The ap instructional strategies discussed below for Chapter 27 of American

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Chapter 27:

The Global Crisis, 19211941

The AP instructional strategies discussed below for Chapter 27 of American

History: A Survey focus especially, but not exclusively, on the following themes developed by the AP U.S. History Development Committee: American Identity, Economic Transformations, Globalization, Politics and Citizenship, and War and Diplomacy. This chapter, as well as the primary documents selected below, follow the content guidelines suggested for the twenty-seventh unit in the AP Topic Outline Diplomacy in the 1930s.

Top-Ten Analytical Journal.

Defining the chapter terms in their journals will help students better understand:

  • The new directions American foreign policy took in the 1920s.

  • The Great Depression’s effects on foreign relations.

  • The pattern of Japanese, Italian, and German aggression that eventually led to World War II.

  • The factors that led to the passage of neutrality legislation in the 1930s.

  • The specific sequence of events that brought the United States into the war.

Each of the terms below contributes to a comprehensive understanding of the global crisis that was brewing between 19211941. As your students define these terms, encourage them to demonstrate why each person, event, concept, or issue is important to a thorough understanding of this chapter.



Washington Conference of 1921

Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928

Circular loans

Benito Mussolini’s Fascist Party

Adolph Hitler’s National Socialist Party

Reciprocal Trade Agreement Act of 1934

Good Neighbor Policy

Neutrality Acts

Sino-Japanese War

Munich Conference of 1938


War of the Worlds


America First Committee

Election of 1940

Wendell Willkie


German U-boat warfare

Atlantic Charter

Tripartite Pact

Henry Stimson

Pearl Harbor

Getting students started on their journals. Remind students that they must analyze and synthesize their understanding of these terms in two ways:

  • by creating “Top-Ten” lists of their own within their journals at the end of each chapter; and

  • by justifying in their journal why their terms are essential to an understanding of “The Global Crisis.”

Journal entry example. Following is an example of how students might describe the “Good Neighbor Policy” and its importance to an overall understanding of “The Global Crisis.”

Good Neighbor Policy. The Roosevelt Administration signed a formal convention in December 1933 that declared that no state could intervene in the external or internal affairs of another state. In reality, this meant that the U.S. government could no longer use military might to compel Latin American governments to pay their debts and respect American investments. Instead, the U.S. government used economic pressure to back up its growing domination over Latin American economies.

Free-Response Questions.

  1. Assess the extent to which the United States adopted an isolationist policy in the 1920s and 1930s. (Adapted from the 1998 AP United Stated History free-response question.)

Some things to look for in the student response.

  • Possible thesis statement: During the period between the two world wars, American leaders followed a cautious foreign policy. The goal was to protect American interests and American citizens first and foremost, which meant that the U.S. should try to avoid global commitments that would decrease its ability to meet that goal. Such a policy was not isolationist, but rather what Dr. Brinkley calls “limited American internationalism.”

  • Diplomacy reflecting internationalism. As early as 1921, the U.S. was involved in efforts to prevent a naval armaments race. The Washington Conference produced three treaties that illustrated America’s deep involvement in world affairs: the Five-Power Pact, the Nine-Power Pact, and the Four-Power Pact. The Kellogg-Briand Pact sealed the American decision to protect international peace without accepting international duties. The U.S. also participated in the less-than-successful arms control talks in Geneva in 1933 and at the London Naval Conference.

While the U.S. had been involved in Latin American foreign affairs for decades, the 1920s and 1930s witnessed further economic expansion and American domination of Latin American economies.

  • U.S. interpretations of diplomacy. In addition to preventing a dangerous armaments race and another war, the U.S. believed its major diplomatic goals were to ensure that American overseas trade could expand, and to improve the flow of war debt repayment to the U.S. After Hoover’s efforts in this area, President Roosevelt strengthened American interest in world trade. The Reciprocal Trade Agreement Act of 1934 authorized treaties that would lower tariffs by as much as 50 percent in return for reciprocal reductions by other nations.

  • Diplomacy reflecting isolationism. There was some strong support for militant isolationism beginning in the mid-1930s as the possibility of another European war loomed ahead: In 1935, the Senate refused to admit the U.S. to the World Court; the Neutrality Acts of 1935, 1936, and 1937 attempted to keep America out of war; and the public reacted negatively to FDR’s “Quarantine” speech. But once war broke out in Europe, FDR expressed the difficulty of avoiding involvement by saying that while the U.S. would remain neutral, he could not ask all Americans to “remain neutral in thought.” Thereafter, American neutrality was tested. From the very beginning, the U.S. was never strictly neutral as it made armaments available to the Allied armies after Roosevelt got the Cash-and-Carry provisions passed. By the time Germany attacked France, the President had increased American aid to the Allies. He then asked Congress for $1 billion to help prepare to resist a possible Nazi invasion of the U.S. These efforts coincided with the newest shift in public opinion. After the invasion of France, many Americans came to believe that Germany posed a threat to the U.S.

  • Possible conclusion: The cautious internationalism that the U.S. government exercised in the 1930s was not isolationist in scope. It sought to protect American interests, create global stability, and keep America from entering World War II. As Dr. Brinkley reminds us, these goals found the U.S. engaged in a more active role in world history than during almost any previous time in world history. A more correct description of this era would be that the political arena was dominated by disagreement between those who favored isolationism and those who favored internationalism. The debate, however, did not greatly influence presidential or legislative polic,y which initially was cautiously internationalist and, by 1940, was clearly interventionist. By the time that Pearl Harbor was attacked, the political debate ended and the U.S. entered the war.

Historians, Historical Detection, and Primary Documents.
The following primary documents and suggested assignments will give your students a more thorough, first-hand knowledge of the global crisis experienced during this era.
1. Have your students read the May 1935 statement by isolationists Senator Gerald Nye and Senator Bennett Champ Clark before a "Keep America Out of War" meeting at Carnegie Hall in New York City. (Online Learning Center, Chapter 27, Click on “Primary Sources,” and then click on “The Rise of Isolationism.”) Then, engage your students in the following discussion: Was it really the sale of munitions that led America into World War I? Why might a 1935 audience have been especially receptive to charges that bankers were responsible for war? How successful were Nye, Clark, and others in enlisting the "overwhelming body of public sentiment" for neutrality legislation? If Roosevelt had strictly followed the spirit of the neutrality legislation, do you think American entry into World War II could have been avoided?
2. Require your students to read the final statement of Bartoleomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco on August 21, 1927. (Primary Source Investigator Document). Then, engage your students in the following discussion: What is their perspective on the impending execution? How does this letter reflect the tensions of the day? How believable is this letter? Do Sacco and Vanzetti seem distraught? Are they defiant? Explain. Do you think a similar incident could happen today? Why or why not?
3. Have students take turns reading aloud the statement by Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman written in August 1929. (Primary Source Investigator Document). Begin a discussion on the following: What are Berkman’s and Goldman’s political leanings? Which Americans would be most likely to embrace their beliefs in 1929? least likely? How do they describe Sacco and Vanzetti? How do the authors believe the case of Sacco and Vanzetti will be seen in the rest of the world? Were they right or wrong? Explain. Then, have your students go the computer center and learn more about Berkman and Goldman. For homework, ask them to write a minimum of two paragraphs about these two that they believe should be added to Chapter 27. Be sure that they indicate where in the chapter they would insert these new paragraphs.
4. Play President Roosevelt’s speech of May 27, 1941 recorded before a live audience, in which he detailed the need for expanded government powers in wartime. (Primary Source Investigator Document). Then, ask your students to write their answers to the following questions: How does President Roosevelt begin his speech? Why do you think he begins in this manner? What American traditions and values does Roosevelt believe are threatened by the "New World Order of Tyranny”? What language does Roosevelt use in this speech? Why are his words so important? How do the language, tone, and content of the speech resemble other speeches made in recent U.S. history?

Creative Extensions.
1. Before reading Chapter 27, show the students a short video clip from the motion picture, Pearl Harbor. Ask students what they know about the attack on Pearl Harbor and the role it played in propelling the U.S. into World War II. Ask them if they think the clip you select is an accurate depiction of the events. Explain what is and is not accurate. Then, explain that before reading Chapter 27, they will learn about the political debate between the advocates of isolationism and internationalism prior to the war, and that the attack on Pearl Harbor essentially ended that political debate.

  1. After reading Chapter 27, play the full broadcast of Orson Welles’ October 30, 1938 airing of The War of the Worlds. Afterwards, engage the class in the following discussion: What elements in American society encouraged the “wave of mass hysteria” that occurred after the broadcast? How does the panic and fear that resulted relate to American beliefs in internationalism and isolationism? Do you think something similar could happen in America today? Why or why not?

3. Stage a classroom debate on any one of the following:

Resolved: The United States entered the war when it established lend-lease with England.

Resolved: Maintaining U.S. isolationism is the best way to safeguard our power and to ensure peace.

Resolved: The United States should have entered World War II sooner.

Resolved: Japan had no other choice but to bomb Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
4. Divide the class into six groups of students. Each must write and produce their own five-minute audiotape of a surprise invasion that they imagine might take place in the early 21st century. Each group must also discuss the ways they think a contemporary audience might react to their broadcast and write their collective thoughts down for submission with their audiotape. Play the best of the tapes for the entire class. Ask students how they feel the general public might respond to each of the audiotapes. Then, have each group compare their thoughts about audience reaction with those of their classmates.
5. Engage your students in the following discussion. Shortly after the tragic attacks on American soil on September 11, 2001, many Americans compared the attack with the historic attack on Pearl Harbor. Are these acts comparable? Why or why not? Are the anti-Arab thoughts and actions after September 11th comparable to the anti-Japanese thoughts and actions after the bombing of Pearl Harbor? Why or why not? What could and should be done to prevent further erosion of human and civil rights for ethnic minorities in case of national crisis?

  1. Divide the class into three groups of students. One group will research the geography of Europe and the Ottoman Empire before World War I and draw a large map showing the major geo-political boundaries. The second group will research the geographical realities of Europe and the Middle East after World War I and draw a large map showing the major geo-political boundaries. The third group will research the geographical realities of Europe and Asia after World War II and draw a large map showing the major geo-political boundaries. On the day the assignment is due, post all three maps on one wall and engage the students in the following discussion: Looking at these maps and remembering what you have learned about war and diplomacy in the early 20th century, what major geographical and political shifts occurred as a result of two world wars? How do the historical, geographical, and political shifts help to explain the geo-political realities of the 21st century? What light do they shed on American foreign policy decisions of the late 20th and early 21st centuries?

  1. Stage a press conference to which you have invited American historians to continue their debate over the question of Pearl Harbor: Was the attack unprovoked and made without warning, or was it part of a deliberate plan to make the Japanese force the U.S. into the war? Invitees include Charles A. Beard, Thomas Fleming, Basil Rauch, Richard Current, Robert Wohlstetter, Edwin T. Layton, Gordon W. Prange, and John Toland. Ask eight students to assume the roles of each historian, learn as much as possible about their position, prepare a threeminute introductory statement about their position, and be prepared for questions from the press corp. The remainder of the students will be part of the press corps and will ask questions after each historian introduces his/her position.

  1. Challenge your students to learn more about the Hitler Youth movement that helped sustain the rise and popularity of Hitler throughout the Third Reich. Begin by showing them the 1993 movie, Swing Kids. Then, have them explore The History Place Website dedicated to this topic  Questions for class discussion should include: How and why do you think German young people were so enthusiastically involved in their support of Hitler and his government? What happened to youth who disapproved of the movement or refused to participate? Could something like this ever happen in a democratic society?

9. Invite students to watch any of the following movies at home either with their family or with a group of friends from class: Triumph of the Will (1935); The Great Dictator (1940); For Whom the Bell Tolls (1944); The Jesse Owens Story (1984).

  • What does this production tell you about the global crisis between 1921 and 1941?

  • Do you think this film was a realistic portrayal of the historical era? Why or why not? Be specific.

  • In your opinion, is this movie of any real use to understanding this period in American history? Be specific about how and why  or why not.

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