Study questions for 9 May: Group 1

The Cultural History of the English-Speaking World

Sini Hölttä
Anne Nyström
Titta Pentikäinen
Liisa Pylvänäinen
Virpi Vainio

  1. What is the New Deal, and why did it come about?
The New Deal was a series of projects, financial reforms and regulations that were introduced by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s.  
The presidential election took place in 1932 in the middle of the Great Depression that had followed the stock market crash of 29 October 1929.  
The situation in the United States was very difficult: The Gross national product had fallen from $101 billion to $68 billion between 1929 and 1933 (Jenkins, 208). The unemployment rate had been between 2 and 6 per cent in the 1920s but it rose to 9 per cent in 1930 and reached almost 24 per cent by 1932. This means that nearly 13 million people were unemployed. Some cities suffered more than others: for example in Toledo, Ohio the unemployment rate reached 80 per cent and in Lowell, Massachusetts nearly 90 per cent in 1933 (  The Communist influence was growing and hunger demonstrations and protests were becoming common. Not only the economical situation, but at the same time also weather conditions caused problems for farming (Jenkins 2012, 202-203). 
Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration started a new project to solve the problems. This included several different programmes that were developed and put to use between 1933 and 1938.  
The first step was to rescue the financial system and the first act was a four-day bank holiday, which closed the banks to end the panic that was going on. An Emergency Banking Relief Act and Home Owners Loan Corporation were developed for a longer-term security. 
During the year 1934 a Federal Farm Mortgage Corporation was brought to finance farm loans and A Securities Exchange Act (SEC) was developed to regulate the financial markets. For example a Federal Emergency Relief Act and a National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) were developed to get people back to work. Public investments in infrastructure like buildings, roads and bridges were overseen by the Public Works Administration while The Civilian Conservation Corps employed young people to build for example roads and plant trees. There was the National Youth Administration to provide job training and part-time work for young people and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to provide jobs by building federally funded dams to generate cheap electrical power. (Jenkins 2012, 204-205.) 
The New Deal had a  big impact in Roosevelt's first term, the gross national product rose back to $104billion by 1937. Especially it affected agriculture, enhancing the position of large farms (Jenkins 2012, 208-209).  It also made it possible for American workers to organize (The National Labor Relations Act 1935) and bargain collectively for better wages and working conditions (Jenkins 2012, 206; and created the Social Security Act in 1935 which for example guaranteed pensions and set up a system of unemployment insurance ( 

Jenkins, Philip. 2012. A history of the United States.

  • 2. How did the United States contribute to the Second World War? Why did the country join the war relatively late?

Japan and the United States had had disagreements for decades. Japan had declared war on China and the USA responded to this aggression with a battery of economic sanctions and trade embargoes. During months of negotiations between Japan and the United States, neither side would give in and war seemed inevitable.

Two years after World War II had started, Japan surprisingly attacked Pearl Harbour on December 7th 1941 after planning the attack for months. The next day president Roosevelt declared war against Japan and three days later Japan's allies Italy and Germany declared war on the United States.

The United States and its Allies invaded Sicily in July 1943 and forced Italy to surrender in September. From 1943 to August 1945, the Allies hopped from island to island across the Central Pacific and also battled the Japanese in China, Burma, and India. On D-Day, June 6, 1944, the Allies landed in Northern France. Germany surrendered in May 1945 and Japan on August 14, 1945 after the United States dropped the first atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In 1939, Albert Einstein wrote a letter to President Roosevelt, warning him that the Nazis might be able to build an atomic bomb. To ensure that the United States developed a bomb before Nazi Germany did, the federal government started the secret $2 billion Manhattan Project. On July 16, 1945, in the New Mexico desert near Alamogordo, the Manhattan Project's scientists exploded the first atomic bomb.
It was during the Potsdam negotiations that President Harry Truman learned that American scientists had tested the first atomic bomb. On August 6, 1945, the Enola Gay, a B-29 Superfortress, released an atomic bomb over Hiroshima and three days later over Nagasaki. Truman´s defenders say that this was a quick way to end the war without  the necessity of a costly invasion and the probable loss of tens of thousands of American lives.

World War II  ended the Depression and brought millions of married women into the workforce. During the war, African Americans, women, and Mexican Americans founded new opportunities in industry. It initiated wide changes in the lives of the nation's minority groups and dramatically expanded the government's presence in American life. It led the federal government to create a War Production Board to oversee conversion to a wartime economy and the Office of Price Administration to set prices on many items and to supervise a rationing system.


  • 3. What was the country like under the Reagan administration? 

Ronald Reagan became the 40th President of the United States serving from 1981 to 1989. Reagan took office on January 20, 1981. Only 69 days later he was shot by a would-be assassin, but quickly recovered and returned to duty. His grace and wit during the dangerous incident caused his popularity to soar. Under his administration he dealt skillfully with Congress and obtained legislation to stimulate economic growth, curb inflation, increase employment, and strengthen national defense. 
He embarked upon a course of cutting taxes and Government expenditures, refusing to deviate from it when the strengthening of defense forces led to a large deficit.

In foreign policy he increased defense spending 35 percent, but sought to improve relations with the Soviet Union. He negotiated a treaty that would eliminate intermediate-range nuclear missiles but also declared war against international terrorism after an attack on American soldiers in a West Berlin nightclub.

In 1986 Reagan obtained an overhaul of the income tax code, which eliminated many deductions and exempted millions of people with low incomes. At the end of his administration, the United States was enjoying its longest recorded period of peacetime prosperity without recession or depression.

At the end of his two terms in office, Ronald Reagan viewed with satisfaction the achievements of his innovative program known as the Reagan Revolution, which aimed to reinvigorate the American people and reduce their reliance upon the Government.



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