When has the 20th Century ended? Has it?

Holadem

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It is generally acknowledged that the 20th century actually started with the end of WW1 (1918), a war which profoundly reshaped europe, and whose consequences were evident even as late as 5 years ago in the Balkans. The Great War obsoleted the old methods of fighting, introduced such things as chemical warfare etc..

By the same token, when has the 20th century ended? Has it? What is the defining even that will be seen as having marked the end of the 20th and the begining of the 21st?

One could argue that it is the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, symbolised by the Fall of the Berlin Wall. The repercutions of that event ar far more reaching than the end of the cold war. The consequences on Russia and Eastern Europ are familiar enough.

In oft forgotten Africa, the shockwave started a series of democratic movements and revolutions in countries like mine, as people realised that there were alternatives to dictatorship. But when autocratie is so ingrained in people's culture, attempts to change things overnight leads more often than not to civil unrest, and in some cases, civil wars. The net results are semi democratic unstable states, half of whom are led by the old dictator, embrassed anew by a people wary of war "hey! we didn't have freedom of speech, but we weren't killing each other either, ah.. the good ol times". This is to give you an idea of the significance of what happened in Berlin, beyond the "western" and "eastern" world.

Back to the western hemisphere, the US entered a period of unprecedented prosperity (and some might say, complacency), in which the internet and the information age played no small part. While the recession was rearing it's ugly head before September 11th, 2001 (heck, before the current administration), that date is seen as the end of an era. But could that be considered the real end of the 20th century? Perhaps to the US (whose world view is notoriously self centered) but not to the rest of the world, unless the current events result in a profound geopolitical reshaping.

IMO, the 20th century ended with the Berlin Wall. It is the one event I can think of that had worldwide repercusions, enough to warrant the use of the term "end of an era". The internet and it's possibilites are endless, and soon, we will all be connected like we have never been before (heck, we already are anyway). It is my opinion that the 21st (I had 20th...) century will be defined by the consequences of things that happened in the 90's more than anything else.

So, when did it die? Has it?



--
Holadem
 
E

Eric Kahn

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technicaly, the 20th century ended on jan 1 2001
as to a century ending event 9/11 comes to mind, not a good one though
 

Vince Maskeeper

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By whom? I have heard generations, eras, periods, and movements defined by events- but was always under the impression the centuries were pretty clear math measurments.

This is interesting.
 

RobertR

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I understand what Holadem is saying. Most people associate the beginning of what we think of as the "60s" with the Kennedy assassination.

I do think that 9/11 is a better benchmark for the beginning of the 21st century than the Berlin Wall. The chain of events that have happened since then seem to be leading to the biggest change in alliances since WWII.
 

Malcolm R

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I agree with Vince. I've never heard of events defining "centuries."

I always thought it was pretty clear that a century is simply 100 years. And, as Eric said, the 20th Century ended at the stroke of midnight that began January 1, 2001.
 

Paul McElligott

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You could also say that the 20th century began either with the Spanish-American war (the emergence of the US as a world power) or with Teddy Roosevelt, the first modern President, coming into office.
 

Jack Briggs

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I don't see the confusion, either. Many say the "1960s" ended with the 1972 presidential election, while others say the '60s ended with the assassination of John Lennon in 1980. What Holadem is referring to, essentially, is the spirit of an era.

But I would point out that the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union were themselves the "end of the Cold War."
 

ChuckDeLa

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You could say the 21st century began with the advent of the World Wide Web.
 

Caleb Penner

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I think what you are getting at is the idea of the "short century," which started after WWI ended and ended after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Yes, technically a century is a hundred years. But historians do weird things....

Caleb
 

Glenn Overholt

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IMO, the 20th century started with the first motor car, but based on if it did start in 1918, then we really shouldn't be doing this until 2020, right? I mean, what if between now and then a UFO does land on the White House lawn?

Although the Berlin Wall was major, it wasn't even up there for 40 years, and that's cutting it way too short. Ditto to computers and the internet. a lot more could happen in the next decade.

Glenn
 

Yee-Ming

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since history is all about hindsight, and we're only 3 years into the 21st Century (using a mathematician's strict interpretation), it's a bit too early to identify any particular event as being the seminal event that lead the way to what future historians will define as the beginning of the new era substantially covered by the 21st Century.

for instance (pro-US types don't bash me here), it may be that China's entry into the WTO leads to further unprecedented economic growth, and with prosperity and affluence China changes in say 2040 into a proper democracy, in the way that South Korea and Taiwan have shed authoritarian governments after achieving economic success. given the 4 to 1 population advantage today, this could subsequently lead to China then mtching the United States as both the economic, and consequently political, superpower, or even surpassing the US. some have described the 20th Century as the American century (19th was British), and hence the 21st is potentially Chinese.

alternatively, as some have already suggested, the advent and widespread use of the Internet in the 90s could lead to a radical change in the way things are done in the 21st Century. if this turns out to be the defining event, then the "21st Century era" started a few years ago.

or, the current events in Iraq lead to something either very positive, or very negative. no further comment since this infringes forum rules, but since we have no idea what's ahead, who's to say what will happen?

but the point is, until we see the effect, we can't point to any event as being the trigger, and consequently the demarcating event.

PS: in hindsight, I hope I didn't overstep the politics limit in my China suggestion above?
[edit: spelling]
 

Holadem

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Yee, I totally agree about hindsight, it did occur to me that it might be too early to be asking this.

About the "start" of the century, I might have erred, I believe it's 1914, since the Great War itself was very much considered a 20th century war, and a radical change from previous ones (where people stood around in formation shooting straight at each other).

alternatively, as some have already suggested, the advent and widespread use of the Internet in the 90s could lead to a radical change in the way things are done in the 21st Century. if this turns out to be the defining event, then the "21st Century era" started a few years ago.
Very real possibility that I hinted at in my last paragraph.

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Holadem
 

Holadem

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Well, Andrei Codrescu, commentator on NPR's All Things Considered said today that the deaths of Leni Riefenstal and Edward Teller marked the true end of the 20th Century. So you see, this isn't a concept I just made up


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H
 

Christ Reynolds

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i believe the 21st century has jsut started with the creation of this thread. i can see what you mean by events marking the end and beginning of, as jack said, the spirit of an era. but i wouldnt use that method too much, if the 20th century started in 1918, and there is not another major event around 2018 until say 2048, then your 'century' is 130 years long. i realize that my aforementioned method would combine holadem's method and the mathematical method, so i guess you have to pick one or the other. plus, certain countries feel certain events differently.

CJ
 

JohnRice

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It is generally acknowledged that the 20th century actually started with the end of WW1 (1918)
Well, I have never heard that either. If you are going to say "The 20th Century started with..." the only genuinely accurate answer is January 1, 1901. For every "answer" you can come up with that is more abstract, there are a dozen more just as valid. WWII, the automobile, the industrial revolution, mass trans-oceanic transportation, electronic communication, etc. Every one of them has an equally valid claim to being the beginning of the 20th century. Personally, I think picking one of them is just a ploy media types use in order to create news.
 

Hunter P

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It happened when my car insurance company changed from 20th Century Insurance to 21st Century Insurance.

The 22nd Century will happen when 20th Century Fox finally changes their name to 21st Century Fox.
 

Mark Shannon

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You could also say that the 20th century began either with the Spanish-American war (the emergence of the US as a world power) or with Teddy Roosevelt, the first modern President, coming into office.
Sure, but what significance does that have for the rest of the world?
 

JohnRice

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Sure, but what significance does that have for the rest of the world?
If you are referring to the second batch of examples, I agree. If you don't think 9/11 has had and will continue to have a profound effect on virtually the entire world, think again.
 

Mark Shannon

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I'm sorry John, but I would have to disagree. I realize this is soon going to turn into a political discussion, so I'll avoid that.

But what effect did this have on a country such as Japan, or other countries. What effect may this have had on third-world countries such as Somalia and Ethiopia?

I believe this only has had an effect on the countries directly related, and possibly major trade partners (such as Canada)

Any arguments about this are appreciated. Just try to remember forum rules.
 

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