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While generic meaning of the terms interwar period and interbellum (Latin: inter-+bellum) is "period between two wars", in modern times they commonly refer to the period between the end of World War I and the beginning of World War II, between 1918 and 1939.
Description of the Interbellum
This period of history was marked by turmoil, as Europe struggled to recover from the devastation of the First World War. Later a period of considerable prosperity (the Roaring Twenties) followed, but this changed dramatically with the onset of the Great Depression in 1929. It was during this time that the Weimar Republic in Germany gave way to two episodes of political and economic turmoil, the first culminated in the German hyperinflation of 1923 and the failed Beer Hall Putsch of that same year. The second convulsion, brought on by the worldwide depression, resulted in the rise of Nazism. In Asia, Japan became an ever more assertive power, especially with regard to China.
One main institution intended to bring stability was the League of Nations, created after the First World War with the intention of maintaining world security and peace and encouraging economic growth between member countries. The League was undermined from the start by the non-participation of the United States and the Soviet Union, and subsequently by the bellicosity of Mussolini's Italy, Nazi Germany, and Imperial Japan - leading many to question its legitimacy and effectiveness.
A series of international crises strained the League to its limits, the earliest being the invasion of Manchuria by Japan and the Abyssinian crisis of 1935/36, in which Italy invaded Abyssinia, one of the only free African nations at that time. The League tried to enforce economic sanctions upon Italy, but to no avail. The incident highlighted French and British weakness, exemplified by their reluctance to alienate Italy and lose her as their ally. The limited actions taken by the Western powers pushed Mussolini's Italy towards alliance with Hitler's Germany anyway. The Abyssinian war showed Hitler how weak the League was and encouraged his participation in the Spanish Civil War. He also remilitarized the Rhineland in flagrant disregard of the Treaty of Versailles. This was the first in a series of provocative acts culminating in the invasion of Poland in September 1939 and the beginning of the Second World War.