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Unit 3: The Interwar Years

This unit deals with the struggles that arose as a result of both economic hardship and technological advancement. It is important to remember that, although we have broken this subject into five topics – Automobiles and Road Building, The Great Depression, New Deal for the Northwest, Rural Electrification, and New Deal for Native Americans – many of them overlap, occurred at the same time, and had profound impacts on each of the other topics. Of particular interest in this unit is the connection between the federal government and the lives of individuals.

Web Resources for Unit Three
Video Lecture

Unit 3 Intoduction and Overview
Professor Jeff Wiltse

Click on Jeff for a streaming video/audio presentation.

Click here for audio only

Key Questions for Unit Three

Keep these key questions in mind as you examine the content for the Depression and New Deal years.

  1. Prior to the Depression, most still believed that the government should not and could not interfere in economic issues and that it was not responsible for the welfare of individual citizens. The New Deal changed that attitude, and most now believe that the federal government has a responsibility to manage the economy and to protect the welfare of its citizens. How much involvement should the federal, or even state, government have in times of crisis and in times of prosperity? How do the different political views in the United States differ in their response to this question?
  2. How did this involvement by the federal government change life for Native Americans? Should the government be more or less involved in Indian lives than it is in non-Indian lives?
  3. How does involvement, especially financial, by the government affect art and science? Should the government financially support these endeavors, or should government money and influence be removed? Of particular interest might be a comparison between the involvement by extremist governments such as Nazi Germany, The Soviet Union, fascist Italy, Maoist China, or any one of the oligarchies or dictatorships in Latin America, and that of the government of the United States. Does federal involvement (and control) in the Depression years in the United States differ from involvement by these governments?
  4. In retrospect, some claim that the New Deal went too far, becoming nearly socialist, while others claim that it did not do enough and served merely to protect and extend an unjust system. How can we evaluate the success or failure of New Deal policies? How do current issues change thought on the New Deal?