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For other uses, see 20th century (disambiguation).
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The Earth seen from Apollo 17. The second half of the 20th century saw an increase of interest in space exploration.
|Millennium: |2nd millennium | |Centuries: |19th century · 20th century · 21st century | |Decades: |1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s | | |1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s | |Categories: |Births – Deaths | | |Establishments – Disestablishments |
The 20th century of the Anno Domini began on January 1, 1901 and ended on December 31, 2000.
The British, Chinese, Russian, German, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian empires dissolved in the first half of the century, with all but the British, French, and Japanese empires collapsing during the course of World War I, and Russia transformed into communist state of Soviet Union. 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 United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union) against the Axis powers (Nazi Germany, the Empire of Japan, and Italy) which eventually resulted in a total victory for the Allies, at the cost of over 60 million lives and the complete devastation of many nations. Remaining colonial empires dissolved shortly after the war. As a means of preventing future world wars, the United Nations was formed; however, competition between the two new superpowers, the Soviet Union and the United States, resulted in the Cold War, which would dominate geopolitical life for the next 45 years. The Soviet Union collapsed internally in 1991, resulting in the United States taking on sole superpower status.
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 and the space shuttle. 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. Humans 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...