(It's difficult to introduce certain subjects about this century without injecting my own viewpoints on them. If my choice of words offends you, maybe we can work out a different wording. Then again, I will not change some of my statements.)

More people have lived and died in the Twentieth Century than in all of previous human existence combined.   Consequently, more history has been generated during this period than in any previous period you care to name.  It's very difficult to summarize this in one writeup.

If there is one common thread running through the history of the Twentieth Century, it is


with a heaping side order of

Becoming the thing you hate.

The dizzying progress of technological advancement has allowed more people to live their lives with some measure of happiness than before; technology may be rewriting the assumptions of Thomas Malthus but that may also be self-delusion as the world's population continues to grow at an exponential rate.

Sadly, this century is also filled with more unspeakable crimes, hatred, brutality, and tragedy than any previous period.  This is a considerable statement considering what happened during the centuries immediately before this, but most of the sins of the world were committed in the Twentieth Century.

Beyond the banal causes of horror prevalent in previous times, the Twentieth Century was dominated by people killing for ideas.  Of course, ideologies often being just window dressing for "you have something I want", people all too often talked past each other and trivialized, were deaf to, or otherwise failed to address their opponents' viewpoints.

The double-edged sword of nationalism (with its sister ideologies, jingoism and racism) was a constant throughout the century.  It was the engine for many of the Twentieth Century's achievements, but also much of the Twentieth Century's misery.  The end of colonialism checked the arrogance of many Western countries; oppressed peoples all over the world refused to take the lot in life handed to them; nationalist movements created many new sovereign states which allowed a few more people to take control over their own lives, for a while at least.  Unfortunately, former oppressors frequently viewed the loss of their ability to bully as "oppression" and justified reaction and renewed brutality this way. Not only that, many formerly oppressed peoples fail to learn the lessons of their oppression, and they identify the wrong people as the oppressors, or even turn into oppressors themselves. Thwarted nationalism led to terrorism, a cycle of revenge and reprisal, and a self-induced mental slavery that is difficult, if not impossible, to throw off.   The Olympic movement was once based upon a great ideal for realizing the worth of everyone regardless of nationality, but is now a cesspit of jingoism.

Fortunately, a few people have embraced ideas that value the worth of every human being. Will enough people do that?

  • Western Civilization tore itself apart; The Great Game stopped being a game and descended into the horror of World War I.
  • As if not enough blood had already been shed, unresolved issues and lessons not learned from World War I blew up into the even greater horror of World War II. This war was occasioned by the spread of fascism through several Western countries, with the tacit approval of industrialists and politicians in those countires and others. By far, the most destructive, evil fascist movement was the National Socialist Party in Germany, led by Adolf Hitler. The Nazis committed the single greatest crime of the century, The Holocaust.
  • The Cold War developed as competing power blocs (NATO and the Warsaw Pact) eyed each other warily from other sides of the globe; they jockeyed for position (without regard to the untold death and misery their moves cause) until one side collapsed from exhaustion.
  • Much discarding of monarchy and other trappings of feudalism, replaced with democracy for some and totalitarianism for others.
  • For a while, the laissez-faire capitalism monster was put in check as the laws of supply and demand began to favor people exploited for their labor. Some organized themselves into unions and were able to realize a bit more of the value of their toil.  Some took this too far; while attempting to rewrite the social contract they created the monster called Communism.
  • The wanton extraction of natural resources prevalent in the Nineteenth Century rose to a fever pitch, but people also began to realize that this was not sustainable, that it destroyed much of what is good about life.  The environmental movement was born. So were other ideologies, masquerading as "environmentalism", that were more about the unfulfilled desires of their adherents than the preservation of the quality of life on Earth.

Here is a convenient index for any nodes about individual years of the twentieth century.  People who want to fill in content behind the links might follow this link for suggestions on how to proceed.

The 1900-oughts

1900 - 1901 - 1902 - 1903 - 1904 - 1905 - 1906 - 1907 - 1908 - 1909

The 1910s

1910 - 1911 - 1912 - 1913 - 1914 - 1915 - 1916 - 1917 - 1918 - 1919

The 1920s

1920 - 1921 - 1922 - 1923 - 1924 - 1925 - 1926 - 1927 - 1928 - 1929

The 1930s

1930 - 1931 - 1932 - 1933 - 1934 - 1935 - 1936 - 1937 - 1938 - 1939

The 1940s

1940 - 1941 - 1942 - 1943 - 1944 - 1945 - 1946 - 1947 - 1948 - 1949

The 1950s

1950 - 1951 - 1952 - 1953 - 1954 - 1955 - 1956 - 1957 - 1958 - 1959

The 1960s

1960 - 1961 - 1962 - 1963 - 1964 - 1965 - 1966 - 1967 - 1968 - 1969

The 1970s

1970 - 1971 - 1972 - 1973 - 1974 - 1975 - 1976 - 1977 - 1978 - 1979

The 1980s

1980 - 1981 - 1982 - 1983 - 1984 - 1985 - 1986 - 1987 - 1988 - 1989

The 1990s

1990 - 1991 - 1992 - 1993 - 1994 - 1995 - 1996 - 1997 - 1998 - 1999


19th Century - 20th Century - 21st Century

You will notice that I have included the year 1900 in the twentieth century, as I have little patience for pedantic statements about a year-counting system which missed the event it supposedly starts from by six or seven years.  Although I expressed a willingness to be invited to millennium parties, no-one obliged. But if you insist, here's a link to 2000.

My attempt to write about 100 years in 100 words:

The century started with rivalries in Europe, leading to the First World War. The instability that resulted led to dictatorships and communism in some countries, while others evolved into welfare states. A second and deadlier war occured. America and the Soviet Union emerged as the dominant and opposing victors, while Europe lost its colonies and influence. New technologies reduced the cost of consumer goods, quickened global communication, transformed demographic structures and made societies more technocratic. Information spread faster, forcing governments to be more accountable. Capitalism and globalisation helped Asia grow and accelerated communism’s demise, but Africa and Latin America waned.

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