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The Depression of the 1903s lead to severe problems for Britain. Had Britain recovered by 1939?

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Liz Sandon 11a - History Coursework The Depression of the 1903s lead to severe problems for Britain. Had Britain recovered by 1939? 1918 brought the end of the 1st world war. It also brought the worldwide realisation for what had just happened. Many countries were now suffering financially, and had lost a lot of people and land. The mood was generally chaotic. By the 1920s however, most of the world's economies were stable again, and people began to spend more money, business improved, and life got better for a lot of people, in America in particular. The twenties are often remembered for shows, glamour, and the 'high life'. More and more money was being spent. This continued for a while until 1929, when it is said that America had 'Overspent'. The stock market began to fall, and then it came to a halt on the 24th of October - over 13million shares were sold on New York's Wall Street in one day, and their values plummeted. The Wall Street Crash brought an abrupt halt to the 'High Life', and a worldwide depression followed. After the crash, America asked for all of the foreign debts to be paid off, which made these countries suffer hard. ...read more.


When the companies closed down, some people were left homeless, while others were left with extortionate rent prices. There were unemployment benefits for those who were newly unemployed, but after 26 weeks, it was cut and they were put on the dole. The government introduced Means Testing, in order to reduce dole payments. This meant that inspectors would come to people's houses and asses whether they were really worthy of dole payments. Anything of value had to be sold, for example a spare cup, or a spare bed sheet. Any income at all in the family would mean the father got no dole, even if it was his 12 year-old son working a few hours a week. Money was given to people to live at just over subsistence level, meaning that they get enough money to stay alive, and that was it. The unemployment affected the general mood in communities. The houses became run down, and dirty. Diseases spread easily, the atmosphere was sombre and people hung around on the streets because they had nothing to do. Having a job kept most men's pride, and when it was gone for so long, they often felt that there was not much to live for. ...read more.


Means testing and dole cuts turned many labour supporters against the National Government, as the Labour party was know then as the 'Worker's Party'. The government spent only �2m on the unemployment problem in this period. They did not set up any public work programmes, as they did not want to get in debt, knowing that they were in the middle of an economic depression. By 1939, the unemployment rate had dropped back down to 2.1million, but was still very high - The depression had not recovered properly. When war was declared, it was awful in most people's eyes, but the war did bring many countries out of economic depression. Whilst many men went out and fought, others got jobs in factories making weapons such as tanks, guns, ships, airplanes and supplies for the soldiers. The steel industry had been making only 5million tonnes per annum in 1930, and made over 13million tonnes in 1940. Rationing and the war effort during this time also helped stabilise the economy, as the more wealthy people in the south could not spent as much money, as there were so little goods available. It was not really until after the Second World War that Britain fully recovered from the depression, when it was helped out by America's Marshall Plan, which was to pay countries in the hope to steer them away from communism. ...read more.

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