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The 1920s Portal

The 1920s was a decade that began on January 1, 1920 and ended on December 31, 1929. It is sometimes referred to as the Roaring Twenties or the Jazz Age, when speaking about the United States, Canada, or the United Kingdom. In Europe the decade is sometimes referred to as the "Golden Twenties" because of the economic boom following World War I.

The twenties was a period of transformation culturally and technologically. Culturally, countries began to shed their Victorian ideals, enabling egalitarian ideas such as women's suffrage to significantly change the role of women and society. Modern artistic styles such as Surrealism, Art Deco, and Expressionism flourished, and the new music of Jazz was enormously popular. The movie industry skyrocketed in the 20s during the Golden Age of Silent Film and the birth of the Hollywood studio system. Technologically, the Twenties was an era of innovation not seen since the Second Industrial Revolution— the decade witnessed the first large scale use of automobiles and telephones, and saw the genesis of the public radio and talking pictures. The 1920s was a period of economic prosperity and rapid urbanization, marking the first time in the United States that the population in the cities surpassed the population of rural areas.

However, not all countries enjoyed this prosperity. The German Weimar Republic faced a severe economic downturn in the opening years of the decade due to the enormous debt caused by the war and its reparations, and other economic conditions which resulted from the Treaty of Versailles. Such a crisis would culminate with a devaluation of the Mark in 1923, eventually leading to severe hyperinflation, in the long term favoring the rise of the Nazi Party.

The 1920s were characterized by the rise of radical political movements, especially in regions that were once part of empires. Communism began attracting larger amounts of support following the success of the October Revolution and the Bolsheviks' determination to win the subsequent Russian Civil War. To move the backward economy of Russia towards a more developed economy in which socialism would become possible, the Bolsheviks adopted a policy of mixed economics, from 1921 to 1928, and also created the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics at the end of 1922. The 1920s also experienced the rise of the far right and fascism in Europe and elsewhere, being perceived as a solution to prevent the spread of Communism. The knotty economic problems also favoured the rise of dictators in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, such as Józef Piłsudski in the Second Polish Republic and Peter and Alexander Karađorđević in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The devastating Wall Street Crash in October 1929 drew a line under the prosperous 1920s.

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A caricature of Martin Hawke, 7th Baron Hawke
The Yorkshire captaincy affair of 1927 arose from a disagreement among members of Yorkshire County Cricket Club over whether a professional cricketer should be appointed as the team captain. It was a tradition throughout English county cricket that captains should be amateurs. At Yorkshire, a succession of amateur captains held office in the 1920s, on the grounds of their supposed leadership qualities, although none were worth their place in the team as cricketers. The Yorkshire committee, prompted by the influential county president, Lord Hawke, approached Herbert Sutcliffe, one of the side's leading professionals. After Sutcliffe's provisional acceptance of the captaincy, controversy arose. Some Yorkshire members objected to the appointment because Sutcliffe was not an amateur; others felt that Wilfred Rhodes, the team's senior professional, should have been asked. When Sutcliffe became aware of the furore, he withdrew his acceptance. No offer was made to Rhodes, and the county subsequently appointed amateur William Worsley as captain; he had little personal success and lasted just two seasons.

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Lillian Gish
Credit: Bain News Service

A portrait of Lillian Gish from 1921. Gish was one of the first female movie stars, called "The First Lady of American Cinema", starting in 1912 and continuing to appear in films until 1987. The American Film Institute named Gish 17th among the greatest female stars of all time and awarded her a Life Achievement Award, making her the only recipient who was a major figure in the silent era. Remarkably, she never won an Academy Award for her work, although she did receive a Special Academy Award in 1971.

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Stanley Bruce
Stanley Bruce (1883–1967) was the eighth Prime Minister of Australia, serving from 1923 to 1929. He was a barrister and businessman before being wounded in the Gallipoli Campaign of World War I. Elected to parliament in 1918 as a member of the Nationalist Party, he served as treasurer in the government of Billy Hughes before replacing him as prime minister in 1923. Bruce overhauled federal government administration and oversaw its transfer to the new capital, Canberra. His "men, money and markets" scheme was an ambitious attempt to rapidly expand Australia's population and economic potential through massive government investment and closer ties with Great Britain and the rest of the British Empire. But his heavy-handed response to industrial unrest and attempts to overhaul labour laws led to a landslide defeat in 1929. After politics, Bruce became involved with the League of Nations until the outbreak of World War II. After the war, he was a leading advocate of development aid, a founder of the Food and Agriculture Organization, the first chancellor of the Australian National University and the first Australian to sit in the House of Lords (as Viscount Bruce of Melbourne).


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