Through the Eras - History Essay Sample

Published: 2021-06-22
1913 words
7 pages
16 min to read
Vanderbilt University
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The imperialist period was a time during the late 19th and early 20th century when the United States adopted an aggressive expansionism policy that involved the spread of it political and economic influence across the world. During this period, the US became involved in nations such as Germany, the Philippines, Austria, Cuba, Japan and Korea. A notable example was the annexation of Hawaii that took place in 1898 that eventually led it to become the 50th American state. American imperialism was defended by the logic that the US was different from other nations because it had a specific mission to spread democracy and liberty across the world. Also, industrialization was at its peak at the time, spurring American businessmen to start looking for new international markets for their products. Additionally, social Darwinism and its rising influence triggered the belief that the US has an inherent responsibility to bring certain concepts such as Christianity and religion to less developed societies. After temporarily doing away with the setbacks associated with Reconstruction, Americans resumed the course of expansion. The Civil War and the horrors associated with it had cut short the original Manifest Destiny that started in mid-19th century.

In addition to being the greatest military conflict in human history, the Second World War is also the most important war for the United States that took place in the 20th century. It is routinely perceived as the good war in that it was a morally definite battle pitting good and evil. The global conflict introduced permanent and far-reaching governmental, cultural and social changes in America, and had a significant effect on how its citizens regard themselves and their nations place in the world. It was a necessary and inevitable war that the United States had to participate in so as to prevent enslavement by ruthless and cruel tyrannical leaders. Some Americans may have misgivings about the role played by their country in overseas conflicts such as the Vietnam and Iraq Wars. However, most of them agree that the sacrifice the United States made during the Second World War, particularly in defeating Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Germany, were worthwhile and totally justified. Americans are of the opinion that good always overcomes evil. With this view in mind, the role played by the US in defeating the axis powers demonstrated the righteousness of their nation and its superiority with respect to government and society.

After the Second World War, the United States experienced impressive economic growth. The conflict brought back a return to prosperity, and the US affirmed its position as the richest nation in the world in the course of the postwar period. Consequently, more and more of its citizens considered themselves to be in the middle class. This economic growth emanated from various sources. A notable source was the automobile industry given that the number of vehicles manufactured per year by 1955 was four times that of 1946. The growth was also spurred by the housing boom whereby soldiers returning from the war had access to easily affordable mortgages. Another contributor was the increase in spending by the government as the Cold War was escalating at the time. After the end of World War 2, major corporations in the United States grew even bigger. Towards the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, a wave of mergers was witnessed. Another wave was to take place in the 1950s led by companies with holding in more than one industry. Large corporations opened branches overseas and began operations there given the costs of labor was much cheaper.

After the Second World War, the Cold War had a lengthy impact on US domestic and foreign policy. It significantly influenced numerous aspects of the American society for most of the second half of the twentieth century. It is worth noting that the Cold War was fueled by antagonism between the US, with its policies of democracy and capitalism, and the Soviet Union with its leaning towards authoritarianism and communism. A notable aspect of the Cold War that significantly affected American civilians involved cultural battles pitting the two superpowers. For instance, US security agencies encouraged Hollywood filmmakers to produce films with anti-communist plots. However, this strategy triggered suspicion of communist activities in the country, something that caused many suspected communists to be unfairly persecuted. In terms of foreign policy, the US sought to influence democracy in new government of various countries across the world. It also adopted a policy known as containment meant to stall any further expansion of the soviets outside of Eastern Europe. The policy led to American military interventions in all parts of the world. Notable ones were the Vietnam and Korean Wars that were waged in an attempt to prevent communism from spreading to Asia.

The Civil Rights Movement was started as a response to rampant inequalities and segregations directed towards African Americans in the 1950s and 1960s. Blacks wished to achieve the same civil rights as enjoyed by whites, such as equal opportunities for housing, education, and employment, together with the right to vote, not to be discriminated racially, and equal public facility access. The movement aimed at giving back to African Americans the citizenship rights that were guaranteed by the 14th and 15th Amendments, and which has been rubbished in the southern states by the segregationist Jim Crow laws. The movement was also spurred by the passage of various laws that discriminated based on race. These legislations segregated blacks and whites in various aspects of life. The Civil Rights Movement also sought to do away with many other discriminatory and pre-judicial practices such as regular denial of fair trials to downright murder through lynching. All in all, there were other movements for equality that started shortly after the Civil Rights Movement. Notable examples include feminism, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) movement, and the Black Muslims Movement. Apart from African Americans, other groups of people were fighting for their rights and greater freedoms at the time. They include women, homosexuals, students, African American Muslims, and so on.

Before the1960 decade, generations had gone through lots of difficult times, including the two world wars. After the Second World War came to an end, most people yearned for peace and security. From the 1960s onwards, a new generation of young people referred to as baby boomers emerged that opposed the values and ideas held by their parents generation. They had an upper hand since they were in possession of more finances, opportunities and time. The Youth Movement began as a product of the Civil Rights Movement. They were against the idea that the United States was fighting for the freedom of other nations while racism and discrimination was rampant in its own backyard. Since the lifestyle of young people was quite different in terms of beliefs and attitudes, it led to the formation of a counterculture that did not subscribe to traditional middle-class values. The Youth Movement also had a formidable anti-war sentiment, particularly directed towards the Vietnam War. It initially adopted a non-violent approach by organizing protests and marches. The movement reached its peak when it became apparent that winning the Vietnam War was unlikely.

The Vietnam War was the longest conflict that the United States took part in, and the only one that it lost. It had a major impact on America in various aspects ranging from the economy, domestic politics, culture, and foreign policy. While the US spent about $168 billion into the conflict, the real cost had to do with its effect on the economy. The huge spending resulted in a rather disparaging balance of trade that triggered an international monetary crisis, and threated the countrys gold reserves between 1967 and 1968. Over 58,000 soldiers lost their lives in the conflict. The lengthy and traumatic war sowed a mistrust of the government and high-ranking officials. A number of unforeseen events beginning mid-1960s put the US into a crisis of faith and confidence. The American people felt that leaders were no longer credible, a sentiment that was confirmed by the resignation of President Richard Nixon following the Watergate scandal. Most importantly, the fact that the US lost the Vietnam War was a rather humiliating experience. It undermined the countrys confidence with respect to its perceived superiority in terms of its military, morality, and foreign policy.

In the 1970s, the United States economy was in a bad state given that the so-called golden age had come to an end and the country was experiencing a recession. Problems such as a high inflation, energy shortage, and high levels of unemployment were rampant, in the process overwhelming American citizens. The energy shortage was due to the worlds reliance on the Middle East for oil. Among the top producers of oil were Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq. These Arab nations had slapped an oil embargo on the West as retaliation for Western nations backing of Israel during the Yom Kippur War. The shortage resulted in the US suffering from stagflation, a period in which a high level of inflation occurs concurrently with an economic recession. The inflation was as a result of several factors, including the lack of confidence in the banking system among creditors and investors, and the absence of influential economic policymakers. It was characterized by a combination of a high demand and a low supply of commodities such as automobiles, homes, and job opportunities. The high level of unemployment was due to an increase in women workforce and the huge number of servicemen returning from the Vietnam War.

A number of issues contributed to Ronald Reagans victory in the 1980 elections. For one, many people blamed Jimmy Carter, the president before Reagan, for a high level of unemployment, high inflation, and a weak US Dollar. A year earlier, the US embassy in Iran was seized by Muslim terrorists who took several Americans hostage. No progress was made in their release for several months, and Carter did not appear to be making any progress in resolving the crisis. Many people blamed for not doing enough about the hostage situation. The American economy and society changed significantly after the 1980 elections. Inflation, which had been a thorny issue during the Carter and Ford administrations, was deal with by Reagan and Paul Volcker, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, and was never a major issue again. A tax relief system was put in place in a way that inflation could not impose higher taxation rates for people while their standards of living were going down. Employment opportunities were created, a boom in the stock market was witnessed, interest rates declined, and the rate of economic growth witnessed between 1983 and 1986 was unprecedented.

Since the 1990s, several domestic and foreign acts of terrorism have taken place in the United States. In February 1993, a bomb was detonated in the basement garage of the World Trade Center in in New York whereby six people were killed. In April 1995, a car bomb was detonated outside a federal office building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people. In august 1998, bombs exploded the same time near the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, killing 224 people. Perhaps the worst attack ever occurred in September 2001 when hijackers commandeered two commercial airplanes and crashed them into the two towers of the World Trade Center. Two other planes were crashed into the Pentagon building and somewhere in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Almost three thousand people died in the attack. With the exception of the Oklahoma City bombing, all these acts of terroris...

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