in what ways was the 1950s a period of political consolidation?
The most significant way the 1950s was a period of political consolidation was in the proliferation of the Cold War. World War II ended with only two nations left standing with economic, industrial and politic influence intact enough to have great international influence. These two “superpowers” were the United States and the Soviet Union (US and USSR). The indirect head-butting between the two was called the Cold War.
Pre-1950s events that encouraged the Cold War include the Yalta Conference in 1945 in which the US and USSR divided up control of Germany and confirmed a European foothold for both nations. In 1949 the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was established to formally announce that the US would not remain passive if the USSR attempted to invade US allies in Western Europe.
In 1950 Senator Joe McCarthy attempted to expose high ranking US government personnel as Communists and, by extension, supporters of the USSR. This scare further established the line between “Us” and “Them.”
The 1950s also saw the Korean War. It was an indirect battle between the US and USSR. On the surface it may look like a civil war between North Korea and South Korea. In actuality it was the US-backed South Koreans vs. the USSR-backed North Koreans.
In 1954 Vietnam also began fighting, North against South. This would eventually also turn into an indirect US vs. USSR war.
The Warsaw Pact was created in 1955. This was, in a broad sense, the USSR and Eastern Europe’s version of NATO.
In 1959 Cuba, only 100 miles from the US coast, fell under Communist rule.
Political consolidation in the 1950s was driven by many nations coming together, such as NATO and the Warsaw Pact, due to having a common adversary. Also, with only one major adversarial nation in the world, the US’s (and USSR’s) efforts became concentrated; consolidated.