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Unit 5: Crisis and Change

Lesson E: Economic Depression and Political Collapse

Activity 7: The Great Depression and World War II

Midwest Factory Workers Assembled 37mm Ammunition Midwest Factory Workers Assembled 37mm Ammunition

Midwest Factory Workers Assembled 37mm Ammunition. [1]

The beginning of World War II was one of the most important factors in ending the recession that caused the Great Depression. At the very least, the money that Japan, the U.S.S.R., and other countries around the world spent starting in 1937 on rearmament and war efforts accelerated economic recovery and also reduced unemployment.

The United States, of course, did not officially enter the war until 1941. Following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the huge government war spending raised economic growth rates, increased industrial output by 100%, and reduced unemployment almost to zero. United States entry into World War II ended most of the country’s lingering problems caused by the Great Depression.

In a sense, World War II offered a bittersweet end to the Great Depression. World War II led to greater demand for goods and also allowed export-dependent countries to demand higher prices for raw materials and agricultural products. Countries around the world saw large GDP increases compared to pre-Depression levels, including Egypt (20%), Indonesia (16%), and Mexico (25%). Of course, these economic gains were not without other costs and losses.

As important as all of these national economic figures are, they fail to give a complete picture of the hardships that individuals experienced during the Great Depression. The historical realities of men and women around the world are still areas of research for historians. Some of these new research areas include looking at birth rates and marriage rates, and even participation in religious events, such as the Muslim hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca, during the years of the Great Depression. Other researchers are exploring correspondence and diaries to understand the personal impact of the Great Depression.

Interactive IconDirections: Read each item and then decide if it is a cause, effect, or both of the Great Depression by dragging to the correct column. Use the buttons provided to check the latest move or, when you are done, check the whole question.


Page Notes:

[1] Source: This image from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Women_aluminum_shells_ wwii.jpg is a work of the United States Government and therefore in the public domain.