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20th Century History Timeline

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    (19th century - 20th century - 21st century - more centuries

    The twentieth century was remarkable due to the technological, medical, social, ideological, and international innovations, and due to the rise of war, genocide, and democide on an unprecedented scale. Virtually every aspect of life in virtually every human society had changed in some fundamental way by the end of the twentieth century. 

    Important developments, events and achievements

    • Science and Technology
      • The assembly line and mass production of motor vehicles and other goods allowed manufacturers to produce more and cheaper products. This allowed the automobile to become the most important mean of transportation.
      • The invention of heavier-than-air flying machines and the jet engine allowed for the world to become "smaller". Space flight increased knowledge of the rest of the universe and allowed for global real-time communications via geosynchronous satellites.
      • Radio, television and later, the computer, especially through the Internet, provided the consumer with many opportunities to obtain news, information and entertainment.
      • The development of Nitrogen fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides resulted in significantly higher agricultural yield.
      • Advances in fundamental physics through the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics lead to the development of nuclear weapons, nuclear energy, and the laser.
      • The big bang model of cosmology was developed.
      • Inventions such as the washing machine and air conditioning led to an increase in both the quantity and quality of leisure time for the middle class in Western societies.
    • Wars and Politics
      • Rising nationalism and increasing national awareness were among the causes of World War I, the first of two wars to involve all the major world powers including Germany, France, Italy, the United States and the British Commonwealth. World War I led to the creation of many new countries, especially in Eastern Europe.
      • The economic and political aftermath of World War I led to the rise of Fascism and Nazism in Europe, and shortly to World War II. This war also involved Asia and the Pacific, in the form of Japanese aggression against China and the United States. While the First World War mainly cost lives among soldiers, civilians suffered greatly in the Second -- from the bombing of cities on both sides,and in the unprecedented German genocide of the Jews and others, known as the Holocaust.
      • Unhappiness in Russia led to the rise of Communism and the Russian Revolution. After the Soviet Union's involvement in World War II, Communism became a major force in global politics, spreading all over the world: notably, to Eastern Europe, China, Indochina and Cuba. This led to the Cold War with the western world, led by the United States.
      • The "fall of Communism" in the late 1980s left the United States as the world's only superpower. It also led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia into successor states, many rife with ethnic nationalism.
      • Through the League of Nations and, after World War II, the United Nations, international cooperation increased. Other efforts included the formation of the European Union, leading to a common currency in much of Western Europe, the euro.
      • The end of colonialism led to the independence of many African and Asian countries. During the Cold War, many of these aligned with the USA, the USSR, or China for defense.
      • The creation of Israel, a Jewish state in a mostly Arab region of the world, fueled many conflicts in the region, which were also influenced by the vast oil fields in many of the Arab countries.
    • Five overall worst attrocities of the 20th century:
      • World War II and regime of Adolph Hitler (1937-1945), over 50 million dead.
      • Regime of Mao Tse-Tung and Chinese famine (1949-1976), over 48 million dead.
      • Regime of Joseph Stalin (1924-1953), over 20 million dead.
      • World War I (1914-1918), over 15 million dead.
      • Russian Civil War (1918-1921), over 8.5 million dead.
    • Culture and Entertainment
      • Movies, music and the media had a major influence on fashion and trends in all aspects of life. As many movies and music originate from the United States, American culture spreads rapidly over the world.
      • After gaining political rights in the United States and much of Europe in the first part of the century, women became more independent throughout the century.
      • Modern art developed new styles such as expressionism, cubism, and surrealism.
      • The automobile provided vastly increased transportation capabilities for the average member of Western societies in the early to mid-century, spreading even further later on. City design throughout most of the West became focused on transport via car. The car became a leading symbol of modern society, with styles of car suited to and symbolic of particular lifestyles.
      • Sports became an important part of society, becoming an activity not only for the privileged. Watching sports, later also on television, became a popular activity.
    • Highest grossing films of the 20th century:
    1. Titanic (1998)
    2. Star Wars (1977)
    3. Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)
    4. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
    5. Jurassic Park (1993)
    • Natural Resources and the Environment
      • The widespread use of petroleum in industry -- both as a chemical precursor to plastics and as a fuel for the automobile and airplane -- led to the vital geopolitical importance of petroleum resources. The Middle East, home to many of the world's oil deposits, became a center of geopolitical and military tension throughout the latter half of the century.
      • A vast increase in fossil fuel consumption leads to depletion of natural resources, while air pollution possibly leads to global warming and the ozone hole. The problem is increased by world-wide deforestation, also causing a loss of biodiversity. The problem is decreased by advances in drilling technology which led to a net increase in the amount of fossil fuel that is readily obtainable at the end of the century, as compared with the amount considered obtainable at the beginning of the century.

    Significant people

    World Leaders


    Aerospace Pioneers

    Military Leaders

    Religious Figures


    Writers and Poets

    Sports Figures

    Notorious Figures

    Decades and Years

    1890s 1890 1891 1892 1893 1894 1895 1896 1897 1898 1899
    1900s 1900 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 1909
    1910s 1910 1911 1912 1913 1914 1915 1916 1917 1918 1919
    1920s 1920 1921 1922 1923 1924 1925 1926 1927 1928 1929
    1930s 1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939
    1940s 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949
    1950s 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959
    1960s 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969
    1970s 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979
    1980s 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989
    1990s 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
    2000s 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
    This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License, which means that you can copy and modify it as long as the entire work (including additions) remains under this license. See for details. It uses material from the Wikipedia article 20th_century

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