20th century

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20th century
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{{other uses}}{{for|a timeline of 20th-century events|Timeline of the 20th century}}{{more citations needed|date=February 2014}}{{Centurybox|20}}File:The Earth seen from Apollo 17.jpg|thumb|The Blue Marble, Earth as seen from Apollo 17 in December 1972. The second half of the 20th century saw humanity's first space explorationspace explorationThe 20th (twentieth) century was a century that began on January 1, 1901"Twentieth Century's Triumphant Entry". The New York Times. January 1, 1901 and ended on December 31, 2000.WEB,weblink The 21st Century and the 3rd Millennium When Did They Begin?, United States Naval Observatory, 2013-06-07, It was the tenth and final century of the 2nd millennium. It is distinct from the century known as the 1900s which began on January 1, 1900 and ended on December 31, 1999.The 20th century was dominated by a chain of events that heralded significant changes in world history as to redefine the era: flu pandemic, World War I and World War II, nuclear power and space exploration, nationalism and decolonization, the Cold War and post-Cold War conflicts; intergovernmental organizations and cultural homogenization through developments in emerging transportation and communications technology; poverty reduction and world population growth, awareness of environmental degradation, ecological extinction;Wilson, E.O., The Future of Life (2002) ({{ISBN|0-679-76811-4}}). See also: Leakey, Richard, The Sixth Extinction : Patterns of Life and the Future of Humankind, {{ISBN|0-385-46809-1}}WEB,weblink The Sixth Extinction - The Most Recent Extinctions, yes,weblink" title="">weblink 2015-12-18, and the birth of the Digital Revolution. It saw great advances in communication and medical technology that by the late 1980s allowed for near-instantaneous worldwide computer communication and genetic modification of life.Global total fertility rates, sea level rise and ecological collapses increased; the resulting competition for land and dwindling resources accelerated deforestation, water depletion, and the mass extinction of many of the world's species and decline in the population of others; consequences which are now being dealt with. It took over two-hundred thousand years of human history up to 1804 for the world's population to reach 1 billion;WEB,weblink World Population to Hit Milestone With Birth of 7 Billionth Person, PBS NewsHour, 11 February 2018, world population reached an estimated 2 billion in 1927; by late 1999, the global population reached 6 billion.WEB,weblink World population hits 6 billion, 4 March 2004, 11 February 2018, Global literacy averaged 80%; global lifespan-averages exceeded 40+ years for the first time in history, with over half achieving 70+ years (three decades longer than it was a century ago).WEB,weblink Quiz: Population 7 Billion—Could We All Fit in One City?, 30 October 2011, 11 February 2018,


{{see also|Timeline of the 20th century}}File:Arthur Mees Flags of A Free Empire 1910 Cornell CUL PJM 1167 01.jpg|thumb|230px|Map of the British Empire (as of 1910). At its height, it was the largest empire in history.]]The century had the first global-scale total wars between world powers across continents and oceans in World War I and World War II. Nationalism became a major political issue in the world in the 20th century, acknowledged in international law along with the right of nations to self-determination, official decolonization in the mid-century, and related regional conflicts.The century saw a major shift in the way that many people lived, with changes in politics, ideology, economics, society, culture, science, technology, and medicine. The 20th century may have seen more technological and scientific progress than all the other centuries combined since the dawn of civilization. Terms like ideology, world war, genocide, and nuclear war entered common usage. Scientific discoveries, such as the theory of relativity and quantum physics, profoundly changed the foundational models of physical science, forcing scientists to realize that the universe was more complex than previously believed, and dashing the hopes (or fears) at the end of the 19th century that the last few details of scientific knowledge were about to be filled in. It was a century that started with horses, simple automobiles, and freighters but ended with high-speed rail, cruise ships, global commercial air travel and the Space Shuttle. Horses, Western society's basic form of personal transportation for thousands of years, were replaced by automobiles and buses within a few decades. These developments were made possible by the exploitation of fossil fuel resources, which offered energy in an easily portable form, but also caused concern about pollution and long-term impact on the environment. Humans explored space for the first time, taking their first footsteps on the Moon.(File:World_1914_empires_colonies_territory.PNG|thumb|750px|center|{{center|World powers and empires in 1914, just before the First World War}})Mass media, telecommunications, and information technology (especially computers, paperback books, public education, and the Internet) made the world's knowledge more widely available. Advancements in medical technology also improved the health of many people: the global life expectancy increased from 35 years to 65 years. Rapid technological advancements, however, also allowed warfare to reach unprecedented levels of destruction. World War II alone killed over 60 million people, while nuclear weapons gave humankind the means to annihilate itself in a short time. However, these same wars resulted in the destruction of the imperial system. For the first time in human history, empires and their wars of expansion and colonization ceased to be a factor in international affairs, resulting in a far more globalized and cooperative world. The last time major powers clashed openly was in 1945, and since then, violence has seen an unprecedented decline.BOOK, Pinker, Stephen, The Better Angels of Our Nature, 2011, Viking, 978-0-670-02295-3, The Better Angels of Our Nature, The world also became more culturally homogenized than ever with developments in transportation and communications technology, popular music and other influences of Western culture, international corporations, and what was arguably a truly global economy by the end of the 20th century.


Technological advancements during World War I changed the way war was fought, as new inventions such as tanks, chemical weapons, and aircraft modified tactics and strategy. After more than four years of trench warfare in Western Europe, and 20 million dead, the powers that had formed the Triple Entente (France, Britain, and Russia, later replaced by the United States and joined by Italy and Romania) emerged victorious over the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria). In addition to annexing many of the colonial possessions of the vanquished states, the Triple Entente exacted punitive restitution payments from them, plunging Germany in particular into economic depression. The Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires were dismantled at the war's conclusion. The Russian Revolution resulted in the overthrow of the Tsarist regime of Nicholas II and the onset of the Russian Civil War. The victorious Bolsheviks then established the Soviet Union, the world's first communist state.File:Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-020-1268-36, Russland, russischer Gefallener, Panzer BT 7,.jpg|right|240px|thumb|Ukraine, early days of the 1941 Nazi invasion. The Soviet Union lost around 27 million people between 1941 and 1945,Mark Harrison (2002). Accounting for War: Soviet Production, Employment, and the Defence Burden, 1940–1945. Cambridge University Press. p. 167. {{ISBN|0-521-89424-7}} almost half of all World War II deaths.]]At the beginning of the period, the British Empire was the world's most powerful nation,BOOK, Ferguson, Niall, 2004, Empire: The rise and demise of the British world order and the lessons for global power, Basic Books, New York, 0-465-02328-2, having acted as the world's policeman for the past century. Fascism, a movement which grew out of post-war angst and which accelerated during the Great Depression of the 1930s, gained momentum in Italy, Germany, and Spain in the 1920s and 1930s, culminating in World War II, sparked by Nazi Germany's aggressive expansion at the expense of its neighbors. Meanwhile, Japan had rapidly transformed itself into a technologically advanced industrial power and, along with Germany and Italy, formed the Axis powers. Japan's military expansionism in East Asia and the Pacific Ocean brought it into conflict with the United States, culminating in a surprise attack which drew the US into World War II. After some years of dramatic military success, Germany was defeated in 1945, having been invaded by the Soviet Union and Poland from the East and by the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and France from the West. After the victory of the Allies in Europe, the war in Asia ended with the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan by the US, the first nation to develop and use nuclear weapons. In total, World War II left some 60 million people dead. After the war, Germany was occupied and divided between the Western powers and the Soviet Union. East Germany and the rest of Eastern Europe became Soviet puppet states under communist rule. Western Europe was rebuilt with the aid of the American Marshall Plan, resulting in a major post-war economic boom, and many of the affected nations became close allies of the United States.With the Axis defeated and Britain and France rebuilding, the United States and the Soviet Union were left standing as the world's only superpowers. Allies during the war, they soon became hostile to one another as their competing ideologies of communism and democratic capitalism proliferated in Europe, which became divided by the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall. They formed competing military alliances (NATO and the Warsaw Pact) which engaged in a decades-long standoff known as the Cold War. The period was marked by a new arms race as the USSR became the second nation to develop nuclear weapons, which were produced by both sides in sufficient numbers to end most human life on the planet had a large-scale nuclear exchange ever occurred. Mutually assured destruction is credited by many historians as having prevented such an exchange, each side being unable to strike first at the other without ensuring an equally devastating retaliatory strike. Unable to engage one another directly, the conflict played out in a series of proxy wars around the world–particularly in China, Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan–as the USSR sought to export communism while the US attempted to contain it. The technological competition between the two sides led to substantial investment in research and development which produced innovations that reached far beyond the battlefield, such as space exploration and the Internet.File:Albert Einstein Head.jpg|upright|thumb|Albert Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physicsmodern physicsIn the latter half of the century, most of the European-colonized world in Africa and Asia gained independence in a process of decolonization. Meanwhile, globalization opened the door for several nations to exert a strong influence over many world affairs. The US's global military presence spread American culture around the world with the advent of the Hollywood motion picture industry, Broadway, rock and roll, pop music, fast food, big-box stores, and the hip-hop lifestyle. Britain also continued to influence world culture, including the "British Invasion" into American music, leading many rock bands from other countries (such as Swedish ABBA) to sing in English. After the Soviet Union collapsed under internal pressure in 1991, most of the communist governments it had supported around the world were dismantled—with the notable exceptions of China, North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, and Laos—followed by awkward transitions into market economies.Following World War II, the United Nations, successor to the League of Nations, was established as an international forum in which the world's nations could discuss issues diplomatically. It enacted resolutions on such topics as the conduct of warfare, environmental protection, international sovereignty, and human rights. Peacekeeping forces consisting of troops provided by various countries, with various United Nations and other aid agencies, helped to relieve famine, disease, and poverty, and to suppress some local armed conflicts. Europe slowly united, economically and, in some ways, politically, to form the European Union, which consisted of 15 European countries by the end of the 20th century.In the last third of the century, concern about humankind's impact on the Earth's environment made environmentalism popular. In many countries, especially in Europe, the movement was channeled into politics through Green parties. Increasing awareness of global warming began in the 1980s, commencing decades of social and political debate.File:Apple II Plus, Museum of the Moving Image.jpg|thumb|The computercomputer

The nature of innovation and change

Due to continuing industrialization and expanding trade, many significant changes of the century were, directly or indirectly, economic and technological in nature. Inventions such as the light bulb, the automobile, and the telephone in the late 19th century, followed by supertankers, airliners, motorways, radio, television, antibiotics, nuclear power, frozen food, computers and microcomputers, the Internet, and mobile telephones affected people's quality of life across the developed world. Scientific research, engineering professionalization and technological development—much of it motivated by the Cold War arms race—drove changes in everyday life.

Social change

File:Martin_Luther_King_-_March_on_Washington.jpg|thumb|Martin Luther King, Jr., an African American civil rights leader.]]At the beginning of the century, strong discrimination based on race and sex was significant in general society. Although the Atlantic slave trade had ended in the 19th century, the fight for equality for non-white people in the white-dominated societies of North America, Europe, and South Africa continued. During the century, the social taboo of sexism fell. By the end of the 20th century, women had the same legal rights as men in many parts of the world, and racism had come to be seen as abhorrent.Fleegler, Robert L. Theodore G. Bilbo and the Decline of Public Racism, 1938-1947 {{webarchive|url= |date=2009-02-06 }}. Retrieved 23 December 2014 Attitudes towards homosexuality also began to change in the later part of the century.

The world at the end of the 20th century

Communications and information technology, transportation technology, and medical advances had radically altered daily lives. Europe appeared to be at a sustainable peace for the first time in recorded history. The people of the Indian subcontinent, a sixth of the world population at the end of the 20th century, had attained an indigenous independence for the first time in centuries. China, an ancient nation comprising a fifth of the world population, was finally open to the world, creating a new state after the near-complete destruction of the old cultural order. With the end of colonialism and the Cold War, nearly a billion people in Africa were left in new nation states after centuries of foreign domination.The world was undergoing its second major period of globalization; the first, which started in the 18th century, having been terminated by World War I. Since the US was in a dominant position, a major part of the process was Americanization. The influence of China and India was also rising, as the world's largest populations were rapidly integrating with the world economy.Terrorism, dictatorship, and the spread of nuclear weapons were pressing global issues. The world was still blighted by small-scale wars and other violent conflicts, fueled by competition over resources and by ethnic conflicts. Despots such as Kim Jong-il of North Korea continued to lead their nations toward the development of nuclear weapons.Disease threatened to destabilize many regions of the world. New viruses such as SARS and West Nile continued to spread. Malaria and other diseases affected large populations. Millions were infected with HIV, the virus which causes AIDS. The virus was becoming an epidemic in southern Africa.Based on research done by climate scientists, the majority of the scientific community consider that in the long term environmental problems may threaten the planet's habitability.BOOK, Extreme and Irreversible Effects, Sec 19.6.,weblink Ch. 19. Vulnerability to Climate Change and Reasons for Concern: A Synthesis, Smith, J.B., harv, etal, , in {{harvnb|IPCC TAR WG2|2001}} One argument is that of global warming occurring due to human-caused emission of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide produced by the burning of fossil fuels."Total radiative forcing is positive, and has led to an uptake of energy by the climate system. The largest contribution to total radiative forcing is caused by the increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 since 1750." (p 11) "From 1750 to 2011, CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion and cement production have released 375 [345 to 405] GtC to the atmosphere, while deforestation and other land use change are estimated to have released 180 [100 to 260] GtC." (p 10), IPCC, Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis - Summary for Policymakers, Observed Changes in the Climate System, p. 10&11, in {{Harvnb|IPCC AR5 WG1|2013}}. This prompted many nations to negotiate and sign the Kyoto treaty, which set mandatory limits on carbon dioxide emissions.World population increased from about 1.6 billion people in 1901 to 6.1 billion at the century's end.WEB,weblink World Population: Historical Estimates of World Population, United States Census Bureau, December 19, 2013, 2015-01-09, WEB,weblink World Population: Total Midyear Population for the World: 1950-2050, United States Census Bureau, December 19, 2013, 2015-01-09,

Wars and politics

File:Map Europe 1923-en.svg|thumb|right|Map of territorial changes in Europe after World War IWorld War IThe number of people killed during the century by government actions was in the hundreds of millions. This includes deaths caused by wars, genocide, politicide and mass murders. The deaths from acts of war during the two world wars alone have been estimated at between 50 and 80 million{{Citation needed|date=February 2015|reason=also contradicted by figure of 100m by Tilly, below}}. Political scientist Rudolph Rummel estimated 262,000,000 deaths caused by democide, which excludes those killed in war battles, civilians unintentionally killed in war and killings of rioting mobs.Democide See various exclusions According to Charles Tilly, "Altogether, about 100 million people died as a direct result of action by organized military units backed by one government or another over the course of the century. Most likely a comparable number of civilians died of war-induced disease and other indirect effects."Charles Tilly (2003). "The politics of collective violence" Cambridge University Press. p. 55. {{ISBN|0-521-53145-4}}. It is estimated that approximately 70 million Europeans died through war, violence and famine between 1914 and 1945.Gary Rodger Weaver (1998). Culture, Communication, and Conflict. Simon & Schuster. p. 474. {{ISBN|0-536-00373-4}} File:Richard_M._Nixon_and_Leonid_Brezhnev_aboard_the_Sequoia_-_NARA_-_194518.tif|thumb|Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev aboard the USS Sequoia, June 19, 1973]] File:20091002 Hong Kong 6269.jpg|thumb|Hong Kong, under British administration from 1842 to 1997, is one of the original four Asian tigers.]]
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