Great Britain was the first nation to suffer from the ills of postindustrial development. In the postwar period Conservatives wanted to preserve private industry and advocated protective tariffs against foreign competition. Labour called for nationalization of key industries.
Political democratization continued in Britain with all men over age twenty-one receiving the vote. Women over age twenty-one finally gained equal voting rights in 1928. A slight economic recovery in the later 1920s was followed by the Great Depression.
By 1919 Irish nationalists were demanding complete independence from Britain rather than home rule. In 1921 the twenty-six southern countries became the Irish Free State, while the six Ulster counties remained tied to Britain. Although Britain recognized the full independence of the Republic of Ireland in 1949, the problem of Northern Ireland remained.
France felt the impact of the war most heavily, both in terms of casualties and material damage. In the 1920s, as the rebuilding effort got under way, France suffered severe inflation as well as other economic and social dislocations. Political divisions inherited from the French Revolution resurfaced in postwar France.
Rocked by economic and political difficulties, French governments compromised with Hitler and Mussolini despite protests from the left. In 1939 France was poorly equipped militarily and psychologically to deal with the threat of war.
People in the French colonies of Algeria, Senegal, and Indochina demanded home rule or independence. The French mandates of Syria and Lebanon were given constitutions but not independence.
In the postwar period, the isolationist mood of the United States was reflected in its tariffs and in the policy of imposing quotas to limit immigration. Nevertheless, the United States was still involved in European and world affairs in the 1920s.
At home, the uneven prosperity of the Coolidge years and the unprecedented speculation on Wall Street ended with the stock market crash of 1929. The Great Depression was worse and lasted longer in the United States than elsewhere. Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced the New Deal to ameliorate conditions. Yet full recovery did not occur until the outbreak of World War II.
A liberalizing trend that occurred in Japan after World War I ended in the 1930s when the military acquired political power and imposed a military dictatorship. As in Italy and Germany, the Japanese regime embarked on an expansionist policy, claiming the need for living space, resources, and new markets.
In 1911 a revolution toppled the Manchu regime in China. China struggled to free itself from Western imperialist powers but was distracted by an internal conflict between nationalist and communist forces and by the threat of Japanese expansion. In 1931 Japan attacked Manchuria and in 1937 invaded China proper.
Indians agitated for self-government in the 1920s and 1930s, but irreconcilable differences between Hindus and Muslims prevented a united front. Gandhi, leader of the Congress party, advocated nonviolent noncooperation, which appealed to many Hindus.
In the Middle East, European powers were anxious to protect access to petroleum deposits. The mandate system that continued European control in the region frustrated the hopes of Arab nationalists. Although Egypt became independent, Britain had the right to keep troops there. In Turkey, Mustafa Kemal imposed wholesale Westernization. In Iran, Reza Shah’s attempt to modernize rapidly met with only limited success.