1930s: Map


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The 1930s was the decade that ran from January 1, 1930, to December 31, 1939. The first few years of the decade was marked by the Great Depression that had a traumatic effect worldwide. In response authoritarian regimes emerged in several countries in Europe, in particular the Third Reich in Germanymarker. Weaker states including Ethiopiamarker, Chinamarker and Polandmarker were subjugated by their stronger expansionist neighbours, and this ultimately led to the Second World War by the decade's end. The decade also saw a proliferation in new technologies, including intercontinental aviation and radio.


Many technological advances occurred in the 1930s, including:
  • The world's tallest building (for the next 35 years) was constructed, opening as the Empire State Buildingmarker on May 3, 1931 in New York City, USA;
  • On March 8, 1930, the first frozen foods of Clarence Birdseye were sold in Ringfield, Massachusetts, United States.
  • Ub Iwerks produced the first Color Sound Cartoon in 1930, a Flip the Frog cartoon entitled: "Fiddlesticks";
  • In 1930, Warner Brothers released the first All-Talking All-Color wide-screen movie, Song of the Flame; in 1930 alone, Warner Brothers released ten All-Color All-Talking feature movies in Technicolor and scores of shorts and features with color sequences;
  • Air mail service across the Atlantic Ocean began;
  • Radar was invented, known as RDF (Radio Direction Finding), such as in British Patent GB593017 by Robert Watt in 1938;
  • In 1933, the 3M company marketed Scotch Tape;
  • In 1931, RCA Victor introduced the first long-playing phonograph record.
  • In 1935, the British London and North Eastern Railway introduced the A4 Pacific, designed by Sir Nigel Gresley. Just three years later, one of these, No. 4468 Mallard, would become the fastest steam locomotive in the world.
  • In 1936, Kodachrome is invented, being the first color film made by Kodak.
  • In 1936, The first regular high-definition (then defined as at least 200 lines) television service from the BBC, based at Alexandra Palace in London, officially begins broadcasting.
  • Nuclear fission discovered by Otto Hahn, Lise Meitner and Fritz Strassman in 1939.
  • The Volkswagen Beetle, one of the best selling automobiles ever produced, had its roots in Nazi Germany in the late 1930s. The car would prove to be successful, and would be produced relatively unchanged until 2003.

International issues


  • Ethiopiamarker is invaded by Italy during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War from 1935 to 1936 which results in the Italian occupation of Ethiopia with Ethiopia being forced to become a colony of Italy.


  • The Chaco War takes place from 1932 to 1935 between Boliviamarker and Paraguaymarker over the disputed territory of Gran Chaco resulting in an overall Paraguayan victory in 1935. An agreement dividing the territory was made in 1938, officially ending outstanding differences and bringing an official "peace" to the conflict.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt is elected President of the United States in November 1932. Roosevelt initiates a widespread social welfare strategy called the "New Deal" to combat the economic and social devastation of the Great Depression. The economic agenda of the "New Deal" was a radical departure from previous laissez-faire economics.
  • Canada and other countries under the British Empire sign the Statute of Westminster in 1931 establishing effective parliamentary independence of Canada from the parliament of the United Kingdom.
  • United States Marine Corps general Smedley Butler confesses to the U.S. Congress in 1934 that a group of industrialists contacted him, requesting his aid to overthrow the U.S. government of Roosevelt and establish what he claimed would be a fascist regime in the United States.
  • Newfoundlandmarker voluntarily returns to British colonial rule in 1934 amid its economic crisis during the Great Depression with the creation of the Commission of Government, a non-elected body.
  • Canadian Prime Minister W. L. Mackenzie King meets with German Führer Adolf Hitler in 1937 in Berlin. King is the only North American head of government to meet with Hitler.
  • Multiple countries in the Americas including Canada, Cubamarker, and the United States controversially deny asylum to hundreds of Jewish German refugees on the MS St. Louis who are fleeing Germany in 1939 which under the Nazi regime was pursuing a racist agenda of anti-Semitic persecution. In the end, no country accepted the refugees and the ship returns to Germany with most of its passengers onboard, while some commit suicide based on the prospect of returning to Nazi-run Germany.



  • The Spanish monarchy abdicates and Spain becomes a republic in 1931.
  • Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Worker's Party (Nazi Party) rise to power in Germany in 1933, forming a fascist regime committed to repudiating the Treaty of Versailles, persecuting and removing Jews and other minorities from German society, expanding Germany's territory, and opposing the spread of communism.
  • Hitler pulls Germany out of the League of Nations, but hosts the 1936 Summer Olympics to show his new reich to the world as well as the supposed Athleticism of his Aryan troops/athletes.
  • Neville Chamberlain, British prime minister (1937–1940), attempts to appease Hitler in hope of avoiding war by allowing the dictator to annex the Sudentanland. Later signing the Munich Pact and promising constituets "Peace in our Time". He was ousted in favor of Winston Churchill in late 1939, after the invasion of Poland.
  • In the Soviet Unionmarker, agricultural collectivization and rapid industrialization take place.
  • More than 25 million people migrate to cities in the USSRmarker.
  • Austrian chancellor Engelbert Dolfuss is assassinated in 1934 by Austrian Nazis. Germany and Italy nearly clash over the issue of Austrian independence despite close ideological similarities of the Italian Fascist and Nazi regimes.
  • King Alexander of Yugoslavia is assassinated in 1934 by a radical Macedonian nationalist.
  • Anglo-German naval agreement is signed in 1935, removing the Treaty Versailles' level of limitation on the size of the German navy, allowing Germany to build a larger navy
  • Spanish Civil War occurs from 1936 to 1939. Germany and Italy back anti-communist nationalist forces of Francisco Franco. The Soviet Unionmarker and international communist parties (see Abraham Lincoln Brigade) back the left-wing republican faction in the war. The war ends in April 1939 with Franco's nationalist forces defeating the republican forces. Franco becomes dictator of Spain.
  • Éamon de Valera introduces a new constitution for the Irish Free State in 1937, effectively ending its status as a British Dominion.
  • The "Great Purge" of "Old Bolsheviks" from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union takes place from 1936 to 1938, as ordered by Soviet Unionmarker leader Joseph Stalin, resulting in hundreds of thousands of people being killed. This purge was due to mistrust and political differences, as well as the massive drop in Grain produce. This was due to the method of collectivization in Russia. The Soviet Union produced 16 million lbs of grain less in 1934 compared to 1930. This led to the starvation of millions of Russians.
  • Germany and Italy pursue territorial expansionist agendas. Germany demands the annexation of Austria and German-populated territories in Europe. From 1935 to 1936, Germany receives the Saar, remilitarizes the Rhineland. Italy initially opposes Germany's aims on Austria but the two countries resolve their differences in 1936 in the aftermath of Italy's diplomatic isolation after its invasion of Ethiopia which only Germany supported. Germany and Italy improve relations by forming an alliance against communism in 1936 with the signing of the Anti-Comintern Pact. Germany annexes Austria and then the Sudetenland after negotiations which resulted in the Munich Agreement in 1938. Italy invades and annexes Albaniamarker in 1939 and Germany receives the Memel territory from Lithuaniamarker, occupies Czechoslovakiamarker, and finally invades Poland which results in the outbreak of World War II.


  • Australia and New Zealand sign the Statute of Westminster in 1931, establishing effective parliamentary independence from the parliament of the United Kingdom.


Literature and Art

Visual arts

Social Realism became an important art movement during the Great Depression in the United States in the 1930s. Social realism generally portrayed imagery with socio-political meaning. Other related American artistic movements of the 1930s were American scene painting and Regionalism which were generally depictions of rural America, and historical images drawn from American history. Precisionism with its depictions of industrial America was also a popular art movement during the 1930s in the USA. During the Great Depression the art of Photography played an important role in the Social Realist movement. The work of Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Margaret Bourke-White, Lewis Hine, Edward Steichen, Gordon Parks, Arthur Rothstein, Marion Post Wolcott, Doris Ulmann, Berenice Abbott, Aaron Siskind, Russell Lee, Ben Shahn (as a photographer) among several others were particularly influential.

The Works Progress Administration part of the Roosevelt Administration's New Deal sponsored the Federal Art Project, the Public Works of Art Project, and the Section of Painting and Sculpture which employed many American artists and helped them to make a living during the Great Depression.

Mexican muralism was a Mexican art movement that took place primarily in the 1930s. The movement stands out historically because of its political undertones, the majority of which of a Marxist nature, or related to a social and political situation of post-revolutionary Mexico. Also in Latin America Symbolism and Magic Realism were important movements.

In Europe during the 1930s and the Great Depression, Surrealism, late Cubism, the Bauhaus, De Stijl, Dada, German Expressionism, Expressionism, Symbolist and modernist painting in various guises characterized the art scene in Parismarker and elsewhere.

Influential artists

Painters and sculptors



Popular culture

  • Radio becomes dominant mass media in industrial nations.
  • First intercontinental commercial airline flights.
  • Amelia Earhart receives major attention in the 1930s as the first woman pilot to conduct major air flights. Her disappearance for unknown reasons in 1937 while on flight prompted search efforts which failed.
  • Height of the Art Deco movement in North America and western Europe.
  • Major international media attention follows Mohandas Gandhi's peaceful resistance movement against British colonial rule in India.
  • "Swing" music starts becoming popular (from 1935 onward). It gradually replaces the sweet form of Jazz that had been popular for the first half of the decade.
  • Triumph of the WillLeni Riefenstahl's ground-breaking Nazi propaganda film.
  • The 1937 World's Fair in Paris, France displays the growing political tensions in Europe. The pavilions of the rival countries of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Unionmarker face each other. Germany at the time was internationally condemned for its air force's bombing of the Basque town of Guernicamarker in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, which Spanish artist Pablo Picasso depicted in his masterpiece painting Guernica at the World Fair, which was a surrealist depiction of the horror of the bombing.



World leaders

Sports figures


United States


  1. Hunt, Lynn. "The Making of the West: Peoples and Cultures" Vol. C since 1740.Bedford/St. Martin's, 2009.

External links

  • The Dirty Thirties — Images of the Great Depression in Canada
  • America in the 1930s Extensive library of projects on America in the Great Depression from American Studies at the University of Virginia
  • The 1930s Timeline year by year timeline of events in science and technology, politics and society, culture and international events with embedded audio and video. AS@UVA

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