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The Global Crisis, 1921-1941

Myth of Isolationism

While the foreign policy of 1920s and 1930s seemed to reflect America's disenchantment through isolationism, in actuality the United States simply implemented an independent form of internationalism

Washington Conference of 1921

An attempt to prevent what was threatening to become a costly and destabilizing naval armaments race between America, Britain, and Japan: produced several treaties the Five-Power Pact, Nine-Power Pact, and Four-Power Pact

Five-Power Pact

February 1922, a pact that established both limits for total naval tonnage and a ratio of armaments among the signatories

Nine-Power Pact

A pact of the Washington Conference that pledged a continuation of the Open Door policy in China

Four-Power Pact

A pact of the Washington Conference by which the US, Britain, France, and Japan promised to respect one another's Pacific territories and cooperate to prevent aggression

Kellogg-Briand Pact

A pact in 1928 that established the New Era effort to protect the peace without accepting active international duties.
- A multilateral treaty outlawing war as an instrument of national policy
- 14 nations signed the agreement in Paris on August 27, 1928 and 48 nations later joined in

Dawes Plan

A proposed system by Charles G. Dawes in 1924 by which American banks would provide enormous loans, enabling them to meet their reparations payments, etc...
- CIRCULAR LOANS did NOT solve anything

Hoover's Approach to World Crisis

- Latin America: repair damage of earlier policies, but as economic distress led to collapses of regimes, Hoover would grant diplomatic recognition to any sitting government w/o questioning
- Europe: proposed moratorium on debts in 1931 BUT European nations defaulted

Benito Mussolini

the leader of the Fascist Party in Italy that had gained control in early 1920s
- Began an active campaign of imperial expansion

Adolf Hitler

Leader of the National Socialist (or Nazi) Party in Germany that would finally take over by 1933
- He preached the racial superiority of the Aryan (German) people and the need for expansion


An early step towards WWII, the Japanese military leaders staged a coup in 1931 and weeks later launched a major invasion of northern Manchuria

Henry Stimson

Secretary of State who dealt with the aftermath of Japan's invasion of Manchuria by refusing to grant diplomatic recognition of new Japanese territories

FDR's "Bombshell"

FDR's message that repudiated the orthodox views (of Hoover who wanted to reinforce gold standard etc) of most of the delegates and rejecting any agreement on currency stabilization
-PLUS in 1934 he signed a bill to forbid American banks to make loans to any nation in default on its debts

Reciprocal Trade Agreement Act of 1934

Approved by FDR authorizing the administration to negotiation treaties lowering tariffs by as much as 50% in return for reciprocal reductions by other nations

US and the Soviet Union

The FDR administration began to improve relations with the Soviet Union.
WHY: source of trade + agreement about propaganda and recognition (which ultimately failed)

Good Neighbor Policy

the US abandoned the use of military force to compel Latin American governments to repay debts, respect foreign investments, or otherwise behave "responsibly" (Hoover)
- FDR and the Inter-American Conference established a strictly (and powerful) economic influence

Nye Investigation

An expression of isolationist conspiracy theory that thought that involvement in WWI was to profit big munitions corporations

Neutrality Acts

A response to Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia
- 1935: a mandatory arms embargo against both victim and aggressor in any military conflict
- 1936: renewed provisions
- 1937: established cash and carry policy

"Quarantine" Speech

A response to Japan's invasion of China's northern provinces, FDR's speech in 1937 warned the American people of the dangers of Japanese aggression

Munich Conference

An effort to resolve the crisis created when Germany invaded Czechoslovakia in which France and Britain agreed to accept German demands for Czechoslovakia in return for Hitler's promise to expand no further


Proposed by GB's prime minister Neville Chamberlain in the Munich Conference that ultimately failed for Hitler expanded regardlessly

"Phony War"

A lull in fighting (after September 1939 when Germany invaded Poland and drew Britain and France into WWII) that lasted through winter and spring


The German invasion of the west in the spring of 1940 that shattered the "phony war" and ended in the conquering of France

Shifting Public Opinion

After the defeat of France, more than 66% of the public now believed Germany to be a major threat to the US
-Internal preparations for war (as well as outward support of the Allies) were more supported

America's First Committee

Even with the defeat of France, isolationists expressed their support in neutrality with a new powerful lobby

Wendell Willkie

the dynamic and attractive Republican nominee for the 1940 election who lost to FDR (who campaigned for a 3rd term)


Great Britain became bankrupt and could no longer participate in "cash and carry"
- the new policy would allow the government to not only sell but to lend out armaments to any nation deemed "vital to the defense of the United States"

Soviet-American alliance

When German forces invaded the USSR in June 1941, Roosevelt persuaded Congress to extend lend-lease privileges to them (beginnings of an alliance)

Atlantic Charter

In August 1941, FDR and Churchill met on a ship off the coast of Newfoundland to set out "certain common principles" (war aims) that openly called for the end of the Nazi regime

Tripartite Pact

In September 1940, Japan Germany and Italy agreed to a loose defensive alliance that seemed to extend the Axis into Asia

Pearl Harbor

After Japan invaded Indochina, the US froze all of Japan's assets. After a series of warnings, on December 7, 1941 a wave of Japanese bombers attacked the naval base at Pearl Harbor
- The next day the US declared war on Japan and Germany declared war on the US

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