How far was Society changing in the 1920s?

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For a good overview of the debate, see John D. Clare
See also: see BBC bitesize

Walsh, pp. 194-5;
SHP, pp. 36-9;
Edexcel, pp. 180-183.

The key changes can be summed up in the mnemonic POWER:

  • Prohibition
  • Organised Crime
  • Women’s lives
  • Entertainment revolution
  • Race relations

The contemporary songwriter ‘Hoagy’ Carmichael said that the 1920s ‘came in with a bang of bad booze, flappers with bare legs, jungled morals and wild weekends.’

This was the generation of ‘fads’ and ‘crazes’. Some of the fads are still with us – e.g. Crosswords, the Chinese game Mahjong. ‘Crazes’ involved marathon contests such as non-stop dancing, kissing, talking, laughing, eating and drinking. Extremists were celebrated. Alvin Shipwreck Kelly sat on top of a flag pole for 13 hours and 13 minutes. By 1929 the record had extended to 49 days! In 1927 Charles Lindbergh became the hero of the day for flying non-stop from New York to Paris in his plane The Spirit of St Louis – a flight which took 33 and 1/2 hours – without a radio or a parachute (6 persons had died previously making the attempt)! In 1928 Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic (in 20 hours and 40 minutes).

For a quick but detailed (and quite excellent) overview of the 1920s, try John Green’s CrashCourse history:

An overview with contemporary footage:



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