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A History of World Societies, Sixth Edition
Web Exercises
Chapter 33: Recovery and Crisis in Europe and the Americas

From 1945 to the end of the twentieth century, Europe and the Americas underwent broad and sweeping transformations. The economies of Western Europe and the United States recovered brilliantly from the ravages of World War II. This prosperity vastly expanded the middle class and allowed governments to build strong welfare states along the lines the United States, Great Britain, and Sweden had experimented with during the Great Depression (see Chapter 31, "The Age of Anxiety in the West"). When economic growth slowed after 1970, there was no return to 1930s living standards for most people. The Soviet Union and its satellite nations in Eastern Europe experienced similar rates of growth early on, although living standards did not match those in the West. The economic crises of the 1970s and 1980s, however, led to the revolutions that overthrew communism after 1989. Millions of people in Latin America also enjoyed rising living standards in the last half of the century, yet the region overall lagged behind the others. Each area was unique. The United States, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and Latin America each pursued different paths in their quest for economic expansion and social justice. Nor did each area cooperate with each other. Until 1989, for example, the Cold War threatened to plunge the United States and the Soviet Union into nuclear confrontation. Despite these differences, by the year 2000 there was remarkable convergence between these societies. With some exceptions, the nations of Europe and the Americas have all developed open, pluralistic political and economic systems. Culturally, they have grown toward each other, not apart. Nowhere was this cultural convergence more pronounced than with the development of a common "youth culture." The following Internet activities will expand upon these issues and themes.

Helpful Hints:
  • You may want to begin by printing this page. As you explore different sites, use the printout to refer back to the instructions and questions detailed in each activity.
  • On many web sites you can increase the size of the images by clicking on them. Whenever possible, use the larger images to examine fine details in photographs.
Activity One:
  • The Cold War, or the tense rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union, dominated global affairs from the end of World War II until 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet empire. Go to Library of Congress Soviet Archives Exhibit and click the arrow below "The Soviet Union and the United States." Continue to review this exhibit until you reach the entrance page again, being sure to read the primary sources that are linked to each page. After completing the tour, develop a timeline that traces the history of Soviet-American relations over the life of the Soviet Union, 1919-1991. Divide your time line into key periods. For example, from 1917 on the United States did not recognize the Soviet Union, yet Americans aided the country during the famine after the Russian Civil War and many American businesses had strong ties with the Soviet regime during the 1920s. During World War II, the two countries were allies against Germany.
  • Identify important factors that led to the hostility between the Soviet Union and the United States after World War II. For example, what behavior on the part of each nation led to mutual distrust? What issues did they quarrel over? Over hat regions did they compete with each other for influence? Also consider ideological perceptions and the behavior and personalities of individual leaders. Make an exhaustive list that identifies each factor. Explain your answer.
Activity Two:
  • The Cold War had a dramatic impact on the development of Europe after World War II. Because of Soviet influence in Eastern Europe, the United States was determined to rebuild a strong, anti-Communist West. One of the most important acts of foreign policy in world history during the twentieth century was the Marshall Plan, introduced in 1947. Go to For European Recovery: The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Marshall Plan. Continue through this exhibit until you reach the page "A Danish Celebration of the Marshall Plan." Be sure to examine the primary sources linked to each page. While touring the site, keep the following questions in mind. What motivated the United States promotion of the Marshall Plan? What were economic and social conditions like in Europe in 1947? How did tensions with the Soviet Union lead to the Marshall Plan? How did the memory of the Great Depression influence the Marshall Plan? What conditions did the United States place on nations receiving Marshall Plan funds? What kinds of leaders did President Truman appoint to oversee the Marshall Plan? What international institutions emerged as a result of the Marshall Plan, both directly and indirectly? After completing these questions, write an essay that explains the goals of the Marshall Plan and analyzes how successfully they were fulfilled.
Activity Three:
  • The Marshall Plan demonstrates how the threat of communism fostered cooperation between the United States and Western Europe after World War. This development profoundly contrasted with the discord of the interwar years. Another source of this cooperation was a new kind of political party and a new breed of leader in western Europe after World War II. Go to Christian Democratic Union: Successful Policies For Over Fifty Years and History of the Labour Party (give special attention to "War and the 1945 Landslide"). These sites give a brief overview of the German Christian Democratic party and the British Labour party and their role in reshaping each country after World War II. What were their overall goals? What did they want to accomplish at home? What grand foreign policy designs did they have? Analyze how these political parties and their leadership fostered the spirit of the Marshall Plan. Summarize your answer in a long paragraph.
Activity Four:
  • These new attitudes in western Europe helped to foster regional cooperation for the first time during the twentieth century. These efforts have culminated in the formation of the European Union in 1993. For a history of this institution, go to Seven key days in the making of Europe. List the functions of the European Union and the laws and rules that govern its participants. For example, what economic policies are required for membership? How is each member represented? What organizations preceded the European Union?
  • For the United States's response to European integration, go to Modern History Sourcebook: United States Department of State Press Statement: On the European Common Market And The Free Trade Area, January 15, 1957. Describe the official American reaction to the creation of the European Common Market. How did it foster American goals during the Cold War? What potential problems did it present for the United States?
  • The evolution of the European Union has promoted economic prosperity in western Europe and eliminated military tensions between member nations. Yet the Union poses several problems. Go to Three testimonies about 40 years of European Union and read each testimony. According to these experts, what goals has the European Union achieved? What problems still lie in the future? Do you believe the European Union will evolve into a federated nation like the United States? Why or why not? Summarize your answer in a brief essay (3-4 paragraphs).
Activity Five:
  • The Soviet Union refused to join in these efforts at greater economic integration and political cooperation. Joseph Stalin, the nation's leader from 1928 to 1953, viewed the West suspiciously. Go to Modern History Sourcebook:
    Joseph Stalin: Reply to Churchill, 1946. This speech was a reply to former Prime Minister of Great Britain Winston Churchill's "Iron Curtain Speech." How did Stalin view the strong ties between Britain and the United States that continued after World War II? By extension, how do you think he viewed the close relationship between the United States and western Europe? Stalin thus turned inwards to rebuild the Soviet Union's economy and military. The planned economy and harsh political repression of the 1930s returned. (See web activities, Chapter 32, "Dictatorships and the Second World War," Activities One and Two.)
  • Stalin's successor, Nikita Khrushchev, who ruled from 1956 to 1964, changed paths. Khrushchev secretly denounced Stalin at a Communist party meeting in 1956. Go to Modern History Sourcebook: Nikita Khrushchev: Secret Speech, 1956. What aspects of Stalin's rule did Khrushchev denounce? Did he target specific policies, such as collectivization of agriculture, that Stalin began, or other aspects of Stalin's rule?
  • Khrushchev and his successors eased up on political repression and tried to target the production of more consumer goods for the Soviet people, but they refused to alter the basic economic and political structures Stalin had created during the 1930s. Go to Soviet Economic Development - 1928-1967. After reading this essay, analyze the economic performance of the Soviet Union after World War II. What were its achievements? What were its shortcomings? After completing all of these exercises, write an essay that describes the changes in the Soviet Union from 1945 to 1967, being sure to consider political and economic developments.
Activity Six:
  • Despite the changes in the Soviet Union after the death of Stalin, his successors refused to consider self-determination in Soviet-controlled nations in Eastern Europe. Review Modern History Sourcebook: Joseph Stalin: Reply to Churchill, 1946. Why did the Soviet Union consider friendly Communist regimes in Eastern Europe necessary for their security? Visit Radio Prague: 1968 Locate the section beginning with "In modern Czech history," then read parts I-III of the account of the "Prague Spring." What was the Prague Spring? What issues was the Czechoslovakian government attempting to address? Why did these reforms frighten the leaders of the Soviet Union and other Communist bloc nations? Read Leonid Brezhnev's defense of intervention in Czechoslovakia at Modern History Sourcebook:
    The Brezhnev Doctrine, 1968. How did he justify intervention? What warning did this signal to other Eastern European leaders and peoples?
Activity Seven:

Western culture was not only evolving during the 1950s and 1960s but was also expanding its influence with the growth of radio, television, and film after World War II. With the postwar baby boom, a different youth culture emerged. No other phenomenon best symbolized this trend than the popularity of rock and roll music among young people in the United States, western Europe, and increasingly the Eastern bloc. Go to The History of Rock -n- Roll: The Golden Decade, 1955-1964. To review this site, click on the links in the left-hand frame and tour the exhibit. (Begin with "Roots and Influence.") When finished, click on "Real Audio Files" in the left frame and listen to your choice of music. Where did rock music begin? What cultural influences did it represent? What new instruments and styles did it reflect? Why did it appeal to the postwar youth generation?

Activity Eight:
  • The appeal of rock music had no borders. Some of the most influential entertainers of the twentieth century were Elvis Presley, an American, and the Beatles, a British rock band. For Elvis Presley during the 1950s, go to Time 100: Remembering Presleymania. For the Beatles during the 1960s, go to Time 100: The Beatles. (Be sure to watch the QuickTime Clip of the Beatles on the bottom of the first page. Notice the reaction of the fans.) What was the appeal of these entertainers? Who was their audience? Why were they so popular on both sides of the Atlantic? Analyze how they symbolize the growth and influence of the emerging youth culture in the West. You might want to review "Youth and the Counterculture" on pages 1081 in McKay, A History of World Societies (Sixth Edition). Summarize your answers in a brief essay (3-4 paragraphs).
Activity Nine:
  • The economic downturns of the 1970s and 1980s prompted many Western governments to rethink the postwar welfare states in the West. Read the essays at Time 100: Margaret Thatcher and Grolier Online: Ronald Reagan, paying attention to the economic philosophies and specific domestic policies these leaders put into place. What was their attitude towards the welfare state? How did they combat the problems of stagflation? How successful were they? Thatcher and Reagan, although two of the more extreme cases, represented a trend among Western governments to reduce government spending and the power of labor unions, and to streamline inefficient government programs in order to combat the economic malaise of the West.
Activity Ten:
  • The economic crisis that plagued the West was even more severe in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. For the Soviet government's response, go to CNN Cold War: Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev. How did Gorbachev attempt to deal with the economic stagnation in the Soviet Union? How did his policies differ from those of Khrushchev during the 1950s? (See Activity Five.) Analyze the statement "Throughout his six years in office, Gorbachev always seemed to be moving too fast for the party establishment, which saw its privileges threatened, and too slow for more radical reformers, who hoped to do away with the one-party state and the command economy."
  • Czechoslovakia provides a good example of this dilemma. Gorbachev encouraged reform and innovation throughout Eastern Europe. Go to The Velvet Revolution. For the continued influence of Western popular culture on Czechoslovakia, see Timeline: Prague's Velvet Revolution. What impact did Gorbachev's reform efforts in the Soviet Union have in Czechoslovakia? Why did they lead to ultimate collapse of the Communist government there? Who led the revolt against the Communists? Why do you think Gorbachev refused to invoke the Brezhnev Doctrine? (See Activity Six.)
  • Eastern Europe received complete independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. In 1991, the Soviet Union itself collapsed and broke into several republics. Go to Europe 1999 to see the new map of Europe after the revolutions of 1989-1991.
Activity Eleven:
  • Latin American nations experienced their own transition during the 1980s and 1990s. After years of military rule, most governments reverted to democracy during this time period. They also shifted economic strategies. Go to The World Bank: Regional Strategies: Latin America and describe the evolution of economic policy during this period. How similar were these changes to reforms taken in Western countries during the 1980s? (See Activity Nine.)
  • Many of these nations moved toward greater economic cooperation and integration with the United States. Read the article Looking toward the Free Trade Area of the Americas. What hurdles stand in the way of this goal? Do you think that Latin American nations and the United States can achieve the kind of integration in the twenty-first century that western Europe did in the twentieth century? (See Activity Four.)