Roaring Twenties refers to the 1920s, principally in North America, one of the most colorful decades in history. During the era, there was a turn toward normality in politics, the return of veterans from World War I, the growth of jazz music, the emergence of a new face of modern womanhood (the flapper), and Black Tuesday, the harbinger of the Great Depression. Moreover, the years of the Roaring Twenties were marked by several inventions and discoveries of far-reaching consequences; unprecedented industrial growth and accelerated consumer demand and aspirations, coupled with significant changes in lifestyles; and a series of events, national as well as international, which shaped a large part of the history of the 20th century. The era’s affluence, however, did not include all social groups since many sharecroppers and tenant farmers (black and white) in the South continued to live in poverty.
The Roaring Twenties started in North America and spread to Europe as the effects of World War I diminished. In Europe, the years following the First World War (1919-1923) were marked by a deep recession. Europe spent these years in rebuilding and coming to terms with the vast human cost of the conflict. Unlike in the aftermath of World War II, the United States did little to try to rebuild Europe. Instead, it took an increasingly isolationist stance. In Canada, an important economic transformation accelerated as Britain was wholly supplanted by the United States as Canada’s main economic partner. By the middle of the decade, economic development started to soar over in Europe, and the Roaring Twenties broke out in Germany, Britain and France, where the second half of this decade was termed the “Golden Twenties”. In France and Canada, they were also called the “Crazy Years” (années folles).
The spirit of the Roaring Twenties was marked by a general feeling of discontinuity associated with modernity and a break with traditions. Everything seemed to be feasible through modern technology. New technologies, especially automobiles, movies and radio spread the idea of modernity to a large part of the population. Formal decorative frills were shed in favor of practicality, in architecture as well as in daily life. At the same time, amusement, fun and lightness were cultivated in jazz and dancing, in defiance of the horrors of World War I, which were still present in people’s minds. The period is often called the “Jazz Age”.
The Roaring Twenties are traditionally viewed as an era of great economic prosperity driven by the introduction of a wide array of new consumer goods. Initially, the North American economy, particularly the economy of the US, took some time to convert from a wartime economy to a peacetime economy. After this dull phase, the economy boomed. The United States increased its role as the richest country in the world, with industry aligned to mass production and a society with a culture of consumerism. In Europe, the economy did not start to flourish until 1924.
The government was associated with laissez faire economics, which helped create the conditions for the boom. In 1922, t
The development of mass production allowed for cheaper prices of technology products. Most of the devices that became commonplace had been developed before the war but had been unaffordable to most people. The automobile, movie, radio, and chemical industries skyrocketed during the 1920s. One of the most important of these was the automobile industry. Before the war, cars were a rare luxury. In the 1920s, cheap mass-produced vehicles became common throughout the U.S. and Canada.
The popularity of jazz spread. Jazz became associated with all things modern, sophisticated, and also decadent.
Because of the dreary economic situation after World War I, many American and European families needed to replace the incomes of the family fathers lost in the battlefield; women had to accept a job and move outside the home. It reflected on the fashion. corsets went out of style, and some women even bandaged their breasts to make them look flatter. Flappers, as these women were called in the U.S., wore short dresses with a straight loose silhouette.
Speakeasies became popular and numerous as the Prohibition years progressed and lead to the rise of gangsters such as Al Capone. They more commonly began to operate with connections to organized crime and liquor smuggling.
The Roaring Twenties was a period of literary creativity, and works of several notable authors appeared during
Books that take the 1920s as their subject include:
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is often described as the epitome of the “Jazz Age” in American literature. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque recounts the horrors of WWI and also the deep detachment from German civilian life felt by many men returning from the front. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald portrays the lives and morality of post-World War I youth. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway is about a group of expatriate Americans in Europe during the 1920s.