Modern history, or the modern era, describes the historical timeline after the Middle Ages. Modern history can be further broken down into the early modern period and the late modern period. Contemporary history describes the span of historic events that are immediately relevant to the present time.
The beginning of the modern era started approximately in the 1500s. Many major events caused the Western world to change around the turn of the 16th century, starting with the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, the fall of Muslim Spain and the discovery of the Americas in 1492, and Martin Luther's Protestant Reformation in 1517. In England the modern period is often dated to the start of the Tudor period with the victory of Henry VII over Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Early modern European history is usually seen to span from the turn of the 15th century, through the Age of Reason and Age of Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries, until the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century.
The fundamental difficulty of studying modern history is the fact that a plethora of it has been documented up to the present day. It is imperative to consider the reliability of the information obtained from these records.
In a historical context, Pre-Modern is the period in Western civilization that came after Ancient history and before Modernity. It is usually recognized to have begun in the mid-1400s, marked by the invention of the printing press and the introduction of movable type in Europe. Pre-Modern ideas are thought to have begun in the Dark Ages around 500 AD.
In the Pre-Modern era, a person's sense of self and purpose was expressed via a faith in some form of deity, be that in a single god or in many gods. Religious officials, who often held positions of power, were the spiritual intermediaries to the common person. It was only through these intermediaries that the general masses had access to the divine. Tradition was seen as sacred and unchanging & the social order was strictly enforced.
In contrast to the pre-modern era, Western civilization made a gradual transition from premodernity to modernity when scientific methods were developed which led many to believe that the use of science would lead to all knowledge, thus throwing back the shroud of myth under which pre-modern peoples lived. New information about the world was discovered via empirical observation.
The term "modern" was coined shortly before 1585 to describe the beginning of a new era. The European Renaissance (about 1420–1630) is an important transition period beginning between the Late Middle Ages and Early Modern Times, which started in Italy.
The term "Early Modern" was introduced in the English language in the 1930s. to distinguish the time between what we call Middle Ages and time of the late Enlightenment (1800) (when the meaning of the term Modern Ages was developing its contemporary form). It is important to note that these terms stem from European History. In usage in other parts of the world, such as in Asia, and in Muslim countries, the terms are applied in a very different way, but often in the context with their contact with European culture in the Age of Discoveries.
"Postmodernism", coined 1949, on the other hand, would describe rather a movement in art than a period of history, and is usually applied to arts, but not to any events of the very recent history. This changed, when postmodernity was coined to describe the major changes in the 1950s and 1960s in economy, society, culture, and philosophy. Sometimes distinct from the modern periods themselves, the terms "modernity" and "modernism" refer to a new way of thinking, distinct from medieval thinking. "Contemporary" is applied to more recent events because it means "belonging to the same period" and "current".
The modern period has been a period of significant development in the fields of science, politics, warfare, and technology. It has also been an age of discovery and globalization. During this time that the European powers and later their colonies, began a political, economic, and cultural colonization of the rest of the world.
By the late 19th and early 20th century, modernist art, politics, science and culture has come to dominate not only Western Europe and North America, but almost every civilized area on the globe, including movements thought of as opposed to the west and globalization. The modern era is closely associated with the development of individualism, capitalism, urbanization and a belief in the positive possibilities of technological and political progress.
The brutal wars and other problems of this era, many of which come from the effects of rapid change, and the connected loss of strength of traditional religious and ethical norms, have led to many reactions against modern development. Optimism and belief in constant progress has been most recently criticized by postmodernism while the dominance of Western Europe and North America over other continents has been criticized by postcolonial theory.
One common use of the term is to describ the condition of Western history since the mid-1400s, or roughly the European development of moveable type and the printing press. In this context the "modern" society is said to develop over many periods, and to be influenced by important events which represent breaks in the continuity.
The modern era includes the early period, sometimes called the early modern period, which lasted from c. AD 1500 to around c. AD 1800 (most often 1815). Particular facets of early modernity include:
Important events in the development of early modernity period include:
Modern Age characteristics
The concept of the modern world as distinct from an ancient or medieval world rests on a sense that the modern world is not just another era in history, but rather the result of a new type of change. This is usually conceived of as progress driven by deliberate human efforts to better their situation.
Advances in all areas of human activity—politics, industry, society, economics, commerce, transport, communication, mechanization, automation, science, medicine, technology, and culture—appear to have transformed an Old World into the Modern or New World. In each case, the identification of the old Revolutionary change can be used to demarcate the old and old-fashioned from the modern.
Portions of the Modern world altered its relationship with the Biblical value system, revalued the monarchical government system, and abolished the feudal economic system, with new democratic and liberal ideas in the areas of politics, science, psychology, sociology, and economics.
This combination of epoch events totally changed thinking and thought in the late modern period, and so their dates serve as well as any to separate the old from the new modes. Particular ways to categorize late modernity include:
As an Age of Revolutions dawned, beginning with those revolts in America and France, political changes were then pushed forward in other countries partly as a result of upheavals of the Napoleonic Wars and their impact on thought and thinking, from concepts from nationalism to organizing armies. The early period ended in a time of political and economic change as a result of the Industrial Revolution, the American Revolution, the first French Revolution; other factors included the redrawing of the map of Europe by the Final Act of the Congress of Vienna and the peace established by Second Treaty of Paris which ended the Napoleonic Wars. The Modernism worldview's emergence and the industrialization of many nations was initiated with the industrialization of Britain. Particular facets of the late modernity period include:
Other important events in the development of the late modern period include:
Our most recent era — Modern Times — begins with the end of these revolutions in the 19th century, and includes the World Wars era (encompassing World War I and World War II) and the emergence of socialist countries that lead to the Cold War. The contemporary era follows shortly afterward with the explosion of research and increase of knowledge known as the Information Age in the latter 20th century and 21st century. Today's Postmodern era is seen in widespread Digitality.
Some events, though born out of context not entirely new, show a new way of perceiving the world. The concept of modernity interprets the general meaning of these events and seeks explanations for major developments. Historians analyze the events taking place in Modern Times, since the Middle Ages between the present and ancient times.
The early modern period is a term used by historians to refer to the period from approximately 1500 AD to 1800 AD. follows the Late Middle Ages period, and is marked by the first European colonies, the rise of strong centralized governments, and the beginnings of recognizable nation states that are the direct antecedents of today's states.
In Africa and the Ottoman Empire, the Muslim expansion took place in North and East Africa. In West Africa, various native nations existed. The Indian Empires and civilizations of Southeast Asia were a vital link in the spice trade. On the Indian subcontinent, the Great Mughal Empire existed. The archipelagic empires, the Sultanate of Malacca and later the Sultanate of Johor, controlled the southern areas.
Concerning the Asian dynasties and politics, various Chinese dynasties and Japanese shogunates controlled the Asian sphere. In Japan, the Edo period from 1600 to 1868 is also sometimes referred to as the early modern period. And in Korea, from the rising of Joseon Dynasty to the enthronement of King Gojong is referred to as the early modern period. In the Americas, Native Americans had built a large and varied civilization, including the Aztec Empire and alliance, the Inca civilization, the Mayan Empire and cities, and the Chibcha Confederation. In the west, the European kingdoms and movements were in a movement of reformation and expansion.
Later religious trends of the period saw the end of the expansion of Muslims and the Muslim world. Christians and Christendom saw the end of the Crusades and end of religious unity under the Roman Catholic Church. It was during this time that the Inquisitions and Protestant reformations took place.
During the early modern period, an age of discovery and trade was undertaken by the European nations. European powers went on a colonial expansion and took possession throughout the world. There was a conquest of the Americas and exploitation of its resources. Various European powers set up colonies in North America and Latin America.
Toward the end of the early period, Europe was dominated by the evolving system of mercantile capitalism in its trade and the New Economy. European states and politics had the characteristic of Absolutism. The French power and English revolutions dominated the political scene. There eventually evolved an international balance of power that held sway a great conflagration till years later.
The end date of the early modern period is usually associated with the Industrial Revolution, which began in Britain in about 1750. Another significant date is 1789, the beginning of the French Revolution, which drastically transformed the state of European politics and ushered in the Prince Edward Era and modern Europe.
|Human history and prehistory
|↑ before Homo (Pliocene)|
|see also: Modernity, Futurology|
Traditionally, the European intellectual transformation of and after the Renaissance bridged the Middle Ages and the Modern era. The Age of Reason in the Western world is generally regarded as being the start of modern philosophy, and a departure from the medieval approach, especially Scholasticism. Early 17th century philosophy is often called the Age of Rationalism and is considered to succeed Renaissance philosophy and precede the Age of Enlightenment, but some consider it as the earliest part of the Enlightenment era in philosophy, extending that era to two centuries. The 18th century saw the beginning of secularization in Europe, rising to notability in the wake of the French Revolution.
The Age of Enlightenment is a term used to describe a time in Western philosophy and cultural life centered upon the eighteenth century, in which reason was advocated as the primary source and legitimacy for authority. Developing more or less simultaneously in many parts of Europe and America. Developing during the Enlightenment era, Renaissance humanism was an intellectual movement spread across Europe. The basic training of the humanist was to speak well and write (typically, in the form of a letter). The term umanista comes from the latter part of the 15th century. The people were associated with the studia humanitatis, a novel curriculum that was competing with the quadrivium and scholastic logic.
Renaissance humanism took a close study of the Latin and Greek classical texts, and was antagonistic to the values of scholasticism with its emphasis on the accumulated commentaries; and humanists were involved in the sciences, philosophies, arts and poetry of classical antiquity. They self-consciously imitated classical Latin and deprecated the use of medieval Latin. By analogy with the perceived decline of Latin, they applied the principle of ad fontes, or back to the sources, across broad areas of learning.
The quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns was a literary and artistic quarrel that heated up in the early 1690s and shook the Académie française. It opposed two sides, the Ancients (Anciens) who constrain choice of subjects to those drawn from the literature of Antiquity and the Moderns (Modernes), who supported the merits of the authors of the century of Louis XIV. Fontenelle quickly followed with his Digression sur les anciens et les modernes (1688), in which he took the Modern side, pressing the argument that modern scholarship allowed modern man to surpass the ancients in knowledge.
The Scientific Revolution was a period when European ideas in classical physics, astronomy, biology, human anatomy, chemistry, and other classical sciences were rejected and led to doctrines supplanting those that had prevailed from Ancient Greece to the Middle Ages which would lead to a transition to modern science. This period saw a fundamental transformation in scientific ideas across physics, astronomy, and biology, in institutions supporting scientific investigation, and in the more widely held picture of the universe. Individuals started to question all manners of things and it was this questioning that led to the Scientific Revolution, which in turn formed the foundations of contemporary sciences and the establishment of several modern scientific fields.
The French and Indian Wars were a series of conflicts in North America that represented the actions there that accompanied the European dynastic wars. In Quebec, the wars are generally referred to as the Intercolonial Wars. While some conflicts involved Spanish and Dutch forces, all pitted Great Britain, its colonies and American Indian allies on one side and France, its colonies and Indian allies on the other.
The expanding French and British colonies were contending for control of the western, or interior, territories. Whenever the European countries went to war, there were actions within and by these colonies although the dates of the conflict did not necessarily exactly coincide with those of the larger conflicts.
Beginning in the Age of Revolution, the American Revolution and the ensuing political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century saw the Thirteen Colonies of North America overthrow the governance of the Parliament of Great Britain, and then reject the British monarchy itself to become the sovereign United States of America. In this period the colonies first rejected the authority of the Parliament to govern them without representation, and formed self-governing independent states. The Second Continental Congress then joined together against the British to defend that self-governance in the armed conflict from 1775 to 1783 known as the American Revolutionary War (also called American War of Independence).
The American Revolution begun with fighting at Lexington and Concord. On July 4, 1776, they issued the Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed their independence from Great Britain and their formation of a cooperative union. In June, 1776, Benjamin Franklin was appointed a member of the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence. Although he was temporarily disabled by gout and unable to attend most meetings of the Committee, Franklin made several small changes to the draft sent to him by Thomas Jefferson.
The rebellious states defeated Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War, the first successful colonial war of independence. While the states had already rejected the governance of Parliament, through the Declaration the new United States now rejected the legitimacy of the monarchy to demand allegiance. The war raged for seven years, with effective American victory, followed by formal British abandonment of any claims to the United States with the Treaty of Paris.
The Philadelphia Convention set up the current United States; the United States Constitution ratification the following year made the states part of a single republic with a strong central government. The Bill of Rights, comprising ten constitutional amendments guaranteeing many fundamental civil rights and freedoms, was ratified in 1791.
Toward the middle and latter stages of the Age of Revolution, the French political and social revolutions and radical change saw the French governmental structure, previously an absolute monarchy with feudal privileges for the aristocracy and Catholic clergy transform, change to forms based on Enlightenment principles of citizenship and inalienable rights. The first revolution was the National Assembly, the second was the Legislative Assembly, and the third was the Directory.
The changes were accompanied by violent turmoil which included the trial and execution of the king, vast bloodshed and repression during the Reign of Terror, and warfare involving every other major European power. Subsequent events that can be traced to the Revolution include the Napoleonic Wars, two separate restorations of the monarchy, and two additional revolutions as modern France took shape. In the following century, France would be governed at one point or another as a republic, constitutional monarchy, and two different empires.
During the French Revolution, the National Assembly, which existed from June 17 to July 9 of 1789, was a transitional body between the Estates-General and the National Constituent Assembly.
The Legislative Assembly was the legislature of France from October 1, 1791 to September 1792. It provided the focus of political debate and revolutionary law-making between the periods of the National Constituent Assembly and of the National Convention.
The Executive Directory was a body of five Directors that held executive power in France following the Convention and preceding the Consulate. The period of this regime (2 November 1795 until 10 November 1799), commonly known as the Directory (or Directoire) era, constitutes the second to last stage of the French Revolution.
The Napoleonic Era is a period in the History of France and Europe. It is generally classified as the fourth stage of the French Revolution. The Napoleonic Era begins roughly with Napoleon's coup d'état, overthrowing the Directory and ends at the Hundred Days and his defeat at Waterloo (November 9, 1799 – June 28, 1815). The congress of Vienna soon set out to restore Europe to pre-French revolution days.
Italian unification was the political and social movement that annexed different states of the Italian peninsula into the single state of Italy in the 19th century. There is a lack of consensus on the exact dates for the beginning and the end of this period, but many scholars agree that the process began with the end of Napoleonic rule and the Congress of Vienna in 1815, and approximately ended with the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, though the last città irredente did not join the Kingdom of Italy until after World War I.
The date of the Industrial Revolution is not exact. Eric Hobsbawm held that it 'broke out' in the 1780s and wasn't fully felt until the 1830s or 1840s, while T.S. Ashton held that it occurred roughly between 1760 and 1830 (in effect the reigns of George III, The Regency, and George IV). The great changes of centuries before the 19th were more connected with ideas, religion or military conquest, and technological advance had only made small changes in the material wealth of ordinary people.
The first Industrial Revolution merged into the Second Industrial Revolution around 1850, when technological and economic progress gained momentum with the development of steam-powered ships and railways, and later in the nineteenth century with the internal combustion engine and electric power generation. The Second Industrial Revolution was a phase of the Industrial Revolution; sometimes labeled as the separate Technical Revolution. From a technological and a social point of view there is no clean break between the two. Major innovations during the period occurred in the chemical, electrical, petroleum, and steel industries. Specific advancements included the introduction of oil fired steam turbine and internal combustion driven steel ships, the development of the airplane, the practical commercialization of the automobile, mass production of consumer goods, the perfection of canning, mechanical refrigeration and other food preservation techniques, and the invention of the telephone.
Industrialization is the process of social and economic change whereby a human group is transformed from a pre-industrial society into an industrial one. It is a subdivision of a more general modernization process, where social change and economic development are closely related with technological innovation, particularly with the development of large-scale energy and metallurgy production. It is the extensive organization of an economy for the purpose of manufacturing. Industrialization also introduces a form of philosophical change, where people obtain a different attitude towards their perception of nature.
An economy based on manual labour was replaced by one dominated by industry and the manufacture of machinery. It began with the mechanization of the textile industries and the development of iron-making techniques, and trade expansion was enabled by the introduction of canals, improved roads, and then railways.
The introduction of steam power (fuelled primarily by coal) and powered machinery (mainly in textile manufacturing) underpinned the dramatic increases in production capacity. The development of all-metal machine tools in the first two decades of the 19th century facilitated the manufacture of more production machines for manufacturing in other industries.
The modern petroleum industry started in 1846 with the discovery of the process of refining kerosene from coal by Nova Scotian Abraham Pineo Gesner. Ignacy Łukasiewicz improved Gesner's method to develop a means of refining kerosene from the more readily available "rock oil" ("petr-oleum") seeps in 1852 and the first rock oil mine was built in Bóbrka, near Krosno in Galicia in the following year. In 1854, Benjamin Silliman, a science professor at Yale University in New Haven, was the first to fractionate petroleum by distillation. These discoveries rapidly spread around the world.
Engineering achievements of the revolution ranged from electrification to developments in materials science. The advancements made a great contribution to the quality of life. In the first revolution, Lewis Paul was the original inventor of roller spinning, the basis of the water frame for spinning cotton in a cotton mill. Matthew Boulton and James Watt's improvements to the steam engine were fundamental to the changes brought by the Industrial Revolution in both the Kingdom of Great Britain and the world.
In the latter part of the second revolution, Thomas Alva Edison developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world and is often credited with the creation of the first industrial research laboratory. In 1882, Edison switched on the world's first large-scale electrical supply network that provided 110 volts direct current to fifty-nine customers in lower Manhattan. Also toward the end of the second industrial revolution, Nikola Tesla made many contributions in the field of electricity and magnetism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Much of Tesla's early work in electrical engineering and many of his discoveries were of importance. Tesla's patents and theoretical work formed the basis of modern alternating current electric power systems, including the polyphase systems power distribution and the alternating current motor, with which he helped usher in the Second Industrial Revolution. In 1887, Tesla filed a number of patents related to a competing form of power distribution known as alternating current. In the following years a bitter rivalry between Tesla and Edison, known as the "War of Currents", took place over the preferred method of distribution. After Tesla's demonstration of wireless communication (radio) in 1894 and after being the victor in the "War of Currents", he was widely respected as one of the greatest electrical engineers who worked in America.
The Industrial Revolutions were major technological, socioeconomic, and cultural changes in late 18th and early 19th century that began in Britain and spread throughout the world. The effects spread throughout Western Europe and North America during the 19th century, eventually affecting the majority of the world. The impact of this change on society was enormous and is often compared to the Neolithic revolution, when mankind developed agriculture and gave up its nomadic lifestyle. It has been argued that GDP per capita was much more stable and progressed at a much slower rate until the industrial revolution and the emergence of the modern capitalist economy, and that it has since increased rapidly in capitalist countries.
The European Revolutions of 1848, known in some countries as the Spring of Nations or the Year of Revolution, were a series of political upheavals throughout the European continent. Described by some historians as a revolutionary wave, the period of unrest began in France and then, further propelled by the French Revolution of 1848, soon spread to the rest of Europe. Although most of the revolutions were quickly put down, there was a significant amount of violence in many areas, with tens of thousands of people tortured and killed. While the immediate political effects of the revolutions were reversed, the long-term reverberations of the events were far-reaching.
Industrial age reform movements began the gradual change of society rather with episodes of rapid fundamental changes. The reformists' ideas were often grounded in liberalism, although they also possessed aspects of utopian, socialist or religious concepts. The Radical movement campaigned for electoral reform, a reform of the Poor Laws, free trade, educational reform, postal reform, prison reform, and public sanitation.
Following the Enlightenment's ideas, the reformers looked to the Scientific Revolution and industrial progress to solve the social problems which arose with the Industrial Revolution. Newton's natural philosophy combined a mathematics of axiomatic proof with the mechanics of physical observation, yielding a coherent system of verifiable predictions and replacing a previous reliance on revelation and inspired truth. Applied to public life, this approach yielded several successful campaigns for changes in social policy.
Historians sometimes define the nineteenth century historical era stretching from 1815 (the Congress of Vienna) to 1914 (the outbreak of the First World War); alternatively, Eric Hobsbawm defined the "Long Nineteenth Century" as spanning the years 1789 to 1914. During this time, the fall of the Spanish Armada enabled the rise of the British Empire.
During the 19th century, the Spanish, Portuguese, and Ottoman empires began to crumble and the Holy Roman and Mughal empires ceased. Following the Napoleonic Wars, the British Empire became the world's leading power, controlling one quarter of the World's population and one third of the land area. It enforced a Pax Britannica, encouraged trade, and battled rampant piracy.
Electricity, steel, and petroleum enabled Germany to become great international power that raced to create empires of its own. The Meiji Restoration was a chain of events that led to enormous changes in Japan's political and social structure that was taking a firm hold at the beginning of the Meiji Era which coincided the opening of Japan by the arrival of the Black Ships of Commodore Matthew Perry and made Imperial Japan a great power. However, Russia and Qing Dynasty China failed to keep pace with the other world powers which led to massive social unrest in both empires. The Qing Dynasty's military power weakened during the 1800s, and faced with international pressure, massive rebellions and defeats in wars, the dynasty declined after the mid-19th century.
The Victorian era of the United Kingdom was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from June 1837 to January 1901. This was a long period of prosperity for the British people, as profits gained from the overseas British Empire, as well as from industrial improvements at home, allowed a large, educated middle class to develop. Some scholars would extend the beginning of the period—as defined by a variety of sensibilities and political games that have come to be associated with the Victorians—back five years to the passage of the Reform Act 1832.
Between 1815 and 1914, a period referred to as Britain's "imperial century" by some historians, around 10,000,000 square miles (25,899,881 km2) of territory and roughly 400 million people were added to the British Empire. Victory over Napoleon left Britain without any serious international rival, other than Russia in central Asia. Unchallenged at sea, Britain adopted the role of global policeman, a state of affairs later known as the Pax Britannica, and a foreign policy of "splendid isolation".
Alongside the formal control it exerted over its own colonies, Britain's dominant position in world trade meant that it effectively controlled the economies of many nominally independent countries, such as China, Argentina and Siam, which has been characterised by some historians as "informal empire". Of note during this time was the Anglo-Zulu War, which was fought in 1879 between the British Empire and the Zulu Empire.
British imperial strength was underpinned by the steamship and the telegraph, new technologies invented in the second half of the 19th century, allowing it to control and defend the Empire. By 1902, the British Empire was linked together by a network of telegraph cables, the so-called All Red Line.
The Bourbon Restoration followed the ousting of Napoleon I of France in 1814. The Allies restored the Bourbon Dynasty to the French throne. The ensuing period is called the Restoration, following French usage, and is characterized by a sharp conservative reaction and the re-establishment of the Roman Catholic Church as a power in French politics. The July Monarchy was a period of liberal constitutional monarchy in France under King Louis-Philippe starting with the July Revolution (or Three Glorious Days) of 1830 and ending with the Revolution of 1848. The Second Empire was the Imperial Bonapartist regime of Napoleon III from 1852 to 1870, between the Second Republic and the Third Republic, in France.
The Franco-Prussian War was a conflict between France and Prussia, while Prussia was backed up by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and Bavaria. The complete Prussian and German victory brought about the final unification of Germany under King Wilhelm I of Prussia. It also marked the downfall of Napoleon III and the end of the Second French Empire, which was replaced by the Third Republic. As part of the settlement, almost all of the territory of Alsace-Lorraine was taken by Prussia to become a part of Germany, which it would retain until the end of World War I.
The French Third Republic was the republican government of France between the end of the Second French Empire following the defeat of Louis-Napoléon in the Franco-Prussian war in 1870 and the Vichy Regime after the invasion of France by the German Third Reich in 1940. The Third Republic endured seventy years, making it the most long-lasting regime in France since the collapse of the Ancien Régime in the French Revolution of 1789.
Slavery was greatly reduced around the world in the 19th century. Following a successful slave revolt in Haiti, Britain forced the Barbary pirates to halt their practice of kidnapping and enslaving Europeans, banned slavery throughout its domain, and charged its navy with ending the global slave trade. Slavery was then abolished in Russia, America, and Brazil (see Abolitionism).
Following the abolition of the slave trade, and propelled by economic exploitation, the Scramble for Africa was initiated formally at the Berlin West Africa Conference in 1884–1885. All the major European powers laid claim to the areas of Africa where they could exhibit a sphere of influence over the area. These claims did not have to have any substantial land holdings or treaties to be legitimate. The French gained major ground in West Africa, the British in East Africa, and the Portuguese and Spanish at various points throughout the continent, while King Leopold was able to retain his personal fiefdom, Congo.
Around the end of the 19th century and into the 20th century, the Meiji era was a marked by the reign of the Meiji Emperor. During this time, Japan started its modernization and rose to world power status. This era name means "Enlightened Rule". It wasn’t until the beginning of the Meiji Era that the Japanese government began taking modernization seriously. Japan expanded its military production base by opening arsenals in various locations. The hyobusho (war office) was replaced with a War Department and a Naval Department. The samurai class suffered great disappointment the following years.
Laws were instituted that required every able bodied male Japanese citizen, regardless of class, to serve a mandatory term of three years with the first reserves and two additional years with the second reserves. This action, the deathblow for the samurai warriors and their daimyo feudal lords, initially met resistance from both the peasant and warrior alike. The peasant class interpreted the term for military service, ketsu-eki (blood tax) literally, and attempted to avoid service by any means necessary. The Japanese government began modelling their ground forces after the French military. The French government contributed greatly to the training of Japanese officers. Many were employed at the military academy in Kyoto, and many more still were feverishly translating French field manuals for use in the Japanese ranks.
After the death of the Meiji Emperor, the Taishō Emperor took the throne, thus beginning the Taishō period. A key foreign observer of the remarkable and rapid changes in Japanese society in this period was Ernest Mason Satow.
The Antebellum Age was the a period of increasing sectionalism that led up to the American Civil War. The Antebellum Age was a time of great transition because of the industrial revolution in America. It also was a time of growth in slavery in the American South. In a sense, the Antebellum Period is often considered to have begun with the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, though it is sometimes stipulated to extend back as early as 1812.
"Manifest Destiny" was the territorial expansion of the United States from 1812 to 1860. Manifest Destiny incorporated the belief that the United States was destined, even divinely ordained, to expand across the North American continent, from the Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific Ocean. This era, from the end of the War of 1812 to the beginning of the American Civil War, has been called the "Age of Manifest Destiny." During this time, the United States expanded to the Pacific Ocean—"from sea to shining sea"—largely defining the borders of the contiguous United States as they are today.
The American Civil War was a civil war in the United States of America. Eleven Southern slave states declared their secession from the U.S. and formed the Confederate States of America (the Confederacy). Led by Jefferson Davis, they fought against the U.S. federal government (the Union), which was supported by all the free states and the five border slave states in the north.
Northern leaders agreed that victory would require more than the end of fighting. It had to encompass the two strategies: secession had to be totally repudiated and all forms of slavery had to be eliminated. They disagreed sharply on the military tactics and political tactics for these goals. They also disagreed on the degree of federal control, that should be imposed on the South and the process by which Southern states should be reintegrated into the Union. The Reconstruction Era in United States history existed in the post-Civil War era in the entire United States between 1865 and 1877.
The Gilded Age saw a substantial growth in population in the United States and extravagant displays of wealth and excess of America's upper-class during the post-Civil War and post-Reconstruction era, in the late 19th century. The wealth polarization derived primarily from industrial and population expansion. The businessmen of the Second Industrial Revolution created industrial towns and cities in the Northeast with new factories, and contributed to the creation of an ethnically diverse industrial working class which produced the wealth owned by rising super-rich industrialists and financiers called the "robber barons". An example is the company of John D. Rockefeller, who was an important figure in shaping the new oil industry. Using highly effective tactics and aggressive practices, later widely criticized, Standard Oil absorbed or destroyed most of its competition.
The creation of a modern industrial economy took place. With the creation of a transportation and communication infrastructure, the corporation became the dominant form of business organization and a managerial revolution transformed business operations. In 1890, Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act — the source of all American anti-monopoly laws. The law forbade every contract, scheme, deal, or conspiracy to restrain trade, though the phrase "restraint of trade" remained subjective. By the beginning of the twentieth century, per capita income and industrial production in the United States exceeded that of any other country except Britain. Long hours and hazardous working conditions led many workers to attempt to form labor unions despite strong opposition from industrialists and the courts. But the courts did protect the marketplace, declaring the Standard Oil group to be an "unreasonable" monopoly under the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1911. It ordered Standard to break up into 34 independent companies with different boards of directors.
Around the turn of the 20th century, Enlightenment philosophy was challenged in various quarters. After the use of classical physics since the end of the scientific revolution, modern physics arose with the advent of quantum physics; substituting mathematics studies for experimental studies and examining equations to build a theoretical structure. The old quantum theory was a collection of results which predate modern quantum mechanics, but were never complete or self-consistent. The collection of heuristic prescriptions for quantum mechanics were the first corrections to classical mechanics. In addition, the various number of aether theories in classical physics which supposed a "fifth element", such as the Luminiferous aether, was nullified by the Michelson-Morley experiment in an attempt to detect the motion of earth through the aether. In biology, Darwinism gained acceptance and exposed adaptation in the theory of natural selection. The fields of geology, astronomy and psychology also made strides and gained new insights. In medicine, there were advances of medical theory and treatments.
Another philosophical trend was Chinese philosophy began to integrate concepts of Western philosophy, as steps toward modernization. By the time of the Xinhai Revolution in 1911, there were many calls, such as the May Fourth Movement, to completely abolish the old imperial institutions and practices of China. There have been attempts to incorporate democracy, republicanism, and industrialism into Chinese philosophy, notably by Sun Yat-Sen (Sūn yì xiān, in one Mandarin form of the name) at the beginning of the 20th century. Mao Zedong (Máo zé dōng) added Marxism, Stalinism, and other communist thought. When the Communist Party of China took over power, previous schools of thought, excepting notably Legalism, were denounced as backward, and later even purged during the Cultural Revolution.
Developed from earlier secular traditions, modern Humanism ethical philosophies affirm the dignity and worth of all people, based on the ability to determine right and wrong by appealing to universal human qualities, particularly rationality, without resorting to the supernatural or alleged divine authority from religious texts. For liberal humanists such as Rousseau or Kant, the universal law of reason guided the way towards total emancipation from any kind of tyranny. These ideas were challenged. The young Karl Marx criticized the project of political emancipation (embodied in the form of human rights), asserting it to be symptomatic of the very dehumanization it is supposed to oppose. For Friedrich Nietzsche, humanism was nothing more than a secular version of theism. In his Genealogy of Morals, he argues that human rights exist as a means for the weak to collectively constrain the strong. On this view, such rights do not facilitate emancipation of life, but rather deny it. In the twentieth-century, the notion that human beings are rationally autonomous was challenged by the concept that humans were driven by unconscious irrational desires.
Sigmund Freud is renowned for his redefinition of sexual desire as the primary motivational energy of human life, as well as his therapeutic techniques, including the use of free association, his theory of transference in the therapeutic relationship, and the interpretation of dreams as sources of insight into unconscious desires.
Albert Einstein is known for his theories of special relativity and general relativity. He also made important contributions to statistical mechanics, especially his mathematical treatment of Brownian motion, his resolution of the paradox of specific heats, and his connection of fluctuations and dissipation. Despite his reservations about its interpretation, Einstein also made contributions to quantum mechanics and, indirectly, quantum field theory, primarily through his theoretical studies of the photon.
At the end of the 19th century, Social Darwinism was promoted and included the various ideologies based on a concept that competition among all individuals, groups, nations, or ideas was the framework of social evolution in human societies. In this view, society's advancement was dependent on the "survival of the fittest", the term was in fact coined by Herbert Spencer and referred to in "The Gospel of Wealth" theory written by Andrew Carnegie.
The Manifesto went through a number of editions from 1872 to 1890; notable new prefaces were written by Marx and Engels for the 1872 German edition, the 1882 Russian edition, the 1883 German edition, and the 1888 English edition. In general, Marxism identified five (and one transitional) successive stages of development in Western Europe.
Major political developments saw the former British Empire lose most of its remaining political power over commonwealth countries, most notably by ways of the dividing of the British crown into several sovereignties by the Statute of Westminster, the patriation of constitutions by the Canada Act 1982 and the Australia Act 1986, and by the independence of countries like India, Pakistan, South Africa, and Ireland. Other events include the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, two world wars, and the Cold War.
Begun at the Battle of Port Arthur, the Russo-Japanese War establishes the Empire of Japan as a world power. The Russians were in constant pursuit of a warm water port on the Pacific Ocean, for their navy as well as for maritime trade. The Manchurian Campaign of the Russian Empire was fought against the Japanese over Manchuria and Korea. The major theatres of operations were Southern Manchuria, specifically the area around the Liaodong Peninsula and Mukden, and the seas around Korea, Japan, and the Yellow Sea. The resulting campaigns, in which the fledgling Japanese military consistently attained victory over the Russian forces arrayed against them, were unexpected by world observers. These victories, as time transpired, would dramatically transform the distribution of power in East Asia, resulting in a reassessment of Japan's recent entry onto the world stage. The embarrassing string of defeats increased Russian popular dissatisfaction with the inefficient and corrupt Tsarist government.
The Russian Revolution of 1905 was a wave of mass political unrest through vast areas of the Russian Empire. Some of it was directed against the government, while some was undirected. It included terrorism, worker strikes, peasant unrests, and military mutinies. It led to the establishment of the limited constitutional monarchy, the establishment of State Duma of the Russian Empire, the multi-party system and Russian Constitution of 1906.
In China, the Qing Dynasty was overthrown following the Xinhai Revolution. The Xinhai Revolution began with the Wuchang Uprising on October 10, 1911 and ended with the abdication of Emperor Puyi on February 12, 1912. The primary parties to the conflict were the Imperial forces of the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911), and the revolutionary forces of the Chinese Revolutionary Alliance (Tongmenghui).
The Edwardian era in the United Kingdom is the period spanning the reign of King Edward VII up to the end of the First World War, including the years surrounding the sinking of the RMS Titanic. In the early years of the period, the Second Boer War in South Africa split the country into anti- and pro-war factions. The imperial policies of the Conservatives eventually proved unpopular and in the general election of 1906 the Liberals won a huge landslide. The Liberal government was unable to proceed with all of its radical programme without the support of the House of Lords, which was largely Conservative. Conflict between the two Houses of Parliament over the People's Budget led to a reduction in the power of the peers in 1910. The general election in January that year returned a hung parliament with the balance of power held by Labour and Irish Nationalist members.
The causes of World War I included many factors, including the conflicts and antagonisms of the four decades leading up to the war. The Triple Entente was the name given to the loose alignment between the United Kingdom, France, and Russia after the signing of the Anglo-Russian Entente in 1907. The alignment of the three powers, supplemented by various agreements with Japan, the United States, and Spain, constituted a powerful counterweight to the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy, the third having concluded an additional secret agreement with France effectively nullifying her Alliance commitments. Militarism, alliances, imperialism, and nationalism played major roles in the conflict. The immediate origins of the war lay in the decisions taken by statesmen and generals during the July crisis of 1914, the spark (or casus belli) for which was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria.
However, the crisis did not exist in a void; it came after a long series of diplomatic clashes between the Great Powers over European and colonial issues in the decade prior to 1914 which had left tensions high. The diplomatic clashes can be traced to changes in the balance of power in Europe since 1870. An example is the Baghdad Railway which was planned to connect the Ottoman Empire cities of Konya and Bagdad with a line through modern-day Turkey, Syria and Iraq. The railway became a source of international disputes during the years immediately preceding World War I. Although it has been argued that they were resolved in 1914 before the war began, it has also been argued that the railroad was a cause of the First World War. Fundamentally the war was sparked by tensions over territory in the Balkans. Austria-Hungary competed with Serbia and Russia for territory and influence in the region and they pulled the rest of the great powers into the conflict through their various alliances and treaties. The Balkan Wars were two wars in South-eastern Europe in 1912–1913 in the course of which the Balkan League (Bulgaria, Montenegro, Greece, and Serbia) first captured Ottoman-held remaining part of Thessaly, Macedonia, Epirus, Albania and most of Thrace and then fell out over the division of the spoils, with incorporation of Romania this time.
The First World War began in 1914 and lasted to the final Armistice in 1918. The Allied Powers, led by the British Empire, France, Russia until March 1918, Japan and the United States after 1917, defeated the Central Powers, led by the German Empire, Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire. The war caused the disintegration of four empires — the Austro-Hungarian, German, Ottoman, and Russian ones — as well as radical change in the European and Middle Eastern maps. The Allied powers before 1917 are sometimes referred to as the Triple Entente, and the Central Powers are sometimes referred to as the Triple Alliance.
Much of the fighting in World War I took place along the Western Front, within a system of opposing manned trenches and fortifications (separated by a “No man's land”) running from the North Sea to the border of Switzerland. On the Eastern Front, the vast eastern plains and limited rail network prevented a trench warfare stalemate from developing, although the scale of the conflict was just as large. Hostilities also occurred on and under the sea and — for the first time — from the air. More than 9 million soldiers died on the various battlefields, and nearly that many more in the participating countries' home fronts on account of food shortages and genocide committed under the cover of various civil wars and internal conflicts. Notably, more people died of the worldwide influenza outbreak at the end of the war and shortly after than died in the hostilities. The unsanitary conditions engendered by the war, severe overcrowding in barracks, wartime propaganda interfering with public health warnings, and migration of so many soldiers around the world helped the outbreak become a pandemic.
Ultimately, World War I created a decisive break with the old world order that had emerged after the Napoleonic Wars, which was modified by the mid-19th century’s nationalistic revolutions. The results of World War I would be important factors in the development of World War II approximately 20 years later. More immediate to the time, the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire was a political event that redrew the political boundaries of the Middle East. The huge conglomeration of territories and peoples formerly ruled by the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire was divided into several new nations. The partitioning brought the creation of the modern Arab world and the Republic of Turkey. The League of Nations granted France mandates over Syria and Lebanon and granted the United Kingdom mandates over Mesopotamia and Palestine (which was later divided into two regions: Palestine and Transjordan). Parts of the Ottoman Empire on the Arabian Peninsula became parts of what are today Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
The Russian Revolution is the series of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which destroyed the Tsarist autocracy and led to the creation of the Soviet Union. Following the abdication of Nicholas II of Russia, the Russian Provisional Government was established. In October 1917, a red faction revolution occurred in which the Red Guard, armed groups of workers and deserting soldiers directed by the Bolshevik Party, seized control of Saint Petersburg (then known as Petrograd) and began an immediate armed takeover of cities and villages throughout the former Russian Empire.
Another action in 1917 that is of note was the armistice signed between Russia and the Central Powers at Brest-Litovsk. As a condition for peace, the treaty by the Central Powers conceded huge portions of the former Russian Empire to Imperial Germany and the Ottoman Empire, greatly upsetting nationalists and conservatives. The Bolsheviks made peace with the German Empire and the Central Powers, as they had promised the Russian people prior to the Revolution. Vladimir Lenin's decision has been attributed to his sponsorship by the foreign office of Wilhelm II, German Emperor, offered by the latter in hopes that with a revolution, Russia would withdraw from World War I. This suspicion was bolstered by the German Foreign Ministry's sponsorship of Lenin's return to Petrograd. The Western Allies, expressed their dismay at the Bolsheviks, upset at:
In addition, there was a concern, shared by many Central Powers as well, that the socialist revolutionary ideas would spread to the West. Hence, many of these countries expressed their support for the Whites, including the provision of troops and supplies. Winston Churchill declared that Bolshevism must be "strangled in its cradle".
The Russian Civil War was a multi-party war that occurred within the former Russian Empire after the Russian provisional government collapsed and the Soviets under the domination of the Bolshevik party assumed power, first in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) and then in other places. In the wake of the October Revolution, the old Russian Imperial Army had been demobilized; the volunteer-based Red Guard was the Bolsheviks' main military force, augmented by an armed military component of the Cheka, the Bolshevik state security apparatus. There was an instituted mandatory conscription of the rural peasantry into the Red Army. Opposition of rural Russians to Red Army conscription units was overcome by taking hostages and shooting them when necessary in order to force compliance. Former Tsarist officers were utilized as "military specialists" (voenspetsy), sometimes taking their families hostage in order to ensure loyalty. At the start of the war, three-fourths of the Red Army officer corps was composed of former Tsarist officers. By its end, 83% of all Red Army divisional and corps commanders were ex-Tsarist soldiers.
The principal fighting occurred between the Bolshevik Red Army and the forces of the White Army. Many foreign armies warred against the Red Army, notably the Allied Forces, yet many volunteer foreigners fought in both sides of the Russian Civil War. Other nationalist and regional political groups also participated in the war, including the Ukrainian nationalist Green Army, the Ukrainian anarchist Black Army and Black Guards, and warlords such as Ungern von Sternberg. The most intense fighting took place from 1918 to 1920. Major military operations ended on 25 October 1922 when the Red Army occupied Vladivostok, previously held by the Provisional Priamur Government. The last enclave of the White Forces was the Ayano-Maysky District on the Pacific coast. The majority of the fighting ended in 1920 with the defeat of General Pyotr Wrangel in the Crimea, but a notable resistance in certain areas continued until 1923 (e.g., Kronstadt Uprising, Tambov Rebellion, Basmachi Revolt, and the final resistance of the White movement in the Far East).
The interwar period was the period between the end of the First World War and the beginning of the Second World War. This period was marked by turmoil in much of the world, as Europe struggled to recover from the devastation of the First World War.
In North America, especially the first half of this period, people experienced considerable prosperity in the Roaring Twenties. The social and societal upheaval known as the Roaring Twenties began in North America and spread to Europe in the aftermath of World War I. The Roaring Twenties, often called "The Jazz Age", saw a exposition of social, artistic, and cultural dynamism. 'Normalcy' returned to politics, jazz music blossomed, the flapper redefined modern womanhood, Art Deco peaked. The spirit of the Roaring Twenties was marked by a general feeling of discontinuity associated with modernity, a break with traditions. Everything seemed to be feasible through modern technology. New technologies, especially automobiles, movies and radio proliferated 'modernity' to a large part of the population. The Twenties saw the general favor of practicality, in architecture as well as in daily life. The Twenties was further distinguished by several inventions and discoveries, extensive industrial growth and the rise in consumer demand and aspirations, and significant changes in lifestyle.
Europe spent these years rebuilding and coming to terms with the vast human cost of the conflict. The economy of the United States became increasingly intertwined with that of Europe. In Germany, the Weimar Republic gave way to saw an episodes of political and economic turmoil, which culminated with the German hyperinflation of 1923 and the failed Beer Hall Putsch of that same year. When Germany could no longer afford war payments, Wall Street invested heavily in European debts to keep the European economy afloat as a large consumer market for American mass produced goods. By the middle of the decade, economic development soared in Europe, and the Roaring Twenties broke out in Germany, Britain and France, the second half of the decade becoming known as the "Golden Twenties". In France and francophone Canada, they were also called the "années folles" ("Crazy Years").
Worldwide prosperity changed dramatically with the onset of the Great Depression in 1929. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 served to punctuate the end of the previous era, as The Great Depression set in. The Great Depression was a worldwide economic downturn starting in most places in 1929 and ending at different times in the 1930s or early 1940s for different countries. It was the largest and most important economic depression in the 20th century, and is used in the 21st century as an example of how far the world's economy can fall.
The depression had devastating effects in virtually every country, rich or poor. International trade plunged by half to two-thirds, as did personal income, tax revenue, prices and profits. Cities all around the world were hit hard, especially those dependent on heavy industry. Construction was virtually halted in many countries. Farming and rural areas suffered as crop prices fell by roughly 60 percent. Facing plummeting demand with few alternate sources of jobs, areas dependent on primary sector industries suffered the most.
The Great Depression ended at different times in different countries with the effect lasting into the next era. America's Great Depression ended in 1941 with America's entry into World War II. The majority of countries set up relief programs, and most underwent some sort of political upheaval, pushing them to the left or right. In some world states, the desperate citizens turned toward nationalist demagogues — the most infamous being Adolf Hitler — setting the stage for the next era of war. The convulsion brought on by the worldwide depression resulted in the rise of Nazism. In Asia, Japan became an ever more assertive power, especially with regards to China.
The interwar period was also marked by a radical change in the international order, away from the balance of power that had dominated pre-World War I Europe. One main institution that was meant to bring stability was the League of Nations, which was created after the First World War with the intention of maintaining world security and peace and encouraging economic growth between member countries. The League was undermined by the bellicosity of Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, the Soviet Union, and Mussolini's Italy, and by the non-participation of the United States, leading many to question its effectiveness and legitimacy.
A series of international crises strained the League to its limits, the earliest being the invasion of Manchuria by Japan and the Abyssinian crisis of 1935/36 in which Italy invaded Abyssinia, one of the only free African nations at that time. The League tried to enforce economic sanctions upon Italy, but to no avail. The incident highlighted French and British weakness, exemplified by their reluctance to alienate Italy and lose her as their ally. The limited actions taken by the Western powers pushed Mussolini's Italy towards alliance with Hitler's Germany anyway. The Abyssinian war showed Hitler how weak the League was and encouraged the remilitarization of the Rhineland in flagrant disregard of the Treaty of Versailles. This was the first in a series of provocative acts culminating in the invasion of Poland in September 1939 and the beginning of the Second World War.
The Second World War was a global military conflict that took place in 1939–1945. It was the largest and deadliest war in history, culminating in the Holocaust and ending with the dropping of the atom bomb.
Even though Japan had been fighting in China since 1937, the conventional view is that the war began on September 1, 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland, the Drang nach Osten. Within two days the United Kingdom and France declared war on Germany, even though the fighting was confined to Poland. Pursuant to a then-secret provision of its non-aggression Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Soviet Union joined with Germany on September 17, 1939, to conquer Poland and to divide Eastern Europe.
The Allies were initially made up of Poland, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, as well as British Commonwealth countries which were controlled directly by the UK, such as the Indian Empire. All of these countries declared war on Germany in September 1939.
Following the lull in fighting, known as the "Phoney War", Germany invaded western Europe in May 1940. Six weeks later, France, in the mean time attacked by Italy as well, surrendered to Germany, which then tried unsuccessfully to conquer Britain. On September 27, Germany, Italy, and Japan signed a mutual defense agreement, the Tripartite Pact, and were known as the Axis Powers.
Nine months later, on June 22, 1941, Germany launched a massive invasion of the Soviet Union, which promptly joined the Allies. Germany was now engaged in fighting a war on two fronts. This proved to be a mistake by Germany - Germany had not successfully carried out the invasion of Britain and the war turned against of the Axis.
On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor, bringing it too into the war on the Allied side. China also joined the Allies, as eventually did most of the rest of the world. China was in turmoil at the time, and attacked Japanese armies through guerilla-type warfare. By the beginning of 1942, the major combatants were aligned as follows: the British Commonwealth, the United States, and the Soviet Union were fighting Germany and Italy; and the British Commonwealth, China, and the United States were fighting Japan. From then through August 1945, battles raged across all of Europe, in the North Atlantic Ocean, across North Africa, throughout Southeast Asia, throughout China, across the Pacific Ocean and in the air over Japan.
Italy surrendered in September 1943 and split in a northern Germany-occupied puppet state and in an Allies-friendly state in the South; Germany surrendered in May 1945. Following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan surrendered, marking the end of the war on September 2, 1945.
It is possible that around 62 million people died in the war; estimates vary greatly. About 60% of all casualties were civilians, who died as a result of disease, starvation, genocide (in particular, the Holocaust), and aerial bombing. The former Soviet Union and China suffered the most casualties. Estimates place deaths in the Soviet Union at around 23 million, while China suffered about 10 million. No country lost a greater portion of its population than Poland: approximately 5.6 million, or 16%, of its pre-war population of 34.8 million died.
The Holocaust (which roughly means "burnt whole") was the deliberate and systematic murder of millions of Jews and other "unwanted" during World War II by the Nazi regime in Germany. Several differing views exist regarding whether it was intended to occur from the war's beginning, or if the plans for it came about later. Regardless, persecution of Jews extended well before the war even started, such as in the Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass). The Nazis used propaganda to great effect to stir up anti-Semitic feelings within ordinary Germans.
After World War II, Europe was informally split into Western and Soviet spheres of influence. Western Europe later aligned as North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Eastern Europe as the Warsaw Pact. There was a shift in power from Western Europe and the British Empire to the two new superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union. These two rivals would later face off in the Cold War. In Asia, the defeat of Japan led to its democratization. China's civil war continued through and after the war, resulting eventually in the establishment of the People's Republic of China. The former colonies of the European powers began their road to independence.
The mid-20th century is distinguished from most of human history in that its most significant changes were directly or indirectly economic and technological in nature. Economic development was the force behind vast changes in everyday life, to a degree which was unprecedented in human history.
Over the course of the 20th century, the world’s per-capita gross domestic product grew by a factor of five, much more than all earlier centuries combined (including the 19th with its Industrial Revolution). Many economists make the case that this understates the magnitude of growth, as many of the goods and services consumed at the end of the century, such as improved medicine (causing world life expectancy to increase by more than two decades) and communications technologies, were not available at any price at its beginning. However, the gulf between the world’s rich and poor grew wider, and the majority of the global population remained in the poor side of the divide.
Still, advancing technology and medicine has had a great impact even in the Global South. Large-scale industry and more centralized media made brutal dictatorships possible on an unprecedented scale in the middle of the century, leading to wars that were also unprecedented. However, the increased communications contributed to democratization. Technological developments included the development of airplanes and space exploration, nuclear technology, advancement in genetics, and the dawning of the Information Age.
Pax Americana is an appellation applied to the historical concept of relative liberal peace in the Western world, resulting from the preponderance of power enjoyed by the United States of America starting around the turn of the 20th century. Although the term finds its primary utility in the latter half of the 20th Century, it has been used in various places and eras. Its modern connotations concern the peace established after the end of World War II in 1945.
The Cold War began in the mid-1940s and lasted into the early 1990s. Throughout this period, the conflict was expressed through military coalitions, espionage, weapons development, invasions, propaganda, and competitive technological development. The conflict included costly defense spending, a massive conventional and nuclear arms race, and numerous proxy wars; the two superpowers never fought one another directly.
The Soviet Union created the Eastern Bloc of countries that it occupied, annexing some as Soviet Socialist Republics and maintaining others as satellite states that would later form the Warsaw Pact. The United States and various western European countries began a policy of "containment" of communism and forged myriad alliances to this end, including NATO. Several of these western countries also coordinated efforts regarding the rebuilding of western Europe, including western Germany, which the Soviets opposed. In other regions of the world, such as Latin America and Southeast Asia, the Soviet Union fostered communist revolutionary movements, which the United States and many of its allies opposed and, in some cases, attempted to "roll back". Many countries were prompted to align themselves with the nations that would later form either NATO or the Warsaw Pact, though other movements would also emerge.
The Cold War saw periods of both heightened tension and relative calm. International crises arose, such as the Berlin Blockade (1948–1949), the Korean War (1950–1953), the Berlin Crisis of 1961, the Vietnam War (1959–1975), the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962), the Soviet war in Afghanistan (1979–1989) and NATO exercises in November 1983. There were also periods of reduced tension as both sides sought détente. Direct military attacks on adversaries were deterred by the potential for mutual assured destruction using deliverable nuclear weapons. In the Cold Ware era, the Generation of Love and the rise of computers changed society in very different, complex ways, including higher social and local mobility.
The Cold War drew to a close in the late 1980s and the early 1990s. The United States under President Ronald Reagan increased diplomatic, military, and economic pressure on the Soviet Union, which was already suffering from severe economic stagnation. In the second half of the 1980s, newly appointed Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev introduced the perestroika and glasnost reforms. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, leaving the United States as the dominant military power, though Russia retained much of the massive Soviet nuclear arsenal.
The Space Age is a period encompassing the activities related to the Space Race, space exploration, space technology, and the cultural developments influenced by these events. The Space Age began with the development of several technologies that culminated with the launch of Sputnik 1 by the Soviet Union. This was the world's first artificial satellite, orbiting the Earth in 98.1 minutes and weighing in at 83 kg. The launch of Sputnik 1 ushered a new era of political, scientific and technological achievements that became known as the Space Age. The Space Age was characterized by rapid development of new technology in a close race mostly between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Space Age reached its peak with the Apollo program which captured the imagination of much of the world's population. The landing of Apollo 11 was an event watched by over 500 million people around the world and is widely recognized as one of the defining moments of the 20th century. Since then and with the end of the space race due to the collapse of the Soviet Union, public attention has largely moved to other areas.
In the Contemporary era, there were various socio-technological trends, Among the challenges and problems the modern world faces was climate change. Regarding the 21st century and the late modern world, the Information age and computers were forefront in use, not completely ubiquitous but often present in daily life. The development of Eastern powers was of note, with China and India becoming more powerful. In the Eurasian theater, the European Union and Russian Federation were two forces recently developed. A concern for Western world, if not the whole world, was the late modern form of terrorism and the warfare that has resulted from the contemporary terrorist acts.
The humanities are academic disciplines which study the human condition, using methods that are primarily analytic, critical, or speculative, as distinguished from the mainly empirical approaches of the natural and social sciences. Although many of the subjects of modern history coincide with that of standard history, the subject is taught independently by various systems of education in the world.
A-level is the lowest tier of education at which modern history is taught in the UK, and students can also choose the subject at University. The material covered includes from the mid-18th century, to analysis of the present day. Virtually all colleges and sixth forms that do teach modern history do it alongside standard history; very few teach the subject exclusively.
At the University of Oxford 'Modern History' has a somewhat different meaning. The contrast is not with the Middle Ages but with Antiquity. The earliest period that can be studied in the Final Honour School of Modern History begins in 285.