1920s  

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The Bouba/kiki effect (1929)
Josephine Baker dancing the charleston at the Folies Bergère in Paris for La Revue nègre in 1926. Notice the art deco background. (Photo by Walery)
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Josephine Baker dancing the charleston at the Folies Bergère in Paris for La Revue nègre in 1926. Notice the art deco background.
(Photo by Walery)
Inversions, the first French gay journal is published between 1924 and 1926, it stopped publication after the French government charged the publishers with "Outrage aux bonnes mœurs".  Its full title was Inversions ... in art, literature, philosophy and science. Sexual inversion was a term used by sexologists in the late 19th and early 20th century, to refer to homosexuality.
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Inversions, the first French gay journal is published between 1924 and 1926, it stopped publication after the French government charged the publishers with "Outrage aux bonnes mœurs". Its full title was Inversions ... in art, literature, philosophy and science. Sexual inversion was a term used by sexologists in the late 19th and early 20th century, to refer to homosexuality.

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The 1920s is a decade that is sometimes referred to as the "Jazz Age" or the "Roaring Twenties," usually applied to America. In Europe the decade is referred to as the Golden Twenties in Anglophone countries, Les Années Folles in France, and Weimar Berlin in Germany.

Since the closing of the 20th Century, the 1920s has drawn close associations with the 1950s and 1990s, especially in the United States. The three decades are regarded as periods of economic prosperity, which lasted throughout almost the entire decade following a tremendous event that occurred in the previous decade (World War I and Spanish flu in the 1910s, World War II in the 1940s, and the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s).

Despite the comparisons, however, there were a number of differences. Firstly, Weimar Republic Germany, like many other European countries, had to face a severe economic downturn in the opening years of the decade, because of the enormous debt caused by the war as well as the one-sided Treaty of Versailles. Such a crisis would culminate with a devaluation of the Mark in 1923, eventually leading to severe economic problems and the rise of the Nazis.

Second, the decade was characterized by the rise of radical political movements, especially in regions that were once part of empires. Communism began attracting large numbers of followers following the success of the October Revolution and the Bolsheviks' determination to win the subsequent Russian Civil War. The Bolsheviks would eventually adopt semi-capitalist policies--New Economic Policy--from 1921 to 1928. The 1920s also experienced the rise of the far-right in Europe and elsewhere, starting with Fascism in the world as an antidote to Communism.

The Stock Market collapsed during October 1929 (see Black Tuesday) and drew a line under the prosperous 1920s.

Contents

Culture

Subcultures

In the 1920s, American Jazz music and motor cars were at the centre of a European subculture which began to break the rules of social etiquette and the class system (See also Swing Kids). In America, the same flaming youth subculture was "running wild" but with the added complication of alcohol prohibition. Canada had prohibition in some areas, but for the most part, thirsty Americans coming over the border found an oasis. As a result, smuggling escalated as crime gangs became organised. In the southern United States, Mexico and Cuba were popular with drinkers. Thus, a drinking subculture grew in size and a crime subculture grew along with it. Other drugs were used as alternatives to alcohol. When prohibition ended, the subculture of drink, drugs and jazz did not disappear, and neither did the gangsters.

Literature

interwar literature, jazz age

The Jazz Age in literature

Perhaps one of the most representative literary works of the Jazz age is American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (1925), which highlighted what some describe as the corruption of the post-WW1 age, as well as new attitudes, and the growth of individualism. Fitzgerald is largely credited with coining the term, which he used in such books as his short story collection Tales of the Jazz Age. His second novel, The Beautiful and Damned (1922), also deals with the era and its effect on a young married couple. Fitzgerald's last completed novel, Tender Is the Night (1934) takes place in the same decade but is set in France and Switzerland not New York, and consequently is not widely considered a Jazz Age novel per se.

Additional works on the Jazz Age might include Thomas Wolfe's and Catarina Botto's titanic 1936 book Of Time and the River which takes its protagonist from the depths of the Carolinas to Harvard and Antarctica, and finally to New York City in the 1920s. Wolfe's You Can't Go Home Again is recommended for its party scene on the night of the 1929 stock market crash. Edith Wharton's late novel Twilight Sleep, set in New York and written in 1927, is a great example of social critiques of Jazz Age values and lifestyles. Additionally, The Rosy Crucifixion trilogy of Henry Miller -- Sexus, Plexus, and Nexus -- is set in New York during this period.


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