In the 20s of the last century there were profound social, economic and cultural changes, especially in the US and Europe, as a result of various events that took place in the previous decade. This makes us believe that after the Covid-19 pandemic (which is still underway), we will experience “the crazy 20s” of the 21st century, this time worldwide.
Events at the beginning of the 20th century, after the end of World War I (1914-1918), which resulted in a vast development of armaments due to technological advances in which around 9 million soldiers perished) and the Pneumonic Flu (1917-1918), which killed more than 50 million people, were decisive for the huge change in American and European societies in the 20s. The population tried to forget the suffering and losses, and to live life in an euphoric way. They were eager to socialize, sometimes excessively. Hence the term used “crazy twenties” or the “roaring twenties”.
Currently, although we are not experiencing any war, we have been witnessing another form of war for about a year and a half. The Covid-19 Pandemic has spread throughout the world, causing to date about 3.46 million fatalities and a huge setback in various aspects, mainly in economic and social terms. These situations still exist today despite the fact that we are at an advanced stage of vaccination, which will enable us to more quickly access normal life.
From the beginning of the 20s of the last century, the United States of America became one of the greatest powers in the world with an unprecedented economic development. Nothing would ever be the same again. However, towards the end of that decade, the progress previously achieved plunged after the New York Stock Exchange crashed. This led to a new cycle of scarcity.
The so-called “crazy 20s” were characterized by a fascinating and exuberant period due to the enormous progress in social, economic, cultural, and scientific terms and in the arts.
For the first time, families had the opportunity to acquire and intimately enjoy new inventions such as the telephone, the automobile or the radio set.
A new culture emerged and more people knew how to read and write. Books became more popular, new literary genres appeared, adventure books, detective novels, romantic novels, comic books with the characters Tintin and Mickey. New newspapers and magazines were published, where the most varied topics were discussed, such as interviews, short stories or practical advice.
At that time the big radio chains such as NBC and BBC, the big movie producers, sound films, Clara Bow and Charles Chaplin, and the first animated character, Cat Felix, appeared.
Jazz emerged as a new style of music, with the Blues being one of the best known rhythms. Tango, Foxtrot, Charleston and Swing were the new styles of dance and, in architecture, Art Deco was popularized and evidenced. In the art sector, there were new movements, such as Dadaism with Marcel Duchamp and surrealism with Salvador Dali.
There was a great boost in sports, mainly football and boxing, with new modalities such as car races and horse racing.
On the scientific level there were huge discoveries in astronomy, physics, Einstein's theory of relativity, Freud's psychoanalysis and in medicine, with the discovery of Fleming's penicillin.
The middle class, allied to the development of means of transport and advertising, created new tastes, new fashions, new habits and pleasures. This included recreational trips that fostered the increase of other infrastructure and services such as travel agencies, tourist guides and illustrated postcards.
Socially, there was greater emancipation of women, including the right to divorce, to vote and to take on jobs that were previously exclusively male.
Woman began to think and act differently, creating new habits. They started smoking, going to bars, cabarets and dancing in these places until dawn. They abandoned long clothes and corsets and began to wear more flexible clothes, short and low-cut dresses, to wear makeup that stressed their white complexion and have haircuts à la garçonne.
Coco Chanel, stylist and French businesswoman, brought a breath of fresh air to women's fashion (shorter skirts and dresses, baggy pants), enabling them to move more graciously. In 1926, she created the immortal black dress as a symbol of elegance.
In 1920, the first General Assembly of the League of Nations, predecessor of the United Nations Organization, was held in Geneva, with the objective of finding strategies to protect people from the legacies (such as hunger, suffering, misery) left by the World War I and to ensure peace.
In this decade, the first concerns about climate change and the refugee crisis emerged, which are still current nearly a hundred years later.
About this time, F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) in his essay “Echoes of the Jazz Age” published in 1922, stated “It was an age of miracles, an age of art, an age of excess and an age of satire” .
Unlike what happened in other countries that imitated everything that was successful in Paris, in Portugal, being a conservative and traditional country, any changes always had less impact despite having adapted to this new way of life, in its own way.
Faced with a new reality, there was a need to create new spaces for entertainment, to see shows, to drink, dance and gamble. In addition to the new songs, fado, sevillanas, the waltz, music of gypsy origin which also included dancers, magic numbers, ventriloquism and even striptease were also heard and seen.
In Portugal, there were several entertainment venues (most of the time forbidden to women) such as cabarets and bars, where champagne and cocaine were consumed to the sound of jazz.
There were several events that took place in this decade that led to new lifestyles and new social status, at a time when the average life expectancy for males was 36 years and 40 for females. The number of marriages declined and divorces increased. Few women attended universities. Commercial aviation began with some regularity. Alves dos Reis became known as the greatest forger of all time, managing to deceive even the Banco de Portugal. Although the number of cars almost quadrupled, our country reached the highest rate of inflation ever. At that time, the only way to fight it was to print money uncontrollably, contrary to the decision of governments and Parliament. General Norton de Matos took on the post of High Commissioner of the Republic in Angola. The book 'Nome de Guerra' by Almada Negreiros was a landmark in Portuguese literature. In 1920, Amália Rodrigues was born, the most renowned Portuguese fado singer. Margarida Bastos Ferreira, aged 20, was the first to win the Miss Portugal contest, and represented the country in May 1927, in the Miss Universe contest in Galveston, Texas.
At the end of the 20's, the first Cycling Tour of Portugal took place and with the 1928 Olympic Games, football acquired a unique status in relation to other sports.
Currently, given the Covid-19 pandemic crisis that has affected everyone globally, it is common to question what will happen, what will be the behaviour of individuals and how will the post-pandemic social and economic recovery be like. Several studies are underway about these issues.
Epson, the world's largest manufacturer of projectors used to “create engaging and interactive experimental environments for events”, has commissioned a European-wide study, according to a recognized psychologist and expert on the impact of pandemics on social behaviour. The study revealed that “when containment measures are lifted there will be a strong recovery in the events sector”. The “Europeans will enter a wave of post-pandemic enthusiasm for organized events such as festivals, concerts, live entertainment and tourist attractions” and the “demand for events will be even stronger after the pandemic than before the restrictions began”. This study also reveals that the vast majority of people are willing to resume the social lives they had before the pandemic, to participate in more events as soon as the confinement is lifted because "life is short", seeking to "make up for lost time", stressing that they are “good for the soul” and bring happiness.
In a survey conducted by Professor Steven Taylor (a psychologist who has studied the impact of pandemics on human social behaviour) of 2,500 European consumers, it was concluded “that the overwhelming majority of people are eager to resume their pre-pandemic social lives. This includes participating in live events because people are resilient and most will go back to their pre-pandemic socialization levels, regardless of how they're feeling right now". "People will want to go out and socialize and this change will happen quickly”.
Vice President of Professional Projection Systems at Epson Europe, Neil Colquhoun, added: “The event industry needs to prepare for an unprecedented increase in demand once the confinement ends. The recovery is likely to be even stronger than people imagine.”
For epidemiologist and sociologist Nicholas A. Christakis, director of the Human Nature Lab at Yale University in the US, from 2024 onwards the “crazy 20s of the 21st century” will begin, even if the path to recovery is long". For this specialist who compares the pandemic to a tsunami, only at the end of 2021 or early 2022 will group immunity be achieved, either by vaccination or by natural infection, and only by the end of 2023 it will be possible some recovery in social, economic and psychological terms.
This expert argues that only in 2024 will the “crazy 20s of this century” begin, where people, having been confined for a long time, “will relentlessly seek social interactions in nightclubs, restaurants, bars, sporting events, political parades, concerts..., we can expect some sexual debauchery and money spent”.
Nicholas A. Christakis believes that only in the long term will life return to normal, but that certain changes will occur in the way we live, such as “working from home will continue for many people – companies will find that it is cheaper, there will be employees who will not want to waste time on transport. Meetings will be more virtual; the business travel and hospitality industries will change; things like drone deliveries will become more popular; vaccines with mRNA technology will play a greater role in medicine.”
British consultant Oxford Economics, in a study it carried out recently, also defends that European consumers are "eager to start spending after the reopening of the economy, namely in stores and restaurants". As a consequence of the reduced family expenses during the lockdown, this study also suggests that families are willing to resume spending without any restrictions.
A European study predicts a new “crazy 20s” in the post-pandemic. Available at: https://www.epson.pt/insights/article/um-estudo-europeu-preve-uns-novos-loucos-anos-20-no-pos-pandemia [Retrieved on 20-05-2021]
Crazy 20s”. Available at: https://pt.slideshare.net/jorgediapositivos/loucos-anos-20-1372506 [Retrieved on 11-05-2021]
The Crazy 20s: 100 Years Later. Available at: https://www.natgeo.pt/historia/2020/01/os-loucos-anos-20-100-anos-depois [Retrieved on 11-05-2021]
The pandemic and the new 20s: wave of consumerism and much more expected. Available at: https://www.idealista.pt/news/financas/economia/2021/04/21/47041-pos-pandemia-trara-os-novos-loucos-anos-20. [Retrieved on 11-05-2021]
Library and Information Area