The United States of America, 1919 – 1941 – Sources Question

(a) (i) President Hoover thought that the causes of the Depression of the �29 weren’t because of the USA lending money to Germany, or because of the Dawe�s Plan, or any other reason that might blame the USA. He thought that all the other countries had the fault or were to be blamed because of the Depression of the �29. I think that he thought that way because as he was President from the USA, he was obviously going to defend his country and say that his country had been a victim of all the other countries and problems of other parts of the world.

(ii) In source B, the historian who wrote that thinks almost completely different than President Hoover. You can clearly notice the different opinions, as in source B, it says that the Wall Street Crash was the main cause of the economic Depression of 1929, the historian seems to be sure about it. And in source A, Hoover says that, as I have already mentioned before, the USA had absolutely no fault at all of the Depression. Because of these reasons, I can compare both sources and get to the conclusion that the historian of source B did not agree at all with the opinions expressed in source A.

(iii) In my opinion, source B is much more reliable and trustworthy, because the historian who wrote that did it in 1984, and it had been a long time since the war finished, and he could analyze all the sources and evidence together. I think that is easier to analyze everything in “cold”, rather than in “hot”. I mean that is better to do it after it had happened, than meanwhile it is happening. Also, one thing that is very important is that the historian was, probably, more objective that the President. Because Hoover had so much pressure that he couldn’t say that the USA had the fault of the Depression even though he thought that it really did. So, I think that source B is more useful than the other as evidence of the causes of the Depression.

(b) (i) One reason why agriculture did not share in the 1920s� boom was because of the loss of the European market. During the war America had shipped millions of tons of grain to Europe. Europe ha become the main market for American farm exports. But the First World War had so bankrupted Europe that few Europeans could afford to buy American farm produce any longer. Also, the tariff barriers put up by the Republicans to protect American industries made Europe poorer still so it could not afford American produce. Another reason is that American farmers were also struggling against competition from the highly efficient Canadian wheat producers. All of this came at a time when the population of the USA was actually falling and there were fewer mouths to feed.

(ii) The Wall Street Crash began as a stock market and financial crisis, especially with the crisis of the New York stock exchange. In October 1929 the Wall Street stock market crashed, the American economy collapsed, and the USA entered a long depression which destroyed much of the prosperity of the 1920s�. The depression passed from finance to industry and from USA to the whole world. Export of American capital came to an end.

(iii) The Wall Street Crash lead to a collapse of the US economy because Americans, with their incomes low, couldn’t buy foreign goods. People couldn’t collect the money they were owed or the money they thought they had in the bank. People could not buy so factories could not

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sell. Unemployment grew rapidly: skills of older people grew rusty and young people had no opportunity to learn. This made the people feel discouraged and frustrated, so they turned to new and disturbing political ideas. Optimists, including Hoover, thought that the depression was only a low point in the business cycle, and that “Prosperity was just around the corner”. But others believed that the depression meant the breakdown of the whole system of capitalism.

(iv) Hoover was regarded as a “do nothing” President. He tried to encourage the US export trade although without much success. Even more damaging to Hoover’s reputation, was how little he tried to help those who were suffering because of the Depression. He believed that social security was not the responsibility of the Government. Hoover appeared to be heartless and indifferent to the suffering of the American people. There could not be a greater contrast to Hoover than his opponent, the Democrat candidate, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who believed strongly in “active government” trying to improve the lives of ordinary people; had plans to spend public money on getting people back to work. As Governor of New York he had already started doing this on his own state. He was not afraid to ask on advice on important issues from a wide range of experts such as factory, union leaders or economists.

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