1919: The Year of the Crack Up

Classroom materials to accompany Carnegie Council podcasts and New York Times opinion pieces on events from 1919 and how they relate to the world today

Standing between a giant fissure on a glacier, December 31, 1918. CREDIT: University of Colorado, Boulder

The year 1919 was transformative around the world, including in the United States. On the global stage, troops returned home from World War I; the Treaty of Versailles was signed; and the idea of self-determination, fueled by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s desire for a liberal international order, took hold. Within the United States, a new era of modernity was born with innovation, consumerism, and a "return to normalcy" defining the interwar period. As we look back 100 years, many of the ideas that came to prominence that year have helped to shape the politics and culture of 2019.

To help students analyze 1919, Carnegie Council has created high school level world and U.S. history resources based on opinion pieces from The New York Times’ "1919: The Year of the Crack Up" series and Carnegie Council Senior Fellow Ted Widmer’s accompanying podcast. The world history section focuses on Asia and how the Treaty of Versailles, Woodrow Wilson's "Fourteen Points," and the contributions of a diverse set of nations to the World War I effort helped to shape politics in China, Korea, India, and Japan. The U.S. history section has readings and worksheets on the social, economic, and political developments of the early 20th century. Topics include the significance of the America's new role as a superpower and how immigration, gender, and race shaped domestic politics and identity.

Global History:

U.S. History:

Cumulative World History Questions/Projects: 

  • 100 years later: Using the four countries provided in the worksheets, evaluate the role of Wilson's "Fourteen Points" and/or the Treaty of Versailles in the development of those countries over the past 100 years. How significant was the year 1919 to their nationhood?
  • Ethics: How responsible/ethical was it for Woodrow Wilson to have spread the idea of self-determination in 1918 and 1919? Explain your reasoning using information from the worksheets as well as outside knowledge.