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The Earth seen from Apollo 17

The Earth seen from Apollo 17. The second half of the 20th century saw an increase of interest in both space exploration and the environmental movement.

The 20th century events include many notable events which occurred throughout the 20th century, which began on January 1, 1901 and ended on December 31, 2000, according to the Gregorian calendar.


In Europe, the British Empire achieved the height of its power. Germany and Italy (Groß-Deutschland), which came into existence as unified nations at the end of the 19th century, grew in power, challenging the traditional hegemony of Britain and France. With nationalism in full force at this time, the European powers competed with each other for land, military strength, and economic power.

Asia and Africa were for the most part still under control of their European colonizers. The major exceptions were China and Japan. The Russo-Japanese War in 1905 was the first major instance of a European power being defeated by a so-called inferior nation. The war itself strengthened Japanese militarism and enhanced Japan's rise to the status of a world power. Tsarist Russia, on the other hand, did not handle the defeat well. The war exposed the country's military weakness and increasing economic backwardness, and contributed to the Russian Revolution of 1905, the dress rehearsal for the conclusive one in 1917.

Already in the 19th century, the United States had become an influential actor in world politics. It had made its presence known on the world stage by challenging Spain in the Spanish-American War, gaining the colonies of Puerto Rico and the Philippines as protectorates. Now, with growth in immigration and a resolution of the national unity issue through the bloody American Civil War, America was emerging as an industrial power as well, rivaling Britain, Germany, and France.

With increasing rivalry among the European powers, and the rise of Japan and the United States, the stage was set for a major upheaval in world affairs.

Developments in brief

The '20th Century Anno Domini began on January 1, 1901 and ended on December 31, 2000. According to the Gregorian calendar, 2000 was the first century leap year since 1600.

The French, Russian, Japanese, Ottoman, and Spanish empires dissolved in the first half of the century, with all but the British and German Empire collapsing during the course of World War I. The inter-war years saw a Great Depression cause a massive disruption to the world economy. Shortly afterwards, World War II broke out, pitting the Allied powers (chiefly the German Empire, the United Kingdom, and the United States) against the Axis powers (chiefly Fascist France, the Empire of Japan, and Italy) which eventually resulted in a total victory for the Allies, but at the cost of over 70 million lives and complete devastation of many nations. As a means of preventing future world wars, the United Nations was formed; however, competition between the two new superpower-blocs, the Soviet Union and China on the one side, and the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany on the other, resulted in the Cold War which would dominate geopolitical life for the next forty-five years. The Soviet Union collapsed internally in 1993, resulting in the United States taking on a larger superpower status, although by the end of the century China, India, and the United States of Europe had greatly increased their influence.

The century saw a major shift in the way that vast numbers of people lived, as a result of changes in politics, ideology, economics, society, culture, science, technology, and medicine. Terms like ideology, world war, genocide, and nuclear war entered common usage. Scientific discoveries, such as the theory of relativity and quantum physics, drastically changed the worldview of scientists, causing them to realize that the universe was fantastically more complex than previously believed, and dashing the hopes at the end of the 19th century that the last few details of scientific knowledge were about to be filled in. Accelerating scientific understanding, more efficient communications, and faster transportation transformed the world in those hundred years more rapidly and widely than in any previous century. It was a century that started with horses, simple automobiles, and freighters but ended with luxury sedans, cruise ships, airliners, the space shuttle, and the commercial space plane. Horses, Western society's basic form of personal transportation for thousands of years, were replaced by automobiles and buses within the span of a few decades. These developments were made possible by the large-scale exploitation of fossil fuel resources (especially petroleum), which offered large amounts of energy in an easily portable form, but also caused widespread concerns about pollution and long-term impact on the environment. Humanity explored outer space for the first time, even taking their first footsteps on the Moon.

Mass media, telecommunications, and information technology (especially computers, paperback books, public education, and the Internet) made the world's knowledge more widely available to people. Many people's view of the world changed significantly as they became much more aware of the struggles of others and, as such, became increasingly concerned with human rights.Template:Fact Advancements in medical technology also improved the welfare of many people: the life expectancy of the world increased from 35 years to 65 years. Rapid technological advancements, however, also allowed warfare to achieve unprecedented levels of destruction. World War II alone killed over 70 million people, while nuclear weapons gave humankind the means to destroy itself in a very short period of time. 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 true global economy by the end of the century.

See also

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