In 1945, the United States emerged from World War II with the world's largest and strongest economy. Despite fears of a return to an economic depression, Americans were happy to get back to civilian life. What no one could predict was how the fall of colonial empires, the spread of Communism, and changes in the global economy would impact American lives in the future.
Overview: At home, Americans enjoyed a robust economic growth through the 1960's with little competition, as the rest of world's economies recovered from the war. Democrats, expanding on the New Deal, enacted major domestic programs, such as Medicare, aid to education, and civil rights for African Americans and women. The Cold War against Communist governments dominated U.S. foreign policy. While the threat of the use of nuclear weapons kept the great powers from attacking each other, limited "hot" wars in Korea and Vietnam cost America more than 100,000 lives. By the late 1960's, frustration over the Vietnam War, and opposition to liberal domestic programs, such as civil rights, and increased civil unrest weakened the Democratic majority, which slowly gave way during the 1970's to a conservative resurgence in 1980.
Alternate View: Historians debate when postwar prosperity and optimism gave way to pessimism and a declining standard of living for many Americans. Some identify 1968, a year of assassinations, riots, and intense conflict over the Vietnam War as a starting point. Others point to the mid-1970's, when wage growth stagnated for many average Americans.
Email: Patenl@nv.ccsd.net AP/Honors United States History Senior Class Advisor
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