Oct 12

The Long Decade, 1918-1933: Germany and the United States

Irene Guenther, Ph.D., Peter C. Caldwell, Ph.D.

*Dates have changed since original publication*


Dr. Peter “Carl” Caldwell of Rice University and Dr. Irene Guenther of the University of Houston, historians and friends, team up to discuss the years between the end of World War One and the new kind of populist politics that emerged in Germany and the United States by the early 1930s. In what ways did both societies express their postwar disillusionment, cynicism, and yearning for a new kind of politics and world? How did each country respond to the economic catastrophe of the Depression? And how was it that two very different populist leaders came to power in 1933: Adolf Hitler and Franklin Delano Roosevelt?

This course is not just about Germany and the United States. It’s about democracy under fire, responses to a capitalist economy that seems out of control, deeply divided and unequal societies, and both the lure and consequences of political extremism.

October 12: How does total war shape democratic societies? Germany and the U.S. entered the Great War for different reasons. While Germany collapsed in defeat and the U.S. emerged triumphant, both countries were forever changed. This first class asks: What impacts did total war have on each country? A revolution for democracy led by the political left in Germany and an attempted return to pre-war politics and society in the U.S. seem like divergent outcomes, but neither boded well for stability.

October 19: What is democracy? Germany’s new republic sought to break from the past, but was confronted by mass democracy, new leaders thrust into power, and the loss of old certainties. The U.S. participated in the war, its president proclaimed, to “save” democracy. Instead, Americans entered the 1920s with severely restricted rights as well as a growing fear of the far left and of immigration; racial violence proliferated. What did critics in both cases think about modern war, militarism, and their consequences, and what new criticisms - as well as new forms - of modernity emerged?

October 26: What were the impacts of the Great Depression? It has been argued that of the major powers, the U.S. and Germany suffered the most from the Depression. Certainly, both societies experienced a declining faith in their respective political systems. This unit investigates the palpable, enveloping sense of instability so many people felt and the call for a new “politics of the streets” in the aftermath of the 1929 Crash.

November 2: How does a populist come to power? If we define “populism” as a kind of thinking that (1) claims to directly represent the people, that (2) tends to increase presidential (or executive) power, and that (3) includes at times violent rhetoric about national enemies within, then both Germany and the United States experienced a new populist politics after 1930. This class tracks the way two very different populists came to power in the U.S. and Germany, and asks: What was similar and dissimilar about their paths to power? Why were the outcomes of their leadership so different? After all, one became the notorious head of the Nazi State, while the other became the most-elected president in American history.

Four-Week Course Schedule | Thursdays
Oct 12 | 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Oct 19 | 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Oct 26 | 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Nov 02 | 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM

This class will be held in-person at WIH and simulcast via Zoom



Class Tuition

25 in stock

Price is per student. Class tuition is non-refundable.