The 1920s and the 2020s: Is History Repeating?

The 1920s and the 2020s: Is History Repeating?

Julie Damman

As the world reaches the beginning of a new decade it is often a time of change. People reflect on the past and look to whatever lies ahead to ensure the best future for everyone. As the 2010s have been left behind, professionals have worked to predict the trends of the 2020s in everything from finances to medical situations. Some of these projected trends have never before been seen, and many others relate back to incredibly similar events as those seen in the 1920s. This leaves many questions such as, how can events that happened a century apart be similar? What specific issues are being repeated? And what does that mean for the future?

Arguably, the most striking similarity between the 1920s and the 2020s is the different pandemics that affected the world. No one should be unaware of the current coronavirus pandemic that began to heavily impact the world in January of 2020. What many don’t remember is the eerily similar Spanish Flu pandemic that took over in 1918 and didn’t end until 1920. Morgan Hansen, 10, commented “It’s crazy how similar these events are. Just like COVID, the Spanish Flu is a respiratory virus, and a lot of the surface symptoms are the same.”  The Spanish Flu, also known as the Great Influenza Pandemic was caused by the H1N1 influenza A virus. Like the Coronavirus, the virus was incredibly controversial during that time. Many argued over how the treatment should look, what the best prevention was, and how it would finally end. Like Coronavirus, the Spanish Flu affected a large portion of the global population, and with no vaccine available at the time, it was incredibly contagious. People of the 1920s, much like today, resorted to quarantining in an attempt to control the outbreak. The Spanish Flu pandemic ended after most, if not all, people were exposed to the virus making it less life-threatening, and over time a vaccine was created to prevent and lessen the severity of the flu. “During the Spanish Flu pandemic, there were no mandates because of WWI” Hansen, 10 said. “I think that is the biggest difference between the flu and COVID. The government stayed out of it, and after the flu had run its course the pandemic was over.”  Most pandemics last about 2 to 3 years, and as the Coronavirus continues now for the second year many wonder when and how it will finally end. 

Every year in the past has been a time for some sort of cultural divide, modern-day, is no different. Today there is a cultural divide over heavily debated issues involving race, gender, social class, etc. Many of these same issues began to be widely discussed over 100 years ago when the US saw one of the most famous culture wars in history. As World War I ended in 1918 and troops returned to their normal lives throughout the early 1920s, European countries struggled economically, and the US flourished, this caused many to take up jobs in the city rather than on farms. This was the first time that the population in cities outnumbered the population on farms. During this time of urbanization, many began to develop strong political views in subjects such as feminism, and racial equality. These subjects are all heavily discussed today just as they were in the 1920s. However, in the 1920s the division in politics was mainly drawn between urban and rural living, while today that line is mostly drawn by political affiliations.  

Putting politics aside, an additional similarity between the 1920s and the 2020s is the US economic status. As previously stated, in the 1920’s the United States flourished economically, its wealth more than doubling in the years between 1920 and 1929. This economic growth is similar to what was seen in the late 2010s and very early 2020s. However, what was the greatest asset of the US in the 1920s was also its downfall in the 1930s, the Great Depression. After the stock market crash in 1929, the US fell into a financial downward spiral that caused widespread poverty and unemployment. If the 2020s are so similar to the 1920s, the decade of seeming financial prosperity, then it is reasonable to predict the 2020s could be mirroring the 1930s. Beau Brummel, 10, said “Based on my research, a lot of the same things are happening again. In the 1920s goods were overproduced, causing their prices to drop and then skyrocket when the supply became low. Today we are seeing the same problems with supply and demand, so I think that prices are going to do nothing but continue to get higher.” With corporate profits currently on the rise, financial prognosticators are already trying to pinpoint at what point the next market crash will occur, some predicting as soon as the mid-2020s. Many have already noticed inflation in everyday items, increasing the cost of living. Many believe that this rise in prices is placing the US one step closer to yet another economic crash. 

Today, everyday life is being changed by technology. From 3D printing to the latest cell phone, and even to many scientific breakthroughs, technology has paved the way for what many will argue is major human growth and development. The 2020s have already been the timeline for many technological advancements. That brings up the question, how is today’s technology related to that of the 1920s? Jacob Damman, 9, says “From an agricultural point of view, technology has changed how farmers produce the food and resources people need, in that more is produced in a shorter amount of time. Also from my perspective, I am able to do school completely online, which would never have happened if simple things like electricity weren’t invented.”  Much like the 2020s, the 1920s were the timeline for many advances in technology that shaped how we live today. Things like telephones, radios, and other indoor electronics were created during this time. These inventions were the base for what have now become the cell phones and Bluetooth systems people use today. 

It is true that the 1920s and 2020s were very different. But there are many shocking similarities that many people don’t recognize. From politics to technology, issues that seem so different are actually extremely similar when learning more about it. The similarities between these two decades cause people to question the future. What will happen next? Are these decades related at all? Or is history actually repeating?