The Interwar Crisis: The Failure of Extremism

Richard J. Finlay

in The Oxford Handbook of Modern Scottish History

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199563692
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

The Interwar Crisis: The Failure of Extremism


The consequences of World War I and World War II unleashed a torrent of political, social, and economic change across the world. The growth of political extremism and instability, made worse by fundamental changes in the global economy, were the hallmarks of much of contemporary European history in which politics on the Continent became increasingly polarized between far-right nationalism and fascism, and left-wing socialism and communism. This article, which relates the Scottish experience during the interwar period to a wider British and European historiography, shows how politics and economics became enmeshed as Scottish society was polarized by class divisions. Although the political and cultural debates were heated, they took place in a context of social and economic stagnation in which unemployment and poverty showed no signs of disappearing. The article also examines why the traumas of socio-economic dislocation that engulfed other political systems in Europe did not have the same effect in Scotland.

Keywords: Scotland; interwar period; socio-economic dislocation; extremism; World War I; World War II; Europe; historiography; politics; economics

Article.  8253 words. 

Subjects: History ; British History

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