Tag Archives: France

Militarist Nation, Coming and Going

knott-cartoon

 

Amid shifting political powers and tense foreign relations of the early 1930’s, both France and Japan faced the challenge of balancing their budgets between the economic depression and the necessity of increased military spending. An editorial, written by an unknown author in 1933 in the Dallas Morning Newspaper, “Troublesome Budgets”, explicates the larger political stakes at play. It reveals the French government, urged by Premier Daladier, has increased taxes to offset the budget deficit and that while the Japanese Parliament is not currently in session, they will soon face the same dilemma. Frances is pressured to give out loans to the Japanese territory, Manchukuo, and that Japan is under pressure to forge a diplomatic agreement with the Soviet Union. Due to the debts and future responsibilities of both these countries, they cannot truly afford a full-scale war without assured bankruptcy, so they must remain open to political agreements with Germany and other potentially hostile nations. While admitting the concerning nature of these events, the author is optimistic, as these concessions may lead to the prevention of a massive, global war (Troublesome Budgets).

In the accompanying political cartoon, Militarist Nation, Coming and Going, John Francis Knott, a prominent cartoonist of the era, satirizes the precarious political situation of the French government in 1933, challenged with maintaining military strength in the wake of the devastation of World War I and facing the economic downturn of the Great Depression (Knott). The illustration depicts the front and back of a French soldier representing the two opposing sides of the interwar French government. His front, a crisp and well-maintained uniform with the words “Millions For Armament” on the ammunition pouches, is the paragon of military ideals, the image France wanted to convey to Germany as part of their defensive mentality. The back, however, is in tatters, covered with patches stating “taxes”, “unbalanced budget”, “defaulted debts” and “reduced wages”. The implied pacing motion of the soldier could be interpreted as a metaphor for France being on guard, a sentry keeping an eye out for possible warlike advancements by Germany. The soldier is wearing prototypical uniform of the World War I era, complete with an Adrian helmet, made of steel, and only issued to soldiers in heavy combat (Suciu). The defensive nature of the soldier’s uniform, as well as his worried expression is parallel to the apprehensive, tense nature of France during the interwar period. The patches on the uniform represent temporary sacrifices that are meant to fix the holes in the economy. This exposes what is underneath pretense of the supposedly formidable French Armed Forces: a weakened economy and divided populous.

The events leading up to this period in French history are crucial for understanding and interpreting the mentality of the French government and people. The French and global economies were still recovering from the devastation of the first World War, ending in 1918, with a victory by the Allies (Britain, France, Russia, Italy and the United States) and the creation of the League of Nations, aimed at preventing another worldwide military conflict. Germany, due to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, was mandated to make war reparations, however because of their ruined economy, were unable to complete the payments, leaving France to fend for themselves, who in turn had to repay war debts to the United States. France had to spend large sums of money on reconstruction to repair the damage to the infrastructure and the ingrained societal systems (Hautcoeur 9). In 1924, taxes were too low to balance the budget, but instead of raising taxes they lowered the interest rate on bonds, which led to a decrease in the purchase of bonds which worsened the recession. In 1926, Prime Minister Raymond Poincare was given nearly absolute power over the economy and repaired by implementing new sales taxes and trimming the fat off the bureaucracy (Beaudry 16). While this left the economy in relatively good shape, the shock of World War I had created a defensive mentality in France. The resulting turmoil led to support for extremist groups and split France into two diametrically opposed, radical political alliances: The National Bloc, the right, who advocated for business, the army and were hellbent on revenge against Germany, and the Cartel des Guaches, a coalition of leftist parties who lobbied for the lower-middle class and were in favor of a foreign policy of security by negotiation.

The differing economic policies of the alignments came into play in 1931, when the Great Depression began to affect France. The Depression was not as consequential in France as it was in the United States; the French economy was mainly self-sufficient and relied on smaller business and local economies (Beaudry 12). The mentality towards depression was different than that of the United States; it was seen as a necessary evil to purge excess money and to send indebted companies, barely staying afloat, to failure. A success of the government was that they maintained a restrictive and procyclical policy, meaning that in a recession, they reduced government spending and increased taxes, which helped them avoid the full implications of the depression (Hautcoeur 7).

In 1933, the year of the cartoon, radicalistic Prime Minister Edouard Daladier, in an effort to avoid repeating the mistakes of the 1920’s, made the argument to Parliament that the augmentation of taxes is needed to offset the necessary military spending (Troublesome Budgets). This request is granted, demonstrating that they have learned from their past economic mistakes, however, in his cartoon, Knott outlines all their new errors. While Parliament is focusing on armament and defensive foreign policy, they are ignoring the crucial implications for their own economy. The largest militaristic expenditure was the Maginot Line, proposed by André Maginot, the French Minister of War, at the cost of 3 billion francs, a tactical defensive perimeter that spanned eighty-seven miles of the German-French border (Wilde). This dismal financial situation left France struggling to maintain insecure political relations and commit to defensive military tactics, while feigning to have the upper hand. Their financial difficulties made them receptive to Japanese and German demands, for treaties and military movements.

The irony in Knott’s cartoon is apparent in that things are not always what they seem on the surface. The title, Militarist Nation, Coming and Going, while fitting the illustration, seems to also imply the inevitable fall of France as an imperialist empire, in part due to its unrealistic budget priorities. Before the first half the 20th century, French was a prominent and influential player on the global stage. However, the two World Wars left the economy, politics and infrastructure of France devastated, and France was never able to return to its former status as a major power.

 

Works Cited

Beaudry, Paul, and Franck Portier. “The French Depression in the 1930s.” Review of Economic Dynamics 5.1 (2002): 73-99. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.
Hautcoeur, Pierre-Cyrille, and Pierre Sicsic. “Threat of a Capital Levy, Expected Devaluation and Interest Rates in France During the Interwar Period.” SSRN Electronic Journal (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.
Knott, John. “Militarist Nation, Coming and Going.” Dallas Morning News 19 Oct. 1933, 19th ed., sec. 2: 14. Print.
Kuttner, Robert. “The Economic Maginot Line.” The American Prospect. N.p., 11 Aug. 2011. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.
Suciu, Peter. “The First Modern Steel Combat Helmet: The French ‘Adrian’ – Military Trader.” Military Trader. N.p., 2011. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.
“Troublesome Budgets.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News 19 Oct. 1933, 19th ed., sec. 2: 14. Print.
Wilde, Robert. “The Maginot Line: France’s Defensive Failure.” About.com Education. N.p., 2016. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

 

Going Down for the Third Time

Going down third time
A German man is drowning and needs help. A French man is in a boat and says, “Sign, first” while extending a paper labeled “Conditions” to the German man. Presumably the French man will help once the conditions are signed, however, the German will most likely drown in trying to sign the paper.

After World War I, the Big Four (United States, France, Italy, and Great Britain) met in Paris in 1919 to negotiate a peace treaty, known as the Treaty of Versailles. The treaty charged Germany with a vast amount of war reparations and economic restrictions. Ironically, it is this treaty and French modifications to it that led to the second World War. In John Knott’s political cartoon, “Going Down Third Time,” Knott used drowning as a metaphor to illustrate Germany’s debt, its relationship with France, and how German animosity toward the French could (and did) lead to further conflict.

In the cartoon, the image of Germany drowning is a metaphor that portrayed their asphyxiation by war debt. The title “Going Down Third Time” alludes to the saying, “going down for the third time.” This idiom means that if someone is drowning and they go underwater for a third time, they supposedly won’t come back up (Babylon’s Free Dictionary). Therefore, this saying can be used out of the context of drowning in order to portray failure or death. Knott’s title was an effective representation of Germany’s economic state as they tried to deal with their overwhelming amount of war debt; the debt made it impossible for their economy to resurface and swim. However, this was the main reason France wanted such strict contingencies on Germany. They hoped that Germany would remain bankrupt and “drowning” so that it may not rise back up to power (“WWI: Treaties and Reparations”). Because of the Treaty of Versailles, the Germans had their boundaries reassigned, restrictions placed on their military and weaponry, and they were charged with a reparations bill of 6.6 billion pounds (History.com Staff and “War Reparations”). Ironically, these actions were taken to avoid war, yet they only succeeded in kindling the events in years to come.

Water is a well-fitted symbol for Germany’s war reparations. Not only is it dense and seemingly limitless, but water stays on clothes and skin even after someone gets out. This represents how even if Germany could repay this debt (get out of the water) they would still feel the lasting effects of debt. Their clothes would still be drenched with water, that is to say, the German economy would be further destabilized and in need of reconstruction. It could also be seen that Germany floundering in the water (debt) generated splashes that affected those near, such as the French. France got splashed which wet them with debt as well. War with Germany caused France to be indebted to other countries, such as the United States, after World War I (“War Reparations”).

In the cartoon, the depiction of the French withholding help and saying “sign, first” as Germany drowned illustrated the tensions that were drawn taught between the two countries. Germany’s war ridden land and economy was incapable of fixing itself so Germany needed assistance from other countries. However, they owed other countries mass amounts of money or gold in order to pay off material damages caused by the war (“WWI: Treaties and Reparations”). When they signed the Treaty of Versailles, Germany unhappily acknowledged that they were the sole cause of World War I and agreed to the stringent obligations set by the Big Four (“WWI: Treaties and Reparations”). German bitterness deepened toward the French because they thought France held almost all of the responsibility for charging Germany with an outrageously high reparations bill (“War Reparations”). This was depicted in Knott’s cartoon because Germany drowned under the French conditions, but France required Germany to sign their conditions before they offered help. However, if Germany didn’t sign, it would still drown. Paradoxically, Germany had to hurt itself in order to potentially save itself. Signing acknowledged responsibility for the war, loss of land, loss of military, and insurmountable reparations yet Germany retained hope that the economy and political relations would be repaired. However, things would get worse before they got better. Due to the debt and unnecessary stipulations, the tensions between France and Germany continued to tighten putting Europe on the brink of World War II.

The French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau is more easily recognized than the German man in the cartoon. This is most likely because Clemenceau was known for his austerity in exacting revenge on Germany (“Treaty of Versailles,” sec. 1). The German man was not so easily recognized because Germany had nine different chancellors from 1917-1920 (during which Clemenceau held office in France), not to mention all nine chancellors had bushy mustaches like the man Knott depicted (Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica). The editorial mentions Chancellor Bruening of Germany, however, Clemenceau died before Bruening held office so it’s unlikely that Bruening is depicted here (“Georges Clemenceau” and Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica).

Without prior knowledge, it can be deduced simply from Knott’s cartoon that this situation wasn’t handled efficiently. Standing by and letting someone drown unless they agree to ridiculous conditions is a fast and sure way to make enemies. The prevention of war simply cannot be executed by repressing a country and limiting its resources. Clemenceau’s strict demands did anything but smooth tensions and ease these countries out of a post war period. The cartoon showed that no matter what Germany did, it drowned in debt and desperately needed a savior. The attempted repression of Germany caused animosities toward the French that only built as Germany struggled to make payments. This is the beginning of how and why Hitler and his National Socialist, or Nazi, Party rose to power (“Treaty of Versailles,” sec. 1.1).

The editorial for “Going Down Third Time” is titled “Hitler to the Rescue!” While praising Adolf Hitler seems facetious in this time period, he had serious leadership potential in the years following World War I. Hitler was seen as an eloquent public speaker and his platform rejected the Versailles treaty, aimed for Germany to return as a military power, and suppressed communism (“Hitler to Rescue!”). Because Germany struggled to stand on its own feet, Hitler’s policies were enticing to many people. He asserted that he was “ready to take charge of the Government and to resist communism by force of arms,” however, the French were ready to invade Germany “to restore order” once revolution broke out (“Hitler to Rescue!”). Germany was on the brink of World War II and all it needed was a nudge before crisis hit. It’s odd to think that World War II could have possibly been avoided had France given Germany a little room to breathe after World War I.

The symbols and portrayal of the issue in the cartoon is humorous in a sense that it is utterly ridiculous. Obviously, someone can’t sign a document if they are drowning. However, as one begins to process this humour, a more somber tone is evoked because of the realization of this fundamental problem. Knott’s cartoon showed that Germany’s post World War I debt was an indomitable obstacle. It not only struck the German economy harder as the world entered the Great Depression, but it created tensions between countries, specifically France, that led to conflict. Furthermore, the cartoon was published in 1931, however, it depicted circumstances that occurred in 1919 and throughout the 1920’s. This emphasizes how issues regarding debt and unfriendly political relations  festered for over a decade and led to the problems they faced as World War II drew nearer.

Works Cited

Alphahistory.com Staff. “War Reparations – Weimar Republic.” Weimar Republic. N.p., 17 July 2012. Web. 08 Nov. 2016.

“Definition of Go down for the Third Time.” Go down for the Third Time Definition by Babylon’s Free Dictionary. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Nov. 2016.

“Georges Clemenceau.” Georges Clemenceau – New World Encyclopedia. N.p., 28 May 2013. Web. 27 Nov. 2016.

“Hitler to the Rescue!” Editorial. The Dallas Morning News 15 July 1931, sec. 2: 2. Readex: A Division of Newsbank. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.

History.com Staff. “Treaty of Versailles.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 08 Nov. 2016.

Knott, John. “Going Down Third Time.” Cartoon. The Dallas Morning News 15 July 1931, sec. 2: 2. Readex: A Division of Newsbank. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “List of Chancellors of Germany.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, 31 May 2016. Web. 27 Nov. 2016.

“Treaty of Versailles.” Treaty of Versailles – New World Encyclopedia. N.p., 16 Dec. 2015. Web. 27 Nov. 2016.

“World War I: Treaties and Reparations.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. United States Holocaust Memorial Council, 02 July 2016. Web. 08 Nov. 2016.

If They Would Exchange Presents

Cartoonist John Knott ridicules the post World War I predicament of U.S. and European relations in regards to the stalemate between war debt revision and disarmament.
Cartoonist John Knott ridicules the post World War I predicament of U.S. and European relations in regards to the stalemate between war debt revision and disarmament.

If They Would Exchange Presents is a political cartoon by John Francis Knott mocking the predicament of U.S. and European relations post-World War I. It depicts “Europe” giving the gift of disarmament to the U.S., represented by Uncle Sam, in exchange for war debt revisions. The cartoon implies that Europe would disarm if the U.S. would revise, or essentially decrease, European war debt; likewise, the cartoon suggests that the U.S. would gladly decrease European war debt if Europe were to disarm first (Knott 2). The accompanying editorial titled “The Reparations Problem” summarizes the context of the cartoon. It explains that by the end of 1931, the U.S. Congress finally gave approval for a one-year postponement of German reparations, acknowledging a proposal made in the previous year by then President Herbert Hoover. The U.S. Congress did not want to cancel war repayments, as it strongly indicated to the International Committee on Reparations, but instead wanted to suspend payments. The reason for Germany’s inability to pay was that it could only pay from borrowed money that it was no longer able to obtain or from money made off of exports that were heavily tariffed (“The Reparations Problem” 2).

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by Serbian nationalists in 1914 catapulted Europe into the First World War. The assassination set off a domino effect, causing country after country to get involved in the escalating conflict that eventually developed into World War I. What ensued after the war was the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, a meeting that established the terms of peace after the war, and during this conference the Treaty of Versailles was established (Cochran). The reparation clauses of the Treaty of Versailles stated that Germany was to take responsibility for the damages caused by World War I and that it must adhere to a payment schedule to pay back the cost of those damages. The mindset of the United States and its allies was that they were essentially dragged into the war out of obligation, and therefore should be repaid for everything lost in the war. However, it was known that Germany could not pay the entire costs of the war and that it was nearly impossible to create a realistic repayment schedule in 1919, the year that the treaty was signed. The Treaty of Versailles did not have a definitive reparation settlement (Merriman and Winter 2207). Therefore, naturally, Germany wanted debt revisions. Germany, however, wasn’t the only European country in debt. For example, in 1934, Britain still owed the US $4.4 billion of World War I debt (Rohrer). For this reason, Knott’s cartoon depicts “Europe” in need of war debt revision and not just Germany.

The disarmament portion of the cartoon pertains to the U.S.’s insistence on worldwide disarmament, highlighted in President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points peace proposal that said, “All countries should reduce their armed forces to the lowest possible levels (Multilateral disarmament.)” (Fuller). The Treaty of Versailles initiated the notion of disarmament by targeting Germany in particular, forcing them to take full blame for World War I and to disarm. “The German army was to be limited to 100,000 men and conscription proscribed; the treaty restricted the Navy to vessels under 100,000 tons, with a ban on the acquisition or maintenance of a submarine fleet. Moreover, Germany was forbidden to maintain an air force” (“Treaty of Versailles, 1919″).  The Treaty’s main concern was the disarmament of Germany. Politicians, journalists, and academics argued at the time that the naval race for arms was one of the major causes of the war. Based on this idea, the victors of the war decided to force Germany to disarm due to its previous invasion attempts toward France. It was thought that by forcing its disarmament, Germany was being stripped of its power to wage war (Merriman and Winter 856). Soon, this philosophy was expanded to include all European nations. “Following the atrocities of World War I, both nations [the U.S. and Great Britain] hoped to avoid any future conflicts, and both faced difficult economic times that restricted military spending. As a consequence, the two governments were willing to consider serious limits on offensive weapons” (World History Encyclopedia 593).

Reduction of conflict, however, wasn’t the only motivation behind disarmament. The Great Depression diverted attention from the issue of disarmament to debt and unemployment. In 1932, everyone owed America money, but because of the depression, few countries could repay their loans. The U.S. decided that if nations didn’t spend money on arms, they would be able to repay the United States; therefore, the U.S. called for worldwide disarmament (Bradley 38).

Knott’s cartoon represents a very circular predicament. The two entities were at a stalemate. The U.S. was the world’s major creditor nation, and in order to get paid back, it insisted on worldwide disarmament so that funds could be redirected to debt repayment. Europe, however, would only disarm if war debts were lowered and revised first. It was as though this political stalemate could only be resolved by some miracle.

That is exactly the point Knott wants to impress upon his audience. The illustration of the Christmas tree, along with the fact that the cartoon was being published on Christmas Eve, gives the cartoon an air of Christmas spirit. The term “Christmas Miracle” is typically used to emphasize how unlikely an event is to occur, and that seems to be what Knott is implying as the only solution to this conflict – a Christmas Miracle – given how unlikely a compromise seemed in 1931.  What is also humorous is how nonchalant the gift exchange is, almost trivializing the damages and lives lost in the war. It is as if there is no rivalry or conflict of interest between the two parties; it’s not as aggressive, or desperate, or even as somber as one would expect. It is definitely not a gift exchange of good will either; Christmas is regarded as a time of selfless generosity and community, a time of giving rather than receiving without the expectation of anything in return. However this is a very self-interested exchange, defying the traditional, selfless ideals of Christmas. These contradictions serve as indirect attacks on the U.S. and Europe’s inability to reach an agreement.

If They Would Exchange Presents is a political cartoon by John Knott that focused attention on and mocked the diplomatic gridlock between the U.S. and Europe. It uses the setting and themes of Christmas to criticize the two sides’ uncompromising stances toward disarmament and war debt revisions, comparing the successful exchange of “presents” to a Christmas Miracle. The cartoon serves as political commentary on post-World War I negotiations and ranks as one of Knott’s many politically motivated cartoons.

Works Cited

Bradley, F. J. He Gave the Order: The Life and Times of Admiral Osami Nagano. Bennington: Merriam Press, 2014. Google Books. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.

Cochran, Philip. Austin Community College. Austin, Texas. 27 Oct. 2015. Lecture.

Fuller, Richard. “The Treaty of Versailles – 28th June 1919.” rpfuller. rpfuller, 3 June 2010. Web. 8 Dec. 2015.

Knott, John. “If They Would Exchange Presents.” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 24 Dec. 1931, sec. 2: 10. Print.

Merriman, John, and Jay Winter. “Disarmament.” Child Care to Futurism. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006. 855. Print. Vol. 2 of Europe since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction.

Merriman, John, and Jay Winter. “Reparations.” Nagy to Switzerland. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006. 2206. Print. Vol. 4 of Europe since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction.

“The Reparations Problem.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 24 Dec. 1931, 85th ed., sec. 2: 2. Print.

Rohrer, Finlo. “What’s a Little Debt between Friends?” BBC News. BBC News Magazine, 10 May 2006. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.

“Treaty of Versailles, 1919.” Holocaust Encyclopedia. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 18 Aug. 2015. Web. 8 Dec. 2015.

Watch Out for Greek Debt!

The cartoon Watch Out for Greek Debt! depicts the famous Greek statue Discobolus by Myron with “Greece” written on it, ready to throw a discus symbolizing debt at other, cowering European countries.
The cartoon Watch Out for Greek Debt! depicts the famous Greek statue Discobolus by Myron with “Greece” written on it, ready to throw a discus symbolizing debt at other, cowering European countries.

The political cartoon Watch Out for Greek Debt! depicts the famous Greek statue Discobolus, with the word “Greece” written on it, ready to throw a discus, which symbolizes debt, at other cowering European countries (Sooke). The statue is posed as if it is about to hurl the discus, and all of the statues around it are ducking to avoid getting hit. This cartoon symbolizes how the other countries are avoiding getting “hit” by the negative consequences of Greek debt and having all of their political-economic progress regress (“Watch out for Greek Debt!”). The cartoon emphasizes the potentially devastating effects of Greek debt for other European countries in the Eurozone.

The European Union (EU) is an economic and political partnership between twenty-eight European countries that was created in the aftermath of World War II. The intent behind the creation of the EU is that countries that trade with each other become economically interdependent and therefore more likely to avoid conflict. The establishment of the EU brought about the creation of the euro, the single currency used across the twenty-eight countries (“The EU in brief”). Greece is one of the many members of the EU, along with Ireland, Austria, Italy, Spain, France, Germany and Portugal, to name a few (“Countries in the EU and EEA”). Greece in particular, however, is singled out in this cartoon as the most vulnerable as well as the most threatening member of the bunch.

Greece is in the midst of a debt crisis that could potentially crumble the economies of its European neighbors. After Wall Street crashed in 2008, Greece became the center of Europe’s debt crisis. Greece admitted that it had been understating its deficit figures for years and suddenly found itself shut out from borrowing in financial markets, leading the country toward bankruptcy. This sudden decline put Europe on the verge of a new financial crisis. To avoid collapse, the financial troika – the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission – issued the first of two international bailouts for Greece, which would eventually total more than $264 billion in today’s exchange rates. “Greece’s relations with Europe are in a fragile state, and several of its leaders are showing impatience” (“Greece’s Debt Crisis Explained”).

The other countries depicted in the cartoon are not chosen at random either. Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain – collectively called “The PIGS”– are known for having “binged on cheap debt” and “allowed citizens’ benefits to go well beyond the means of their governments.” In 2010, the PIGS were going bankrupt at a fast rate and threatened the continued existence of the euro and the entire European project. However, since then, all of the PIGS except for Greece are returning to economic health (Dawber). Now Greece is putting them at risk of relapsing into economic instability, threatening the euro in the process. This is symbolized in the cartoon as “Greece” throwing a discus of “debt” at its neighboring European countries.

There is coincidental irony in the name of the statue, Discobolus, and the subject matter involved. The suffix “obolus” means “a silver coin or unit of weight equal to one sixth of a drachma, formerly used in ancient Greece” (“obolus”). It is ironic that a discus that symbolizes a Greek drachma has “debt” written on it, as if foreshadowing that Greece being a part of the EU and using the euro as its currency has a formidable future of debt crisis.

The issues illustrated in Watch Out for Greek Debt! have a lot of similarity to the issues depicted in the political cartoon If They Would Exchange Presents by John Knott (Knott 2). Published on Christmas Eve 1931, Knott’s cartoon shows Uncle Sam of the United States offering a Christmas gift of war debt revisions to a queen representing Europe; and in the generous spirit of the season, she is offering the gift of disarmament in exchange.

In the twenty-first century, Greece is in debt to other countries much like Germany was in the aftermath of World War I. In the 1930s, the United States wanted Germany and the rest of Europe to disarm so that the funds going toward armament could instead go toward debt repayment; thus, in If They Would Exchange Presents, Europe’s gift to the U.S. was disarmament. In Knott’s cartoon, Germany, along with the rest of the indebted European nations, was asking for war debt revisions so that their debt load wasn’t so crippling. Germany was blamed for the damages and costs of World War I and was required to pay back the costs to the Allied nations. Repayment obligations were so onerous that they needed a moratorium and debt revisions to ever back on their feet. Similarly, in Watch Out for Greek Debt!, Greece is held responsible for threatening Europe’s economy, and needs bailouts for its crippling debt like Germany was asking for war debt revisions. “The bailout money mainly goes toward paying off Greece’s international loans, rather than making its way into the economy. And the government still has a staggering debt load that it cannot begin to pay down unless a recovery takes hold” (“Greece’s Debt Crisis Explained”).

The humor of comparing these two cartoons, and particularly comparing twenty-first century Germany and Greece, is that Germany is now the poster-child for Greece to model itself after. “Germany has fewer outstanding tax debts than any other country in Europe, while Greece has more than any other. That difference not only helps Germany enjoy a far more fiscally sound position than Greece, but it offers a stark contrast between a disciplined government and one that historically has been hardly disciplined” (O’Brien). It is ironic that Germany, which once was economically unstable and deeply indebted to other countries, is now an example of European economic health, the example to which Greece aspires.

Lastly, in Watch Out for Greek Debt!, Greece has the potential of putting contemporary Europe in as much debt and economic instability as in the 1930s because of the region’s shared economic interdependence on the euro. The Knott cartoon shows Europe of that era requesting war debt revisions because it is in an economic rut. Contemporary Europe could potentially descend into similar economic turmoil because if Greece were to collapse, then the euro could collapse with them, causing a domino effect.

Works Cited

“Countries in the EU and EEA.” GOV.UK. Gov.UK, 24 July 2015. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

Dawber, Alistair. “While Greece Flails, Are the Rest of the Stricken Pigs Taking Off?” Independent. Independent, 19 Feb. 2015. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

“The EU in Brief.” Europa. European Commission, 15 Oct. 2015. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.

“Greece’s Debt Crisis Explained.” The New York Times. New York Times, 31 Oct. 2015. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.

Knott, John. “If They Would Exchange Presents.” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 24 Dec. 1931, sec. 2: 10. Print.

“Obolus.” American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. 5th ed. N.p.: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011. The Free Dictionary. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

O’Brien, Matt. “7 Key Things to Know about Greece’s Debt Crisis and What Happens Next.” The Washington Post. N.p., 5 July 2015. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.

Sooke, Alastair. “The Discobolus: Greeks, Nazis and the Body Beautiful.” BBC. BBC, 24 Mar. 2015. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

“Watch out for Greek Debt!” Cartoon. Enikos. N.p., 16 Feb. 2015. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.

The Sunken Road

knott014
Joseph Knott depicts the problems facing the French economy in 1933 amidst the Great depression in his cartoon, “The Sunken Road”.            

In 1933, a time plagued with fear and uncertainty amidst the deepest economic downturn in history, the Prime Minister of France, Albert Sarraut, believed that the French economic condition could be restored by cuts in administrative expenses, lowering taxes, and increasing shares of the gold standard. However, the French economy did not recover as expected placing a huge responsibility of the global Great Depression on France. In “The Sunken Road, ” a political cartoon by Joseph Knott, featured in The Dallas Morning News, a man on horseback leading France into an “Economic Waterloo” represents the potential economic degradation of France.

Sarraut is drawn on horseback, continuing to use the gold standard, and running into a field marked “Economic Waterloo.” The cartoon suggests that the use of the gold standard was pushing France into a horrible economic defeat. This is a reference to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 when France, lead by Napoleon, was defeated and thus ended Napoleon’s rule as emperor (Dodds). Knott’s illustration suggested that the French economy would soon be defeated as if they were in battle. Much of the humor found in the cartoon derives from the comparison to the Battle of Waterloo. In comparing the economic situation of France to a horrible French military defeat, the audience is able to find humor in the extreme comparison.

The inflated exaggeration is also shown through the startled expression on the horse’s face. The horse exemplified that the economic decisions and leadership of France were not in their best interest. France was still using the gold standard in 1933, an economic system in which the value of currency was defined in terms of gold. Most countries including the US and Britain abandoned the gold standard in the late 1920s through the early 1930s because it did not allow much economic stimulation to take place (Lars). Thus, during the Great Depression, governments were fairly powerless in the battle against the economic downturn because the gold standard was too restrictive of a grip. Despite this, France continued to use it and even increased their share of world reserves, further harming and limiting their control on the economy.

Ultimately, between 1927 and 1932 France increased its share of world gold reserves from 7% to 27%. In comparison, many other large countries were backing out of the gold standard (Irwin). France failed to monetize much of their new reserves. They placed extreme amounts of deflation on other countries and contributed a large part of why the world witnessed a period of economic downfall before World War II. This caused France to go down in history as one of the largest global contributors to the Great Depression (Lars).

The accompanying editorial that also appeared in the Dallas Morning News, “Too Many Factions,” explained that France was concerned with the possibility of one ruler taking over. Sarraut was quick to discourage this, but the public feared Sarraut’s economic ideas would not be well received, forcing the deputies to shut down the cabinet, leading to a period of economic uncertainty with a dictatorship (“Too Many Factions” [Page 2]).

France feared “the man on horseback,” that one ruler, would take over like that of Hitler’s Nazi Germany (“Too Many Factions” [Page 2]). The analogy is humorous because of the political and historical truth behind it. France had a figurative fear that Knott depicted literally in his cartoon. Because of differing opinions in the French government about how to deal with the economic crisis and despite the fact that Prime Minister Sarraut was opposed to opening relations with Germany, France was forced to look at Germany with a small amount of envy for its political unity and strength, but with greater fear that a single dictatorial rule would suppress differing opinions and actions within their government (Weinburg [Page 32]). Knott’s cartoon shed light on the economic and diplomatic issues that challenged France in 1933. These issues ultimately impacted not only the French economy, but also the World economy.

Works Cited:

Christensen, Lars. “France Caused the Great Depression – Who Caused the Great Recession?” The Market Monetarist. 3 Oct. 2011. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Dodds, Lawrence. “The Battle of Waterloo, as It Happened on June 18, 1815.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Web. 6 Nov. 2015.

Irwin, Douglas. “Did France Cause the Great Depression?” NBER (2010) Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Knott, John F. “ The sinking road.” Cartoon. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 18 Nov. 1933: n. pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web.02 Nov.2015. <http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/utcah/02261/cah-02261.html>.

“Too Many Factions.” Editorial. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 18 Nov. 1933: 2. Print.

Weinburg, Gerhard L. Hitler’s Foreign Policy 1933-1939. New York: Enigma Books, 2005. Print.

“WHKMLA : History of France, The Economy 1929-1939.” WHKMLA : Historyof France, The Economy 1929-1939. Web. 3 Nov. 2015.