In 1929, the Wall Street Crash plunged the USA into economic depression. The Americans were alarmed, so they called in their loans to other countries and put up customs barriers to stop imports of foreign goods. This created a depression across the rest of the world.
Unemployment in Britain rose to 2.5 million (25 per cent of the workforce) in 1933. Worst hit were the areas of heavy industry (eg coal, iron, steel, shipbuilding) in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the north of England. These industries were already struggling because they had not modernised after the war and had been badly affected by competition from other countries. The Depression meant that now these industries crumbled. For example, when the coal mine, the steel works and Palmer's shipyard closed down in Jarrow in the north-east of England, every single man in the town was made redundant and Jarrow 'died'.
The people of Jarrow organised a march to London - a crusade to seek help from the government, but they were told to go home and work out their own salvation. In fact, evidence suggests that the government did not know how to deal with the Depression - many of the policies it did put into action were either useless, or made matters worse.
In the south-east of England where new light industries such as chemicals, electrical goods and automobiles had been developed, families were affluent. In fact, people with jobs benefited from the Depression because prices fell and they could buy more.