While the Wall Street crash of October 1929 has been seen as signalling the onset of the Great Depression, it is acknowledged that its causes were more long-standing and complex. There had been no major reconstruction of the whole international economy following its dislocation by the war, only piecemeal attempts to return to pre-war conditions. Many problems, whose origins lay in the pre-war period, were not recognised. In Britain, for instance, the need for the modernisation of its old staple industries, particularly shipbuilding and mining, was ignored. Several years before 1929 there was an overproduction of primary products with a consequent decline in prices. The rural parts of Germany, many of the east European states and the mainly primary producing British Dominions, as well as rural America, were already experiencing the adverse effects of this situation when the financial crash occurred. Much of the European economic recovery in the 1920s had been dependent on American loans, usually short-term ones. Germany had had something approaching $4 billion and Austria $3 billion. Prior to the 1929 crash, this flow of American capital abroad had been shrinking as investors were tempted by the boom in their own country, but after the crash, the flow became a mere trickle. Markets contracted, businesses failed, banks collapsed and millions faced unemployment throughout Europe.
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