Hi, I'm Frank Couvares for About.com, and I'm here to talk to you about the decade of the 1900s.The decade of the 1900s is shaped indelibly by the previous decade of the 1890s in which two crucial events occurred: first, the Great Depression of the 1890s, which saw the total collapse of the capitalist economy; and secondly, the rise of American imperialism.So let's talk first about the consequences of the Great Depression of the 1890s. One of those consequences was to convince businessmen and financiers that the American economy is too free, too anarchic. It required control, consolidation, hopefully under the control of men like J.P. Morgan and other financiers, privately, through business and financial cooperation, pooling trusts of various kinds.But the second consequence of the Depression of the 1890s was the growing sense that, among citizens and politicians, that that system required government regulation, that growing sense that government must be used to bring order to society filled with conflict and change, which became known as The Progressive Movement. Municipal reform leagues, consumer leagues, labor unions, trade associations, professional organizations - group of all kinds - women's groups, prohibitionist groups, advocating change and using mail, using lobbying, using a whole range of tactics to influence the government.In the 1890s, the United States is increasing involved with the other nations of the world. The United States begins to become more interventionist, and eventually in 1898, declares war on Spain to liberate Cuba from Spanish rule. The United States is now a colonial power. One of the great advocates of that colonial enterprise is Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt, on the strength of his heroics in the Spanish-American War, becomes vice-president of the United States - and on the assassination of McKinley in 1901, he becomes president of the United States. And he brings together both the Progressive and Reformist tendency of the first decade of the 20th century, and the Imperialist tendency. Roosevelt's foreign policy is aggressive - more aggressive than any other president in history. In 1903, he encourages a revolution in Panama against the Colombian government, and eventually he gets the Panamanians to grant the building and ownership of the Panama Canal. In 1905, looking eastward, Teddy Roosevelt helps negotiate and end to the Russo-Japanese War. It makes clear to the world that the United States is now a big player.The 1900s is a decade of bewildering change of all sorts. Great changes like the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco; and events that would be kind of a cultural earthquake, like the spread of movies to the working classes, and eventually to the middle classes of America. Thomas Edison's light bulbs are lighting the cities of America. Henry Ford's mass production is transforming industry.In addition, the 1900s sees growing ethnic and racial pluralism and growing ethnic and racial conflict. The immigration restriction movement increases year by year, and this is the nadir of African-Americans' place in American society.Thanks for watching. To learn more, visit us on the web at About.com.
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