The early 20th century was an era of business expansion and progressive reform in the United States.
The so called progressives hoped to make the world a more democratic place.
In the U.S. this meant expanding the right to vote to women and a number of election reforms such as the recall, referendum, and direct election of Senators. Abroad, it meant trying to make the world safe for democracy.
In 1917, the United States joined Great Britain and France in their war against autocratic Germany and Austria-Hungary.
In the 1920s, also known as the “roaring twenties” or “the new era,” America continued its economic growth and prosperity. The numeber of immigrants increased along with those of middle class and wealthier Americans. The major growth industry was automobile manufacturing. The automobile radically changed the American way of life.
On the other hand, the 1920s saw the decline of many reforms that had been so widespread after 1900.
The great prosperity of the 1920s ended abruptly with the stock market crash in October 1929 and the great economic depression that followed.
The depression had consequences on people’s jobs, savings, and even their homes and farms. Over one-quarter of the American workers became unemployed.
The New Deal, as the first two terms of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency were called, became a time of hope and optimism. Although the economic depression continued throughout the New Deal era, the darkest hours of despair seemed to have passed.
Unfortunately, the economic troubles of the 1930s led to economic instability and consequently to political instability in many parts of the world. This situation gave rise to dictatorial regimes such as Adolf Hitler’s in Germany and the military’s in Japan, totalitarian regimes in the Soviet Union and in Italy.
These regimes pushed the world to war in the 1930s.
When Japan attacked the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, the United States found itself in the war it had tried to avoid for more than two years.