1938, and Batman in 1939.
The pulp fiction magazines begin to feature distinctive, gritty adventure heroes that combine elements of hard-boiled detective fiction and the fantastic adventures of earlier pulp novels. Two particularly noteworthy characters introduced during this time are Doc Savage and The Shadow, who would later influence the creation of characters such as Superman and Batman.
In 1930, Howard Hughes produces Hell's Angels, the first movie blockbuster to be produced outside of a professional studio, independently, and at the time the most expensive movie ever made, costing roughly 4 million dollars and taking four years to make.
The most characteristic North American fashion trend from the 1930s to 1945 was attention at the shoulder, with butterfly sleeves and banjo sleeves, and exaggerated shoulder pads for both men and women by the 1940s. The period also saw the first widespread use of man-made fibers, especially rayon for dresses and viscose for linings and lingerie, and synthetic nylonstockings. The zipper became widely used. These essentially U.S. developments were echoed, in varying degrees, in Britain and Europe. Suntans (called at the time "sunburns") became fashionable in the early 1930s, along with travel to the resorts along the Mediterranean, in the Bahamas, and on the east coast of Florida where one can acquire a tan, leading to new categories of clothes: white dinner jackets for men and beach pajamas, halter tops, and bare midriffs for women.
Mexican muralism was a Mexican art movement that took place primarily in the 1930s. The movement stands out historically because of its political undertones, the majority of which of a Marxist nature, or related to a social and political situation of post-revolutionary Mexico. Also in Latin America Symbolism and Magic Realism were important movements.
^"The first central committee of IMRO. Memoirs of d-r Hristo Tatarchev", Materials for the Macedonian liberation movement, book IX (series of the Macedonian scientific institute of IMRO, led by Bulgarian academician prof. Lyubomir Miletich), Sofia, 1928, p. 102, поредица "Материяли за историята на македонското освободително движение" на Македонския научен институт на ВМРО, воден от българския академик проф. Любомир Милетич, книга IX, София, 1928.