The 1920s (pronounced “nineteen-twenties”, commonly abbreviated as the "Twenties") was a decade of the Gregorian calendar that began on January 1, 1920, and ended on December 31, 1929. In North America, it is frequently referred to as the “Roaring Twenties” or the “Jazz Age”, while in Europe the period is sometimes referred to as the “Golden Age Twenties” because of the economic boom following World War I. French speakers refer to the period as the “années folles” (“Crazy Years”), emphasizing the era’s social, artistic, and cultural dynamism.
The economic prosperity experienced by many countries during the 1920s (especially the United States) was similar in nature to that experienced in the 1950s and 1990s. Each period of prosperity was the result of a paradigm shift in global affairs. These shifts in the 1920s, 1950s, and 1990s, occurred in part as the result of the conclusion of World War I and Spanish flu, World War II, and the Cold War, respectively.
The 1920s saw foreign oil companies begin operations throughout South America. Venezuela became the world’s second largest oil producing nation.
Prosperity in the 1920s was not ubiquitous, however. The German Weimar Republic experienced a severe economic downturn as a result of the enormous debts it agreed to repay as part of the Treaty of Versailles. The economic crisis that resulted led to a devaluation of the Mark in 1923 and to severe economic problems. The economic hardships experienced by Germans during this period resulted in an environment conducive to the rise of the Nazi Party.
The 1920s were also characterized by the rise of radical political movements, especially in regions that were once part of empires. Communism spread as a consequence of the October Revolution and the Bolsheviks’ victory in the Russian Civil War. Fear of the spread of Communism led to the emergence of far right political movements and fascism in Europe. Economic problems contributed to the emergence of dictators in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, to include Józef Piłsudski in the Second Polish Republic, and Peter and Alexander Karađorđević in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
The devastating Wall Street Crash in October 1929 is generally viewed as a harbinger of the end of 1920s prosperity in North America and Europe.