[dropcap size=small]T[/dropcap]he dawn of the 20th century was a time of great change around the world. But there were few highlights. Some favorable to mankind, some destructive. Here are the 10 events that shook the 20th century.
It was one man’s will against the empire. And the man won.
When a nation that’s been oppressed for centuries rallies under one man, it’s surely a spectacle for the ages. That’s precisely what happened in India in the early twentieth century when Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, fought the most powerful empire on earth at the time without lifting so much as a stone. Satyagraha imploded in the face of British rule and oppression.With it, he empowered a nation beaten to submission to stand up for itself and to regain its glory that had been lost to times past. With his philosophy of Satyagraha and non-violence, he freed India from the cage it had been in for 5 centuries and went onto inspire many world-leaders to come, the likes of whom include Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. When the names that subscribe to a philosophy are that big, you know it was massive. So, it’s very understandable if Times Magazine placed Mahatma Gandhi as the second most influential man in the twentieth century.
9. Cold War
The politics of the entire world has never been affected by a rivalry as that of the USSR and the United States of America. After the second World War, America and the USSR, in an effort to be the paramount power, competed in almost every field possible, be it science, weapons, armies or even spies (Many quadruple agents in both agencies.)!
Eventually, as history dictates, USA won. But not before USSR and USA had scripted the most intense, passive-aggressive, decades-long fight in all history to the books.
The event that caused America to take a vow against participating in any war ever (We know; it’s funny.), The Great Depression of the early twentieth century was a crunch so bad, a loaf of bread in Germany cost some 12000 Euros at one point of time.
Needless to say, there were many deaths, mostly suicides, and many nations on the verge of bankruptcy. An event which caused families to go without food for many days, The Great Depression finds its place on number 8.
7. Russian Revolution & Communism
‘The God that failed.’
The philosophy that was to take more than a fair share of intelligent minds by storm, and the sheer idea of which caused the roots of the entirety of Western Civilization to tremble, Communism as an ideal was responsible for a major number of events in the twentieth century. Before World War I, Europe was the power hub of the entire world. After the war, Soviet Russia and America emerged as two antithetical, yet supreme nations. For a while, Soviet Russia flourished, but a philosophy as idealistic as Communism didn’t take into account a simple factor: Human greed. Greed ensured that the most powerful consolidation of nations in the eastern hemisphere bankrupted and disintegrated.
6. World War I
The war to end all wars, they said. While subsequent history proved belligerent nations looking to settle things once and for all wrong, the sheer amount of fatalities incurred due to World War I was unmatched in previous history.
The reason for the first instance of mass destruction and the primary catalyst for the subsequent depression, World War I finds its place on number 6.
5. Man in Space
The twentieth century is a little hard to gulp down because it is so difficult to ascertain what it tastes like. The century was filled with more events that shook humanity than all human history before it.
So when Yuri Gagarin became the first man to ever be in space, the reaction, while still being thunderous, was somehow muted as opposed to how it would have been in any other normal century.
But it was still a giant leap. In retrospect, a leap unmatched in its bound and scope.
4. The Turing Machine
While relatively unknown as compared to the rest of the entries in this article, the birth of The Turing Machine finds its place in the fourth position because of its central role in ending the second World War. While technically the first computer, the turing machine was built for one single purpose.
The Germans raided and pillaged almost every city in Europe, and there was nothing anybody could do. This was because the Germans communicated freely using radio, the transmissions of which could be picked up by any receiver, the only catch being deciphering these messages; which were encoded using the Enigma machine. Using the Enigma machine to code their messages meant a decoder would be facing a probability sample set of 219 million million million possibilities. Using the human brain to decode such codes was well…. seemingly impossible.
But that’s precisely what Alan Turing did, and as a result of which the Enigma code was broken and as official estimates go, the war was ended 2 and a half years early saving nearly 14 million lives. Also, the Turing machine was the first computer. So its importance cannot be understated.
3. The Dawn of Computer
One only has to look at the last decade of the twentieth century to realize how immeasurably computers changed the world. The birth of the computer was way back in the 1950’s, but their versatility and power only came to be appreciated late in the century. Computers changed the way we think, the way we act, the way we eat —- you know how it goes. But what the computer most essentially did was lengthen man’s reach. Thanks to the computer, we have made seven centuries worth of slow, methodical research in two decades filled with leaps of greater and greater length.
Computers would be on the top of the list if their story weren’t spread over the last and the first decade of the twentieth and the twenty first century respectively.
2. The Holocaust
Rage, Agony and Evil. These three words can only begin to describe the conflagration of human ethics and morality that the brainchild of Hitler was. No period in human history has ever seen more pain or a degradation of what is good and noble than the years from 1935 to the early forties.
Official estimates puts the death toll at six million Jews and another seven million dissenters of the Third Reich. 13 million lives. The price of a man’s delusion. The Holocaust could be considered the darkest period of the enlightened world, and as time passes we continue to hope a blight such as this be never cast upon the human race.
1. Atom Bomb
Fear is a powerful detractor. Annhilation, perfectly so.
When the Americans dropped “Little Boy” over Hiroshima on a bright autumn morning in August 1945, the world woke up to the realization of a new, fundamental force. An impersonal force that derived its power from the very molecules reality was made out of. As Hiroshima lay smoking and in the wake of ten million corpses, a new age began. Man had exceeded his reach and was now in the possession of a force so powerful, the very threat of it being deployed has been enough to keep nations at bay. In the modern world, this is what the Atom Bomb is symbolic of.
A shadow of death. A foreboding. A flame so impure, it maims the living and desecrates the earth for the coming 200 years. Such terrible force surely marks a vital checkpoint in the evolution of man. Whether it leads to his annhilation or redemption, it is for time to tell.
And as the birds who chirped that bright August morning evaporated, Robert J Oppenheimer knew the world would never be the same again.