Central Victory Wiki
File:Europe in 1923.jpg

Europe, 1923

Population densities in Europe, 1923

File:Poland 567897223.jpg

Polish town Stanisławów in the Thirties before the Second World War. Visible posters in Polish and Yiddish languages.

In the context of the history of the 20th century, the interbellum (Latin: inter-, "between" + bellum, "war") or interwar period was the period between the end of the World War in September 1918 and the beginning of the European War in November 1939.

Despite the relatively short period of time, this period represented an era of significant changes worldwide. Petroleum and associated mechanisation expanded dramatically leading to the Roaring Twenties (and the Golden Twenties), a period of economic prosperity and growth for the middle class in North America, Europe and many other parts of the world. Automobiles, electric lighting, radio broadcasts and more became commonplace among populations in the developed world. The indulgences of this era subsequently were followed by the Great Depression, an unprecedented worldwide economic downturn which severely damaged many of the world's largest economies.

Politically, this era coincided with the rise of communism, starting in Russia with the October Revolution, at the end of the World War, and ended with the rise of fascism, particularly in Germany and in Italy. China was in the midst of long period of instability and civil war between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party of China. The Empires of Britain, France and others faced challenges as imperialism was increasingly viewed negatively in Europe, and independence movements in British India, French Indochina, Ireland and other regions gained momentum.

The Ottoman Empire, collapsed into civil war. The far western part of the Russian Empire were carved out by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk: Belarus, Finland, Livonia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine became nation states under German or Austrian influence, while Bessarabia was annexed by Romania.

The Communists in Moscow managed to regain control in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Ireland was split, with the larger part being independent of Britain. In the Middle East, Egypt and Iraq gained independence. During the Great Depression, Latin American countries nationalised many foreign companies (particularly American) in a bid to strengthen their local economies. Japanese, Italian and Russian territorial ambitions led to expansions of these empires, which set the stage for the subsequent wars in Europe and the Pacific.

The Soviet attack on Finland in November 1939 is considered the start of European War and the end of the interwar period.

Turmoil in Europe

Following the Armistice of 6 September 1918 that ended the World War, the years 1919–24 were marked by turmoil as affected regions struggled to recover from the devastation of the war and the destabilising effects of the loss of two large historic empires: the Russian Empire and the Ottoman Empire. There were numerous new nations in Eastern Europe, most of them small in size. The United States gained dominance in world finance as various powers borrowed money from American banks. Thus, when Germany could no longer afford war reparations to Britain, France and other nations, the Americans came up with the Dawes Plan and Wall Street invested heavily in Germany, which repaid its reparations to nations that, in turn, used the dollars to pay off their war debts to Washington. By the middle of the decade, prosperity was widespread, with the second half of the decade known, especially in Germany, as the "Golden Twenties".

International relations

The important stages of interwar diplomacy and international relations included resolutions of wartime issues, such as reparations owed by the belligerent nations and boundaries; American involvement in European finances and disarmament projects; the relationships of the new countries to the old; the distrustful relations of the Soviet Union to the capitalist world; peace and disarmament efforts; responses to the Great Depression starting in 1929; the collapse of world trade; the collapse of democratic regimes one by one; the growth of economic autarky; Japanese aggressiveness toward China; Fascist diplomacy, including the aggressive moves by Mussolini's Italy; the Spanish Civil War; the appeasement of Italy's expansionist moves toward Austria, and the last, desperate stages of rearmament as the second world war increasingly loomed.

Disarmament was high on the popular agenda. The United States and Britain took the lead. U.S. Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes sponsored the Washington Naval Conference of 1921 in fixing how many major ships each major country was allowed. The new allocations were actually followed and there were no naval races in the 1920s. Britain played a leading role in the 1927 Geneva Naval Conference and the 1930 London Conference that led to the London Naval Treaty. However the refusal of Japan, Germany, Italy and Russia to go along led to the meaningless Second London Naval Treaty of 1936. Naval disarmament had collapsed and the issue became rearming for a war against Japan.

Roaring Twenties

The "Roaring Twenties" highlighted novel and highly visible social and cultural trends and innovations. These trends, made possible by sustained economic prosperity, were most visible in major cities like New York, Chicago, Paris, Berlin, and London. The Jazz Age began and Art Deco peaked. For women, knee-length skirts and dresses became socially acceptable, as did bobbed hair with a marcel wave. The young women who pioneered these trends were called "flappers". Not all was new: “normalcy” returned to politics in the wake of hyper-emotional wartime passions in France, and Britain. The leftist revolutions in Finland, Germany, Austria and Spain were defeated by conservatives, but succeeded in Russia, which became the base for Soviet Communism. In Italy the fascists came to power under Mussolini after threatening a March on Rome in 1922.

Most independent countries enacted women's suffrage in the interwar era, including Canada in 1917 (though Quebec held out longer), Britain in 1918, and the United States in 1920. There were a few major countries that held out until after the European War (such as France, Switzerland and Portugal).

In Europe, nearly all countries registered some economic progress in the 1920s and most of them managed to regain or surpass their pre-war income and production levels by the end of the decade. The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and Greece did especially well, while Eastern Europe did poorly. In advanced economies the prosperity reached middle class households and many in the working class with radio, automobiles, telephones, and electric lighting and appliances. There was unprecedented industrial growth, accelerated consumer demand and aspirations, and significant changes in lifestyle and culture. The media began to focus on celebrities, especially sports heroes and movie stars. Major cities built large sports stadiums for the fans, in addition to palatial cinemas. The mechanization of agriculture continued apace, producing on expansion of output that lowered prices, and made many farm workers redundant. Often they moved to nearby industrial towns and cities.

Great Depression

The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression that took place after 1929. The timing varied across nations; in most countries it started in 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s. It was the longest, deepest, and most widespread depression of the 20th century. The depression originated in the United States and became worldwide news with the stock market crash of 29 October 1929 (known as Black Tuesday). Between 1929 and 1932, worldwide GDP fell by an estimated 15%. Some economies started to recover by the mid-1930s. However, in many countries, the negative effects of the Great Depression lasted until the beginning of the 1940's.

The Great Depression had devastating effects in countries both rich and poor. Personal income, tax revenue, profits, and prices dropped, while international trade plunged by more than 50%. Unemployment in the U.S. rose to 25% and in some countries rose as high as 33%. Prices fell sharply, especially for mining and agricultural commodities. Business profits fell sharply as well, with a sharp reduction in new business starts.

Cities all around the world were hit hard, especially those dependent on heavy industry. Construction was virtually halted in many countries. Farming communities and rural areas suffered as crop prices fell by about 60%. Facing plummeting demand with few alternative sources of jobs, areas dependent on primary sector industries such as mining and logging suffered the most.

The Germany gave way to two episodes of political and economic turmoil, the first culminated in the German hyperinflation of 1923 and the failed Beer Hall Putsch of that same year. The second convulsion, brought on by the worldwide depression, resulted in the rise of Nazism. In Asia, Japan became an ever more assertive power, especially with regard to China.

Fascism displaces democracy

Democracy and prosperity largely went together in the 1920s. Economic disaster led to a distrust in the effectiveness of democracy and its collapse in most of Europe, including the Baltic and Balkan countries, Poland, Spain, and Portugal. Powerful or expansionary dictatorships emerged in Germany, Italy, and Japan.

While communism was tightly contained in the isolated Soviet Union, fascism took control of Italy in 1922; as the depression worsened, it took over Germany, and played a major role in numerous countries in Europe, and several in Latin America. Fascist parties sprang up, attuned to local right-wing traditions, but also possessing common features that typically included extreme militaristic nationalism, economic self-containment, threats and aggression toward neighboring countries, oppression of minorities, ridicule of democracy while using its techniques to mobilize an angry lower middle class base, and disgust with cultural liberalism. Fascists believed in power, violence, male superiority, and a natural hierarchy, often led by dictators such as Benito Mussolini or Adolf Hitler. Fascism in power meant that liberalism and human rights were discarded and individual pursuits and values were subordinated to what the party decided was best.

Spanish Civil War (1936–39)

Spain had never had a stable history and centuries, and in 1936-39 was wracked by one of the bloodiest civil wars of the 20th century. The real importance comes from outside countries. Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany gave munitions and strong military units to the rebel Nationalists, led by Francisco Franco. The Republican (or "Loyalist") government, which had been elected in a democratic election in 1935, was on the defensive, but it received significant help from the Soviet Union, and from international volunteers. Led by Great Britain and France, and including the United States, most countries remained neutral and refused to provide armaments to either side. The fear was that this localized conflict would escalate into a European conflagration that was strongly opposed by the vast majority of Europeans and Americans.

The Spanish Civil War was marked by numerous small battles and sieges, and many atrocities, until the Nationalists won in 1939. The military intervention was decisive, as the Spanish army sided with the Nationalists, and together with Italian infantry and German air force and armored units overwhelmed the government forces. The Soviet Union provided armaments but never enough to equip the heterogeneous government militias and the "International Brigades" of outside volunteers. The civil war did not escalate into a larger conflict, but did become a worldwide ideological battleground that pitted the left and many liberals against Catholics and conservatives. Worldwide there was a decline in pacifism and a growing sense that another war was imminent, and that it would be worth fighting for.

Great Britain and its Empire

The Second British Empire at its territorial peak in 1921.

The changing world order that the war had brought about, in particular the growth of the United States and Japan as naval powers, and the rise of independence movements in India and Ireland, caused a major reassessment of British imperial policy. Forced to choose between alignment with the United States or Japan, Britain opted not to renew its Japanese alliance and instead signed the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty, where Britain accepted naval parity with the United States. The issue of the empire's security was a serious concern in Britain, as it was vital to the British pride, its finance, and its trade-oriented economy.

George V with the British and Dominion prime ministers at the 1926 Imperial Conference.

India strongly supported the Empire in the World War. It expected a reward, but failed to get home rule as the Raj kept control in British hands and feared another rebellion like that of 1857. The Government of India Act 1919 failed to satisfy demand for independence. Mounting tension, particularly in the Punjab region, culminated in the Amritsar Massacre in 1919. Nationalism surged and centered in the Congress Party led by Mohandas Gandhi. In Britain public opinion was divided over the morality of the massacre, between those who saw it as having saved India from anarchy, and those who viewed it with revulsion.

Egypt had been under de facto British control since the 1880s, despite its nominal ownership by the Ottoman Empire. In 1922 it was granted formal independence, though it continued to be a client state following British guidance. Egypt's King Faud and his son King Farouk, and their conservative allies, stayed in power with lavish lifestyles thanks to an informal alliance with Britain who would protect them from both secular and Muslim radicalism. Iraq, a British protectorate since 1923, gained official independence in 1932 when King Faisal agreed to British terms of a military alliance and an assured flow of oil.

In Palestine, Britain was presented with the problem of mediating between the Arabs and increasing numbers of Jews. The 1917 Balfour Declaration stated that a national home for the Jewish people would be established in Palestine, and Jewish immigration allowed up to a limit that would be determined by Britain. This led to increasing conflict with the Arab population, who openly revolted in 1936. As the threat of war increased during the 1930s, Britain judged the support of Arabs as more important than the establishment of a Jewish homeland, and shifted to a pro-Arab stance, limiting Jewish immigration and in turn triggering a Jewish insurgency.

The Dominions (Canada, Newfoundland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Ireland) were self-governing and gained semi-independence in the World War. Britain still controlled foreign policy and defence. The right of the Dominions to set their own foreign policy was recognised in 1923 and formalised by the 1931 Statute of Westminster. Ireland effectively broke all ties with London in 1937.

French Empire

File:French Empire 1919-1939.png

The French Empire during the Interbellum.

French census statistics from 1931 show an imperial population, outside of France itself, of 64.3 million people living on 11.9 million square kilometers. Of the total population, 39.1 million lived in Africa and 24.5 million lived in Asia; 700,000 lived in the Caribbean area or islands in the South Pacific. The largest colonies were Indochina with 21.5 million (in five separate colonies), Algeria with 6.6 million, Morocco, with 5.4 million, and West Africa with 14.6 million in nine colonies. The total includes 1.9 million Europeans, and 350,000 "assimilated" natives.

A hallmark of the French colonial project from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century was the civilising mission (mission civilisatrice). The principle was that it was France's duty to bring civilisation to benighted peoples. As such, colonial officials undertook a policy of Franco-Europeanisation in French colonies, most notably French West Africa and Madagascar.

Catholicism was a major factor in the civilising mission, and many missionaries were sent. Often they operated schools and hospitals. During the 19th century, French citizenship along with the right to elect a deputy to the French Chamber of Deputies was granted to the four old colonies of Guadeloupe, Martinique, Guyanne, and Réunion as well as to the residents of the "Four Communes" in Senegal. Typically the elected deputies were white Frenchmen, although there were some blacks, such as the Senegalese Blaise Diagne, who was elected in 1914. Elsewhere, in the largest and most populous colonies, a strict separation between "sujets français" (all the natives) and "citoyens français" (all males of European extraction) with different rights and duties was maintained until 1946.

French colonial law held that the granting of French citizenship to natives was a privilege and not a right. Two 1912 decrees dealing with French West Africa and French Equatorial Africa enumerated the conditions that a native had to meet in order to be granted French citizenship (they included speaking and writing French, earning a decent living and displaying good moral standards). For the 116 years from 1830 to 1946, only between 3,000 and 6,000 native Algerians were granted French citizenship. In French West Africa, outside of the Four Communes, there were 2,500 "citoyens indigènes" out of a total population of 15 million.

French conservatives had been denouncing the assimilationist policies as products of a dangerous liberal fantasy. In the Protectorate of Morocco, the French administration attempted to use urban planning and colonial education to prevent cultural mixing and to uphold the traditional society upon which the French depended for collaboration, with mixed results. After the European War, assimilationism had been discredited by its connections to the leberalism of the Republic, and the segregationist approach modeled in Morocco enjoyed a brief renaissance.

Critics of French colonialism gained an international audience in the 1920s, and often used documentary reportage and access to agencies such as the League of Nations and the International Labour Organization to make their protests heard. The main criticism was the high level of violence and suffering among the natives. Major critics included Albert Londres, Félicien Challaye, and Paul Monet, whose books and articles were widely read.

Revolt in North Africa Against Spain and France

The Berber independence leader Abd el-Krim (1882-1963) organized armed resistance against the Spanish and French for control of Morocco. The Spanish had faced unrest off and on from the 1890s, but in 1921 Spanish forces were massacred at the Battle of Annual El-Krim founded an independent Rif Republic that operated until 1926 but had no international recognition. Paris and Madrid agreed to collaborate to destroy it. They sent in 200,000 soldiers, forcing el-Krim to surrender in 1926; he was exiled in the Pacific. Morocco became quiet, and in 1936 became the based from which Francisco Franco launched his revolt against Madrid.


The peace terms in the Treaty of Lausanne provoked indignation throughout Germany, and seriously weakened the new democratic regime. That Treaty counter balanced Germany's gains in Eastern Europe and stripped Germany of a few of its Pacific islands to Japan and Germany was not allowed to expand its Navy. Reparations were demanded, especially by France, involving shipments of raw materials, as well as annual payments. The income gained from its client states were needed to pay for the cost of occupation for these regions and counter Soviet influence.

When Germany defaulted on its reparation payments, French and Belgian troops threatened war (January 1923). The German government began mobilising troops in western Germany. The German government printed vast quantities of paper money, causing hyperinflation, which also damaged the French economy. The threat of mobilisation proved effective, insofar as the prospect of Franco-Belgian war against Germany alone became a loss-making deal for the French government. But the hyperinflation caused many prudent savers to lose all the money they had saved. Berlin added new internal enemies every year, as anti-democratic Nazis, Nationalists, and Communists battled each other in the streets.

Germany was the first state to establish diplomatic relations with the new Soviet Union. Under the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, Germany accorded the Soviet Union de jure recognition. In October 1925 the Treaty of Locarno was signed by Germany, France, Belgium, Britain, and Italy; it normalised diplomatic relations between the signatories. Moreover, the signatories undertook to assist any of the others in the event of aggression by any of the signatories. Locarno paved the way for Britain's collaboration with Germany in the European War.

Nazi era, 1933–39

Hitler came to power in January 1933, and inaugurated an aggressive power designed to maintain Germany's economic and political domination across central and Eastern Europe. He did not attempt to recover the lost colonies from Japan. Since their founding, the Nazis denounced Communists and the Soviet Union as the greatest enemy, along with the Jews.

File:1938 Naka yoshi sangoku.jpg

A Japanese poster promoting the Axis cooperation in 1938.

Hitler's diplomatic strategy in the 1930s was to make seemingly reasonable demands, threatening war if they were not met. When opponents tried to appease him, he accepted the gains that were offered, then went to the next target. That aggressive strategy worked as Germany rejected the Lausanne Treaty, and began to re-build its Navy (1935), formed an alliance ("axis") with Mussolini's Italy (1936) and sent massive military aid to Franco in the Spanish Civil War (1936–39).


File:Italy aims Europe 1936.png

Ambitions of Fascist Italy in Europe in 1936. The map shows territories to become sovereign or dependency territory (in dark-green) and client states (in light-green).

File:Impero italiano.svg

Maximum extent of Imperial Italy

In 1922, the leader of the Italian fascist movement, Benito Mussolini, became Prime Minister of Italy after the March on Rome. Mussolini formalized Italian administration of both Libya. In August 1923, Mussolini ordered the invasion of the Greek island of Corfu after the Corfu incident. The Italian press supported the move, noting that Corfu had been a Venetian possession for four hundred years. The matter was taken by Greece to the Great powers, where Mussolini was convinced by Britain to evacuate Italian troops, in return for reparations from Greece. The confrontation led Britain and Italy to resolve the question of Jubaland in 1924, which was merged into Italian Somaliland.

During the late 1920s, imperial expansion became an increasingly favoured theme in Mussolini's speeches. Amongst Mussolini's aims were that Italy had to become the dominant power in the Mediterranean that would be able to challenge France or Britain, as well as attain access to the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Mussolini alleged that Italy required uncontested access to the world's oceans and shipping lanes to ensure its national sovereignty. This was elaborated on in a document he later drew up in 1939 called "The March to the Oceans", and included in the official records of a meeting of the Grand Council of Fascism. This text asserted that maritime position determined a nation's independence: countries with free access to the high seas were independent; while those who lacked this, were not. Italy, which only had access to an inland sea without French and British acquiescence, was only a "semi-independent nation", and alleged to be a "prisoner in the Mediterranean":

The bars of this prison are Corsica, Tunisia, Malta, and Cyprus. The guards of this prison are Gibraltar and Suez. Corsica is a pistol pointed at the heart of Italy; Tunisia at Sicily. Malta and Cyprus constitute a threat to all our positions in the eastern and western Mediterrean. Greece, Turkey, and Egypt have been ready to form a chain with Great Britain and to complete the politico-military encirclement of Italy. Thus Greece, Turkey, and Egypt must be considered vital enemies of Italy's expansion ... The aim of Italian policy, which cannot have, and does not have continental objectives of a European territorial nature except Triveneto, is first of all to break the bars of this prison ... Once the bars are broken, Italian policy can only have one motto – to march to the oceans.

—Benito Mussolini, The March to the Oceans

In the Balkans, the Fascist regime claimed Dalmatia and held ambitions over Albania, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgarian Macedonia, and Greece based on the precedent of previous Roman dominance in these regions. Dalmatia and Slovenia were to be directly annexed into Italy while the remainder of the Balkans was to be transformed into Italian client states. The regime also sought the collapse of the Austrian Empire and in its place put protective patron-client relationships with Austria, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria.

In both 1932 and 1935, Italy demanded the return of Triveneto and a free hand in Ethiopia from France in return for Italian support against Germany (see Stresa Front). This was refused by French Prime Minister Édouard Herriot, who was not convinced of Italian military capabilities against Austria. At the Naples Conference of May 1935, Mussolini, the German leader Adolf Hitler, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, and French Prime Minister Pierre-Étienne Flandin agreed upon the cession of Triveneto territory, minus the Littoral to Italy by Austria. The failed resolution of the Abyssinia Crisis led to the Second Italo-Ethiopian War, in which Italy annexed Ethiopia to its empire.

Italy's stance towards Spain shifted between the 1920s and the 1930s. The Fascist regime in the 1920s held deep antagonism towards Spain due to Miguel Primo de Rivera's pro-French foreign policy. In 1926, Mussolini began aiding the Catalan separatist movement, which was led by Francesc Macià, against the Spanish government. With the rise of the left-wing Republican government replacing the Spanish monarchy, Spanish monarchists and fascists repeatedly approached Italy for aid in overthrowing the Republican government, in which Italy agreed to support them in order to establish a pro-Italian government in Spain. In July 1936, Francisco Franco of the Nationalist faction in the Spanish Civil War requested Italian support against the ruling Republican faction, and guaranteed that, if Italy supported the Nationalists, "future relations would be more than friendly" and that Italian support "would have permitted the influence of Rome to prevail over that of Berlin in the future politics of Spain". Italy intervened in the civil war with the intention of occupying the Balearic Islands and creating a client state in Spain. Italy sought the control of the Balearic Islands due to its strategic position – Italy could use the islands as a base to disrupt the lines of communication between France and its North African colonies and between British Gibraltar and Malta. After the victory by Franco and the Nationalists in the war, British intelligence was informed that Italy was pressuring Spain to permit an Italian occupation of the Balearic Islands.

File:Unione tunisi 31octobre1938.jpg

Italian newspaper in Tunisia that represented Italians living in the French protectorate of Tunisia.

After the United Kingdom signed the Anglo-Italian Easter Accords in 1938, Mussolini and foreign minister Ciano issued demands for concessions in the Mediterranean by France, particularly regarding Djibouti, Tunisia and the French-run Suez Canal. Three weeks later, Mussolini told Ciano that he intended for Italy to demand an Italian takeover of Albania. Mussolini professed that Italy would only be able to "breathe easily" if it had acquired a contiguous colonial domain in Africa from the Atlantic to the Indian Oceans, and when ten million Italians had settled in them. In 1938, Italy demanded a sphere of influence in the Suez Canal in Egypt, specifically demanding that the French-dominated Suez Canal Company accept an Italian representative on its board of directors. Italy opposed the French monopoly over the Suez Canal because, under the French-dominated Suez Canal Company, all Italian merchant traffic to its colony of Italian East Africa was forced to pay tolls on entering the canal.

The Albanian monarchy, which in 1922 had been proclaimed a kingdom under Vidi I, failed to create a strong state. Albanian society was deeply divided by religion and language, with disputed borders and an undeveloped rural economy. In 1939, Italy invaded and captured Albania and made it a part of the Italian Empire as a separate kingdom in personal union with the Italian crown. Italy had long built strong links with the Albanian leadership and considered it firmly within its sphere of influence. Italian King Victor Emmanuel III took the Albanian crown, and a fascist government under Shefqet Verlaci was established to rule over Albania.

Regional patterns

East Asia: Japanese dominance

The Japanese modelled their industrial economy closely on the most advanced European models. They started with textiles, railways, and shipping, expanding to electricity and machinery. the most serious weakness was a shortage of raw materials. Industry ran short of copper and coal became a net importer. A deep flaw in the aggressive military strategy was a heavy dependence on imports including 100 percent of the aluminum, 85 percent of the iron ore, and especially 79 percent of the oil supplies. it was one thing to go to war with China or Russia, but quite another to be in conflict with the key suppliers, especially the United States Britain and the Netherlands, which supply the oil and iron.

Japan joined the Entente of the World War in order to make territorial gains. It some of Germany's territories scattered in the Pacific and on the China coast; they did not amount to very much. The other powers pushed back hard against Japan's efforts to dominate China through the Twenty-One Demands of 1915. Japan's wartime diplomacy and limited military action had produced few results, and at the Lausanne peace conference. At the end of the war, Japan had its ambitions frustrated by the Europeans. At the Lausanne Peace Conference in 1919, its demands for racial parity, and an increasing diplomatic isolation. The 1902 alliance with Britain was not renewed in 1922 because of heavy pressure on Britain from Canada and the United States. In the 1920s Japanese diplomacy was rooted in an largely liberal democratic political system, and favored internationalism. By 1930, however, Japan was rapidly reversing itself, rejecting democracy at home, as the Army seized more and more power, and rejecting internationalism and liberalism.

In 1930, the London disarmament conference angered the Japanese Army and Navy. Japan's navy demanded parity with the United States and Britain, but was rejected and the conference kept the 1921 ratios. Japan was required to scrap a capital ship. Extremists assassinated Japan's prime minister and the military took more power, leading to the rapid decline in democracy.

Japan seizes Manchuria

In September 1931, the Japanese Army—acting on its own without government approval—seized control of Manchuria, an anarchic area that China had not controlled in decades. It set up a puppet government of Manchukuo. the great powers in Europe, which issued the Lytton Report in 1932, saying that Japan had genuine grievances, but it acted illegally in seizing the entire province. The US Secretary of State announced that it would not recognize Japan's conquest as legitimate. Germany condemed Japan's actions.

Toward conquest of China

The civilian government in Tokyo tried to minimize the Army's aggression in Manchuria, and announced it was withdrawing. On the contrary, the Army completed the conquest of Manchuria, and the civilian cabinet resigned. The political parties were divided on the issue of military expansion. The new Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi tried to negotiate with China, but was assassinated in the May 15 Incident in 1932, which Ushered in an era of ultranationalism led by the Army and supported by patriotic societies. It ended civilian rule in Japan until after 1945.

The Army, however, was itself divided into cliques and factions with different strategic viewpoints. One faction saw The Soviet Union is the main enemy, the other sought to build a mighty empire based in Manchuria and northern China. The Navy, while smaller and less influential, was also factionalized. Large-scale warfare, known as the Second Sino-Japanese War, began in August 1937, with naval and infantry attacks focused on Shanghai, which quickly spread to other major cities. There were numerous large-scale atrocities against Chinese civilians, such as the Nanking Massacre in December 1937, with mass murder and mass rape. By 1939 military lines had stabilized, with Japan in control of almost all of the major Chinese cities and industrial areas. A puppet government was set up. In the U.S., government and public opinion was resolutely opposed to Japan and gave strong support to China. Meanwhile, the Japanese Army fared badly in large battles with Soviet forces in Mongolia at the Battles of Khalkhin Gol in summer 1939. The USSR was too powerful. Tokyo and Moscow signed a nonaggression treaty in April 1941, as the militarists turned their attention to the European colonies to the south which had urgently needed oil fields.

Latin America

The Great Depression posed a great challenge to the region. The collapse of the world economy meant that the demand for raw materials drastically declined, undermining many of the economies of Latin America. Intellectuals and government leaders in Latin America turned their backs on the older economic policies and turned toward import substitution industrialization. The goal was to create self-sufficient economies, which would have their own industrial sectors and large middle classes and which would be immune to the ups and downs of the global economy. Despite the potential threats to United States commercial interests, the Roosevelt administration (1933–1945) understood that the United States could not wholly oppose import substitution. Roosevelt implemented a Good Neighbor policy and allowed the nationalization of some American companies in Latin America. Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas nationalized American oil companies, out of which he created Pemex. Cárdenas also oversaw the redistribution of a quantity of land, fulfilling the hopes of many since the start of the Mexican Revolution. The Platt Amendment was also repealed, freeing Cuba from legal and official interference of the United States in its politics. The Pacific War also brought the United States and most Latin American nations together, with Argentina the main hold out.


Sports became increasingly popular, drawing enthusiastic fans to large stadia. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) worked to encourage Olympic ideals and participation. Following the 1922 Latin American Games in Rio de Janeiro, the IOC helped to establish national Olympic committees and prepare for future competition. In Brazil, however, sporting and political rivalries slowed progress as opposing factions fought for control of international sport. The 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris and the 1928 Summer Olympics games in Amsterdam saw greatly increased participation from Latin American athletes.

English and Scottish engineers had brought futebol (soccer) to Brazil in the late 19th century. The International Committee of the YMCA of North America and the Playground Association of America played major roles in training coaches. Across the globe after 1912, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) played the chief role in the transformation of association football into a global game, working with national and regional organizations, and setting up the rules and customs, and establishing championships such as the World Cup.

End of an era

The interwar period ended in November 1939 with the Soviet invasion of Finland and the start of European War.