ABSTRACT

Although in terms of economic growth the 1920s were far from being an unrespectable decade, any broad generalizations about the performance and achievements of Europe as a whole during this period are not particularly illuminating given the widely differing experience among countries within the region and the dif culties of choosing a satisfactory base year for comparison. Nearly all countries registered some economic progress in the 1920s and most of them managed to regain or surpass their pre-war income and production levels by the end of the decade. But there was a world of difference between the rapid output growth in the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Greece and the near stagnation recorded by Austria, Russia (USSR) and Poland and the sluggish UK performance compared with the pre-war base. Clearly, any comparison of relative performance depends on the time span chosen. Thus although Austria and Poland struggled to regain their 1913 output levels, they did record rapid growth from the early post-war years through to 1929 simply because recovery was taking place from a very low base. Moreover, for the decade as a whole, it is important to distinguish between the rst and second halves. Up to 1925, most countries were in the process of recovering from the war; growth rates were often very high, though a number of countries, especially in central-east Europe, still had not regained their pre-war output levels by the middle of the decade. The second half of the 1920s was one of consolidation and further growth, with boom conditions in some cases, albeit against an unstable international background, with obvious implications for the cyclical downturn that began in 1929. In these later years, eastern Europe probably performed slightly better than the west, though one should note that the region still remained extremely backward compared with the major industrial countries.