Twentieth Century World Slides

20th Century Timelines
Episode Ten: Century of the
Globe (1900-2000)
The Shape of the Twentieth Century
The history of the twentieth century can be
summarized--excessively briefly--in five
First, that the history of the twentieth century was
overwhelmingly economic history.
Second, that the twentieth century saw the
material wealth of humankind explode beyond all
previous imagining.
Third, that because of advances in
technology, productivity, and organization-and the feelings of social dislocation and
disquiet that these advances generated--the
twentieth century’s tyrannies were the most
brutal and barbaric in history.
Fourth, that the twentieth century saw the
relative economic gulf between different
economies grow at a rapid pace.
Fifth and last, that economic policy-the management of their
economies by governments--in the
twentieth century was at best inept.
Little was known or learned about
how to manage a market or a mixed
One Hundred Years Ago
Bob Hope was born (May 1903)
The Wright Brothers Flew (Dec, 1903)
Average Life Expectancy was 47
14% of homes had a bathtub
8% of homes had a telephone
A three minute call from Denver to New York cost 11 dollars
There were 8, 000 cars in the US and only 144 miles of paved roads
The maximum speed in most cities was 10 miles per hour
One hundred Years Ago
Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa and Tennssee were more heavily populated than
California. California, 1.4 million, was only the 21st most populous state in
the Union
Average pay was 300 dollars a year
The highest paid professional was a veterinarian at $4000 dollars a year
95% of all births in the US took place at home
Sugar cost 4 cents a pound. Eggs were 14 cents a dozen. Coffee was 15
cents a pound
Most women only washed their hair once a month and used borax or eggs
yolks to shampoo.
One hundred Years Ago
Canada passes a law prohibiting poor people from entering the country for
any reason.
The five leading causes or death in the US were 1. Pneumonia, 2.
Tuberculosis 3. Diarrhea, 4. Heart disease and 5. Stroke
The American flag has 45 stars. Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Hawaii and
Alaska had not been admitted to the Union.
The population of Las Vegas, Nevada was 30.
Canned beer and iced tea had not been invented.
There were no Mother’s or Father’s Day
One in ten US adults could not read or write.
Only 6% of All Americas had graduated from high school.
One hundred Years Ago
Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at corner
drugstores. According to one pharmacists, “Heroin clears the complexion,
gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and bowels, and is, in
fact, a perfect guardian of health.”
Eighteen percent of households in the US had a least one full-time servant or
There were only 230 reported murders a year in the entire US.
Worldwide cities in the industrial north claimed the top 10 largest cities in the
world. London was the largest at 6.5 million. Population of the world is 1.5
The Larger Twentieth-Century World
The 20th century revealed a world
dominated by Western European
Imperial interests. Events of World War
I, the depression, and World War II told
a long story of how European nationstates in their competitive quest for
alliances, more colonies, and new
markets destroyed what they had gained.
From a global perspective the first half
of the 20th century is a story of how
Western Europe lost its relative position
of global power. The disappearance of
the European dominance in 1945
created a power vacuum. Within two
years the United States and the Soviet
Union replaced the old power structures
as the new super powers. The Cold War
replaced the fiery World War II inferno.
The Lure of the Superpowers
With the demise of western European
imperialism, former colonies, often poorly
prepared to be independent, became new
nation states. Colonial experiences shaped
the transition to independence. Many of the
100+ newly formed nation-states that joined
the United Nations lacked the infrastructure
and political stability necessary for nation
building as they faced severe economic
These new nations were wooed by
competing interests of both the Soviets
and the U.S. Since the immediate task
in the aftermath of World War II was
rebuilding, each side offered foreign
aid and military support as well as
advantageous trade agreements to those
who became allies.
Both sides competed to establish
networks of regional alliances. Many
former colonies, however, refused and
joined a network of non-aligned nations
led by India.
The Cold War
The Iron Curtain divided the communist
East and the capitalist West. The arms
race of the Cold War continued for forty
years. However, both U.S. and Soviet
leadership were challenged by their own
allies. Marshall Tito successfully ended
Soviet influence in Yugoslavia in 1948.
Hungary (1956) and later
Czechslovakia (1968) suffered the
consequences of Soviet invasion
following unsuccessful revolts against
Soviet rule. In Asia competitive
interests along a shared, common
border and the issue of Chinese aid led
to a split between China and the USSR.
Events indicated that not all
communists shared the same interests.
In the West, France withdrew from
NATO, challenging the leadership of the
United States. At times the Cold War
brought the Super Powers into direct
confrontation. The Cuban missile crisis
led the world to the brink of nuclear war.
The weakness of both sides was
demonstrated during the 70's by the
U.S.defeat in Viet Nam and the failure of
the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
In the end, the West out-produced the
East. In 1989 the Berlin Wall was torn
down by East and West Germans as
Communist guards watched. The
Soviet Empire disintegrated two years
later leaving the global stage to the
American military and the global
Technology and Transportation
20th century technologies altered the
lives of ordinary peoples and the
structure of their societies. A person
whose life spanned the greater part of
the 20th century witnessed more
technological change than any other
generation in human history.
Humans were liberated from the efforts
of slow, non-mechanized travel. 20th
Century transportation became
inexpensive, dependable, and fast. The
horse and buggy was replaced by trains,
automobiles, and planes, enabling large
migrations of peoples around the globe
from agricultural regions to urban
centers and to suburban clusters outside
the city cores.
Streetcars and subways and later
complex highway systems allowed
peoples in industrialized societies to
commute long distances to work by
the end of the century.
Urban Migration
These changes were coupled with
environment consequences as valuable
agricultural lands and forest were
cleared for highways. Air pollution in
urban centers increased. Urban
migrations served as a prelude to
international migrations of peoples
seeking work.
They sent money home to their
families, became immigrants in a new
land or simply returned home again.
Turks migrated to Germany, Indians to
South Africa, Chinese to Canada,
Egyptians to the Gulf States and
Mexicans to the United States.
The Communications Revolution
Between 1850 and 1913 world trade
expanded tenfold, aided by the use of
telephones and telegraphs. As the
century ended, world trade had fully
recovered from the devastation of two
world wars and a depression.
Global trade was facilitated by the
computer, the Internet, multinational
corporations, and other parts of a true
communications revolution. The sun
never set on the global exchange nor on
the news. Older forms of communications
technology such as telephones and
telegraphs have were augmented but not
replaced by newer forms of technology.
Newspapers and radios were
supplemented by television. CNN was
the first to establish continual
international reporting around the
globe. Now reports from even the
most remote regions of the planet were
transmitted by cell phone and modem
to be circulated via web sites,
television, radio, newspapers and
The realization that not all peoples share
the same interpretation of events or the
same understanding of the past has led
to the need to understand multiple
perspectives. At the same time, others
recognized the importance of developing
a clear understanding of one's own
history and cultural traditions.
Future Challenges
As we enter the 21st century,
economies in many parts of the world
are booming, yet 20% of the world's
peoples earn less than $500 a year. The
earth's population has grown from 2.50
billion in 1950 to over 6 billion today.
Diseases like small pox have been
eradicated yet the mobility of peoples
traveling the globe increases the
possibility of another pandemic
like the flu outbreak of 1918 or the
spread of a new disease like AIDS. Crop
failure and natural disasters no longer
need to result in famine, provided an
infrastructure exists for the purchase,
delivery, and distribution of food.
The global market seeks new consumer
products and new technologies,
Meeting these demands may have
global consequences such as
deforestation, the extinction of plant
and animals, or global warming.
Religious differences, ethnic cleansing,
competing commercial interests, or
territorial disputes could result in new
Yet within the rich cultural traditions of
our multi-ethnic world, individuals are
seeking solutions to these current
challenges. If there is a legacy from the
20th century, perhaps it is the resilience
of human societies to develop solutions
to global issues using ideas and
technology within their own cultural
Ideas about how something has been
done in one society may prove useful
to the rest of us. Like a mountain
meadow covered with wildflowers of
every color and size, the diversity of
peoples and cultures offers us a vast
array of human experience from which
we can learn lessons of the past and
anticipate the new creativity of the
human mind.
We are free to pick and
choose which ideas and
legacies will enrich our
lives in the 21st century.
Important Dates from the 20th Century
1901 – Marconi sends first tranatlantic
wireless message
1903 – Wright brothers fly
1903 – Panama Canal begun
1908 – Ford Builds the Model T
1914 – World War I begins
1914 – Sanger founds birth control
1917 – Russian Revolution begins,
1928 – Fleming discovers penicillin
1928 – First regular TV broadcast
1929 – Depression moves to the United
1933 – Hitler takes power
1934 – Mao leads Long March to
Chinese revolution
1945 – Atomic bomb dropped on
1947 – Transistors lead way to
computer age.
1947 – India gains independence,
1953 – DNA mapped
1962 – Carson’s Silent Spring
1969 – Armstrong walks on the moon
1989 - the Berlin Wall was torn down
1991 - The Soviet Empire
Twentieth-century science investigated
both the internal world of the mind and
the external world of physics
Twentieth-century world wars,
ideological fanaticism, and
genocide smashed nineteenth-century
optimism and belief in human progress.
Population increases, faster and
cheaper modes of transportation, and
the end of European empires led to
mass population movements in the
twentieth century.
In many ways, the twentieth century
belongs to America. Americans
developed, exploited, and marketed
worldwide new technologies like the
automobile, telephone, television, and
The post-World War II economic boom
affected Asia as well as Europe and
America. With the help of American aid,
Japan rebuilt and began to challenge the
American export market in the field of
cars and electronics. The economies of
other Asian "dragons" like Singapore,
Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea
also grew at extraordinary rates.
Web Links
People – 20th Century
Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955
He bumped Newton from the pinnacle
of physics and painted a fantastic new
picture of our universe. In the process,
Albert Einstein changed the political
and scientific balance of power in our
century and for the foreseeable future.
Henry Ford 1863 – 1947
His revolutionary assembly line enabled
him to sell his cars at a price the average
American family could afford, and to
double his workers' wages while cutting
hours. What had been a toy of the rich
became a necessity of life, spawning gas
stations, superhighways and traffic jams
around the world.
Sigmund Freud 1856 – 1939
Freud's emphasis on the power of the
unconscious to influence behavior
broadened our view of human nature
and sexuality and gave rise to the age
of self-examination.
Mohandas Gandhi 1869 – 1948,
Gandhi's powerful strategy, called
satyagraha, involved nonviolent
noncooperation, boycotts of all things
British, civil disobedience, marches
and fasts. His methods use for Indian
independence have been adopted by
protest movements throughout the
Adolf Hitler 1889 – 1945
Along with his mastery of propaganda, his
ideology of racial purity and his ruthless
political skills, Hitler possessed a diabolical
personal magnetism. By the time Hitler was
defeated in 1945, as many as 77 million
people had died, leaving him responsible for
more death than any other man in the history
of the world.
Edwin Hubble 1889 – 1953
His 1924 discovery that the
Andromeda nebula is located beyond
the known boundaries of the Milky
Way forced other astronomers to
revise their thinking: The existence of
multiple galaxies meant the universe
was far larger than imagined.
Helen Keller 1880 – 1968
An illness when she was 19 months old
left her deaf, blind and mute. With the
help of a teacher named Anne Sullivan -"the miracle worker" -- Helen Keller
learned to understand language, read,
write, hear, and speak. She remains
proof that disability does not mean
Martin Luther King 1929 – 1968
Martin Luther King Jr.'s crusade for equality
started with a protest of the bus system in
Montgomery, Ala., in 1955, and peaked in the
nation's capital. King won the Nobel Peace
Prize in 1964, and in 1986 became only the
third American whose birthday is observed as
a national holiday. His call to "let freedom
ring" still resonates.
Vladimir Lenin 1870 – 1924
He led the October 1917 revolution that
delivered Russia to the Bolsheviks and
started the worldwide spread of the
Soviet-style communism. A fighter against
czarist injustice he laid the foundation for
decades of totalitarianism.
Nelson Mandela 1918 –
He roused South Africa's black majority
– and sympathizers abroad -- to rebel
against the system of racial tyranny
known as apartheid. Nelson Mandela's
courage and resolve earned him a Nobel
Peace Prize, the presidency of his
country and the admiration of millions
around the world.
Mao Zedong 1893 – 1976
His Long March lead the Red Army,
from resistance against the Japanese to
defeat of the Nationalists and the rise, in
1949, of the People's Republic. A
brilliant warrior, Mao was a despotic
dictator. Mao cast a giant shadow on the
world, and a darker one on his own
Guglielmo Marconi 1874 – 1937,
Guglielmo Marconi's transmission of a
signal – the Morse Code letter S -across the Atlantic in 1901 was a
worldwide sensation. It opened the
airwaves for today's complex network
of global communications.
Kwame Nkrumah 1909 – 1972
His radical push for Ghanaian selfgovernance in the 1950s triggered
decolonization throughout the African
continent, which led to the end of
European domination.
Orville (1871 – 1948) and Wilbur
(1867 – 1912) Wright
In 1903, Orville and Wilbur succeeded
in flying the first powered airplane.
Flight time: 12 seconds. Mankind's
view of the world -- and of its own
power -- had changed forever.
How the World Has Changed – World’s 5
Largest Urban Areas (million population)
Kaifeng (China)
Constantinople (Istanbul)
How the World Has Changed – World’s 5
Largest Urban Areas (million population)
Peking (Beijing)
Edo (Tokyo)
Constantinople (Istanbul)
How the World Has Changed – World’s 5
Largest Urban Areas (million population)
New York
How the World Has Changed – World’s 5
Largest Urban Areas (million population)
Sao Paulo
Mexico City
New York
Mumbai (Bombay)