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Urbanisation (The Lost Generation #AtoZChallenge)

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Urbanism characterised the interwar years. Although urbanism had already started in the 1800s, it was only in the interwar years, particularly in the 1920s, that a large part of the population in most Western countries moved to the city, seeking a better life. It was in this environment that the Lost Generation thrived. 

The Great War made the revolution of urbanisation omnipresent. 
Compared to the 1800s, it involved larger parts of the population, bringing change and innovation even in the countryside. 
This doesn’t mean the differences between the city and the countryside no longer exist. In fact, all through the interwar years and after WWII, huge differences in lifestyle and culture still existed between the two environments. Yet, hybridisation had started. Ever more often, city culture and technical innovation reached the countryside, and greater numbers of people left the countryside to seek fortune and a better life in the cities. 

The divide between the city and the countryside

The divide between the countryside and the city wasn’t just spatial. It wasn’t just a matter of moving from one place to another or a difference in lifestyle due to the many opportunities the city offered. 
It was a cultural divide as well, and in this terms, it existed in reality but also in the minds of the people. 

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City

The city was, first of all, the place of all things modern, whether it was electricity and plumbing, cinema, tall skyscrapers, or the new way to organised space in the home. 

But it was also a place of the mind. 
People moved there because they thought they could improve their circumstances; it was a place of opportunity. At the same time, it was a place of alienation—a place of incredible noise, of strengers jummed together. 

The Lost Generation were city animals. The city was a place of fun and rebellion. It was the place where young women could pursue a profession, where they went out all dolled up with shockingly succinct clothes and wearing makeup. It was the place where young people experimented with new forms of socialisation that mixed the genders, like dating.
In this way, cities could be places of great socialisation and great isolation and were, in a way, very similar to the Lost Generation. 

Countryside

It wouldn’t be correct to say that the countryside was untouched by this, but certainly, in the interwar years, the countryside remained a place of traditions that did not easily open up to new things, especially new lifestyles. 

In many places, both in Europe and North America, the countryside remained connected to the life of the previous century throughout the interwar period, though new opportunities, like plumbing and electric light, occasionally emerged. 

But the countryside was more resilient to the new lifestyle and social mores. Nothing that came from the city was ever accepted without criticism and distrust. It is certainly true that a more conservative life and mindset persisted in the countryside. 

The clash between the countryside and the city

These objective differences soon became more metaphysical. 

For many, the countryside became a lost paradise, the last place where a traditional, simpler, more wholesome life was still possible. It was a place where a more sustainable, healthier, more human life still happened. 
In Europe, organisations like the Volkishe Movement in Germany preached the superiority of countryside life to city life and called for a return to that kind of life. Cities, on the other hand, were seen as places of perdition, inhumanity, and even degeneration. 

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Some very big, metropolitan, cosmopolitan cities were even considered realities per se. 
Berlin, for example, which was a relatively young city compared to other European capitals, was often considered something ‘other’ from ‘real Germany’. And it is true that cosmopolitan metropolises like London or Paris had their own personality even compared to the rest of the country. 

Once again, the Lost Generation was torn between these two pulls. 
On the one hand, they certainly thrived in an urban environment and all its opportunities. But they were also sensitive to the lure of an ‘old, simpler world’, where life wasn’t as complicated, and many dreams had not been shuttered yet. 


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