The 20th century in world history summary and study guide



The 20th century in world history summary and study guide


The following texts are the property of their respective authors and we thank them for giving us the opportunity to share for free to students, teachers and users of the Web their texts will used only for illustrative educational and scientific purposes only.


All the information in our site are given for nonprofit educational purposes

The information of medicine and health contained in the site are of a general nature and purpose which is purely informative and for this reason may not replace in any case, the council of a doctor or a qualified entity legally to the profession.



The 20th century in world history summary and study guide


Part VI

The Twentieth Century in World History

Summary.  The 20th century has provided one of the relatively rare breaks in world history.  Previous similar periods, such as in the 5th or 15th centuries, have met the criteria that occur in the 20th century.  First is a basic geographical rebalancing among major civilizations.  In the 20th century the shift is a relative decline of the West due to two great world wars and the development of other societies.  Western population declined while growth soared in other regions.  By 1980 just about all of the great Western colonial empires had disappeared; so had Western weapons dominance.  In world trade and manufacture the West had been joined by important rivals.  A 2nd criteria involves increasing the intensity and extent of contact among civilizations.  Innovations in all aspects of technology and culture now spread faster than ever before.  There is no single world culture but great similarities are shared.  The 3rd criteria is the presence of new and roughly parallel patterns among major civilizations.

The Repositioning of the West.  The 20th-century shift in balance among civilizations has meant a relative decline for the West.  Even the entry of the United States into Western ranks has not changed this pattern.  Western decline is indicated in population decline as a percentage of world totals, the end of colonial empires and monopoly over advanced weapons systems, and the loss of its position as preeminent world trader.  By the 1990s no single civilization had replaced Western preeminence.

International Contacts.  Although great diversity of interests remained among nations, international contacts increased as civilizations rebalanced.  Technology made isolation almost impossible.  Even though many influences pass from one nation to another, no single world culture has emerged.

International Challenges in Politics and Culture.  There were many political changes because of imitation of the West or of efforts to counter its dominance.  Most societies changed their forms of government, while governments have expanded into many new roles.  Changes in belief systems occurred as secular systems gained adherents.  Rigid social inequalities declined, but did not disappear.

Using the 20th Century as a New Period in World History.  The new period of the 20th century has at least two phases.  Between 1914 and 1945 two major wars and a great depression brought forward a new international order.  Since 1945 there have been many adjustments - such as decolonization - to the working out of a new world order.




Chapter 28       A Century of Crisis, 1914-1989

Chapter Summary.  The international framework of 20th-century development was formed by two world wars, economic depression and the resolution of the cold war.  All societies were influenced as global relationships intensified.  International organizations formed to offer a different path to resolving global crises.  Massive population growth tripled global numbers and produced new migration streams.  American popular culture gained worldwide attention.

Confidence and Internationalism on the Eve of World War's I.  Before 1914 Westerners regarded themselves as members of a civilization making constant advances favorable to humanity and, through imperialism, bringing this enlightenment to other world areas.  First steps were underway in creating international organizations.  In 1851 an International Statistical Congress began standardization efforts.  The Red Cross was established in 1854 by the Geneva Convention.  The Telegraphic Union (1865) and the Postal Union (1875) brought the world closer together.  The habit of thinking internationally influenced all fields.  The steps represented an important trend in world history, but there were weaknesses.  They were based on Western dominance and made primarily for Europeans.  Rising nationalism and political affairs limited internationalist thinking.  Efforts made to limit armaments at the close of the 19th century had little success, although the World Court was established at The Hague.

World War I.  The war demonstrated many 20th century trends.  Nationalist hostilities weakened Europe as nationalism and revolution occurred in other regions.

The Onset of World War I.  Europe was divided into two rival alliance systems before 1914.  Although most of the world's available territory had been claimed, nations often used military and diplomatic measures to defuse social tensions at home.  The Balkans became a dangerous trouble spot where rival small nations contested and where the great powers had interests.  The assassination of an Austrian archduke by a Serbian nationalist in 1914 provided the cause for war.  Austria-Hungary, supported by Germany, moved to attack Serbia.  Russia responded by mobilizing its military, causing Germany to declare war on Russia and its ally, France.  When Germany invaded Belgium to strike France, Britain entered the war.

Patterns of War in Europe.  The war was fought on two major fronts.  In the west the Germans fought the French and British in France; in the east Germany and Austria-Hungary fought the Russians.  A 3rd front opened when the Italians joined the British and French.  On the seas the principal contest was between the British navy and German submarines.  On the western front modern technology created a devastating stalemate that kept the military confined to trenches.  In eastern Europe the fighting occurred in western Russia and in the Balkans where the small states joined in to gain local advantage.  The war resulted in unprecedented government growth.  The executive branch of government increased power at the expense of parliaments, and governments manipulated public opinion and suppressed dissent.

The War Outside Europe.  The presence of the West in all world regions inevitably spread the conflict.  The British Dominions quickly gave support to Britain and their troops fought on many fronts.  The United States at first remained neutral and sold goods to both sides and made loans to governments.  For the first time in its history the United States moved from being a debtor to a creditor nation.  American leadership remained pro-British and when German submarines struck at American vessels public opinion turned interventionist.  The United States entered the war in 1917.  Its men and materials helped to turn the balance against the Germans.  The United States also introduced a new current of idealism that influenced the war’s results.

Combatants in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.  Hostilities occurred in Africa as the Allies moved to seize the German colonies.  France used African troops on the European front; Britain sent Indian forces to several war theaters.  The increased awareness gained of European realities helped to stimulate nationalistic responses among the African and Asian participants.  In East Asia Japan joined the Allies to share in seizing German holdings.  Australia and New Zealand occupied German Samoa.  China also declared war on Germany.  The war was very important in the Middle East.  The Ottoman Empire allied with Germany, and the British in return sponsored Arab national movements opposing the regime.  They promised in the Balfour Declaration of 1917 to support Jewish settlement in Palestine.  The Ottoman Empire fell apart because of the war.

The War's End.  In March 1917 war pressures on the weakened Russian state caused a revolution that ended the tsarist government.  When Lenin and the Communists came to power they ended the war in 1918 through the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.  The heavy fighting on the Western front continued without issue until a last German offensive in 1918 failed.  As the Allies began a counteroffensive the German generals installed a civilian government that sued for peace in 1918.

The Peace and the Aftermath.  The Treaty of Versailles left its signers unsatisfied.  The French regained lost provinces, but did not gain security from Germany.  Italy felt that it did not gain enough territory, while Japan was ignored during the negotiations.  Woodrow Wilson of the United States hoped to settle nationalist issues and create a League of Nations to ensure peace, but he was not supported by American public opinion.  China, weakened by internal divisions, lost territory to Japan.  The multi-ethnic Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed before nationalist risings that led to the formation of Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and an enlarged Yugoslavia.  Germany lost lands to France and to the new Polish state.  Its colonial empire was divided among the victors.  Germany had to pay large reparations to the allies.  Communist Russia was not at the conference; it lost territory to Poland and the Baltic states.  The treaty set the stage for a very insecure future.

The War's Devastations and Dislocations.  The war weakened Europe both internally and externally.  Over 10 million people died; France and Serbia lost over one-tenth of their population.  The dead young men were the workers and leaders of the future; their loss hampered the birthrate.  There also was massive destruction in industry and agriculture.  Government borrowing to finance the war left massive debts and caused inflation.  Outside Europe the colonial world survived, but there were many indigenous leaders beginning to talk about independence.  Changes were very apparent in the Middle East.  Although a Turkish republic succeeded the Ottoman Empire, most of its territories were divided into League of Nations’ mandates.  The British took Palestine and Iraq; the French gained Syria and Lebanon.  New or renewed kingdoms, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, appeared in the politically-fragmented Middle East.  There were international economic reverberations after the peace settlement.  The United States and Japan took over European export markets; Britain never recovered its former position.  The war led to the new League of Nations, but, despite useful information and social work, it had minimal influence in international affairs.

The Great Depression.  International economic depression dominated the 1930s.  Problems in the industrial economy of Europe and the United States, and long-term weaknesses elsewhere, caused global-wide collapse.  New governmental policies emerged to meet the crisis.  So did extremist political groups.

Causes of Economic Instability.  The impact of World War I influenced European economies into the early 1920s.  Serious inflation in Germany was only resolved through massive currency devaluation in 1923.  A general recession occurred in 1920 and 1921, although production levels rose again by 1923.  Britain had a very slow recovery because of competition within its export markets.  There were many general structural problems.  Western farmers faced chronic overproduction; prices fell and continuing flight from the land followed.  Overproduction similarly harmed the dependent areas of the world economy and lessened their ability to import Western manufactured goods.  Governments lacked knowledge of economics and provided little leadership during the 1920s.  Nationalist selfishness predominated and protectionism further reduced market opportunities.

Collapse and Crisis.  The depression began in October 1929 when the New York stock market crashed.  Stock values fell and banks failed.  Americans called back their European loans and caused bank failures.  Investment capital disappeared.  Industrial production fell, causing unemployment and lower wages.  Both blue-collar and middle class workers suffered as the depression grew worse from 1929 to 1933.

Worldwide Impact.  A few economies escaped incorporation in the depression.  The Soviet Union, isolated by its Communist directed economy, went about the business of creating rapid industrial development without outside capital.  In most other nations the depression worsened existing hard times.  Western markets were unable to absorb imports, causing unemployment in economies producing foods and raw materials.  Japan's dependence on exports caused similar problems.  Latin American governments responded to the crisis by greater involvement in planning and direction; the Japanese increased their suspicions of the West and thought about gaining secure markets in Asia.  In the West the depression led to welfare programs and to radical social and political experiments.  The global quality of the depression made it impossible for any purely national policy to restore prosperity and contributed to the second international world war..

World War II.  The hostilities leading to the outbreak of war in 1939 started earlier in the decade.  Japan and Germany began military actions that were met with passive responses from other powerful states exacerbated nationalistic and ideological tensions that included Western fears of the Soviet Union.

New Authoritarian Regimes.  The depression contributed to the rise of ultra nationalist groups.  In Japan one such group killed the prime minister in 1932 and caused the inauguration of a military regime.  The military already had moved into Manchuria in 1931 to counter Chinese efforts to reunify their nation.  The Japanese proclaimed Manchuria an independent state.  When the League of Nations condemned the step, Japan withdrew from the League.  In Germany the depression followed a degenerating political situation and created political chaos.  The National Socialist (Nazi) Party of Adolf Hitler advocated an authoritarian state and an aggressive foreign policy.  With conservative support Hitler legally took power in 1933 and quickly built a totalitarian state.  The Nazis deliberately created a war machine.   Italy had been following a similar path.  Benito Mussolini formed a fascist state during the 1920s; with Hitler in power he reacted more forcefully to attain nationalistic triumphs.

The Steps toward War.  Hitler began the process ending in war as Germany suspended reparation payments and in 1935 began rearming.  In 1936 Germany occupied the Rhineland.  Britain and France did nothing to counter the violations of the Versailles treaty.  Mussolini in 1935 attacked and defeated Ethiopia without significant reaction from the international community.  In 1936 civil war began in Spain between authoritarian and republican and leftist groups.  Germany and Italy supported the Spanish right and Russia the left.  The principal democracies remained inert.  The republicans were defeated by 1939.  In 1938 Hitler united Austria to Germany and later marched into part of Czechoslovakia.  Britain and France at Munich accepted Germany's move in return for promises of peace.  Hitler went ahead to take the rest of Czechoslovakia in 1939 and signed an alliance with the Soviet Union.  When Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, Russia moved into Poland and the Baltic states.  Britain and France declared war against Germany.  War began in China with a Japanese invasion in 1937.  In 1940 Germany, Italy, and Japan concluded an alliance.  When the war began the European powers desiring to preserve the status quo were unprepared for conflict.  The United States wished to remain neutral.

The Course of the War: Japan's Advance and Retreat.  Stalemate against China turned the Japanese to other parts of Asia; they moved into Indochina, Malaya, and Burma.  The United States withheld materials necessary for the Japanese war effort and when all negations broke down Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in late 1941.  The Philippines were seized in 1942.  By the end of 1942 the United States gained the initiative and went on to recover lost possessions and in 1944 to begin massive air attacks on Japan.

Germany Overreaches.  By 1940 German forces had defeated Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium, and France.  Germany aided Italy to seize Yugoslavia and Greece, and both nations pressed against British and French territories in North Africa.  Britain held on and won the battle for control of its air space.  The conquered lands were forced to supply resources for the German war machine.  By 1941 the balance of the war began to turn.  Hitler stretched German resources by invading Russia.  In late 1941 the United States joined the alliance against Germany.  The Americans and British in 1942 pushed the Germans and Italians back in North Africa while Russia at Stalingrad broke the German advance and began their own successful offensive.  Italy was invaded by the British and Americans and Germany suffered heavy bombing.  In 1944 the Allies invaded France and gradually surged into western Germany as the Russians moved into eastern regions.  Germany surrendered in May 1945.  A few months later Japan surrendered after American use of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Human Costs.  The war caused a massive, worldwide, loss of life.  Nazi gas chambers resulted in 6 million deaths.  The air forces of both sides attacked civilian centers and caused massive losses.   Over 78,000 people died from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The war in all sectors cost the lives of at least 35 million people, 20 million of them in the Soviet Union.

In Depth: Total War.  During the 20th century total war, the marshaling of vast resources and emotional commitments, emerged.  It was the result of the impact of industrialization on military effort.  The change had been underway since mass conscription was introduced during the wars of the era of the French revolution.  Industrial technology was first applied on a large scale during the American Civil War.  A new style of warfare appeared.  World War I fully demonstrated the nature of total war.  Governments took control of many aspects of their societies.  The distinction between military and civilians blurred as bombing raids hit densely populated regions.  The consequences of the new warfare were important.  Workers, including women, secured concessions.  Technological research produced useful peaceful benefits.  Total warfare produced embittered veterans, made post-war diplomacy difficult, and resulted in societal tensions..

The Settlement of World War II.  The victors in the war attempted to make a peace avoiding the mistakes made after World War I.  The United Nations was established to allow for peaceful settlement of disputes.  The great powers - United States, Soviet Union, Britain, France, China - controlled decisions in the Security Council.  Discussions about the postwar future began among the United States, Britain, and Russia in 1942.  The three met at Teheran in 1943 where the West agreed to an invasion of France and left Russia free to move into eastern Europe.  The three met again at Yalta in 1945.  The Soviet Union agreed to join against Japan in return for territorial gains in China and Japan.  Agreement over Europe's future was difficult.  A disarmed Germany, purged of Nazi influence, was divided into four occupied zones.  Eastern Europe, although promises were made for a democratic future, was left under Soviet domination.  The final postwar conference was at Potsdam in 1945.  By then the Soviets occupied Eastern Europe and eastern Germany.  They annexed eastern Poland while the Poles gained compensation by receiving part of eastern Germany.  Germany and Austria were divided and occupied.  In East Asia Japan was occupied by the United States and stripped of its wartime gains.  Korea was freed, but was divided into United States and Soviet occupation zones.  Asian colonies returned to their former rulers. China regained most of its territory but civil strife continued between the Communists and nationalist.  In other regions colonial holdings were reconfirmed.  In Europe Russia's frontiers were pushed westward to regain its World War I losses.  Most nations existing in 1918 were restored, although the Baltic states once again became Russian provinces.  All  states except Greece and Yugoslavia fell under Soviet domination.  Western nations were free, but under American influence.


The Cold War and Decolonization, 1945-1989.  Rivalries began in Europe.  The Soviets created an eastern block by installing communist governments in their occupied territories.  The United States responded by supporting regimes under Soviet pressure; in 1947 it proclaimed the Marshall Plan to rebuild Western Europe.  Germany emerged as the focal point of the Cold War.  The Allies cooperated to begin rebuilding a unified West Germany in 1946.  The Soviets retaliated by blockading Berlin in 1947; an American massive airlift kept the city supplied.  The crisis ended in 1948 with two Germanys divided by a fortified border.  The Cold War divisions led to two military alliances: NATO was formed in 1949 under American leadership; the Soviets responded by the Warsaw Pact.  By then the Soviets had nuclear weapons and from then on Russia and the United States engaged in a major arms race.  With Europe stabilized Cold War tensions turned to the global arena.  When North Korea invaded South Korea in 1949 the United Nations, under American leadership, fought back.  Elsewhere the Cold War rivals allied and supported friendly regimes in all continents.  Nuclear confrontation almost occurred over a Soviet effort to install missiles in Cuba.  War occurred when the United States unsuccessfully intervened against communist forces in Vietnam.  The Cold War also was an ideological struggle, with many other nations pressured into selecting one of the rival views of the future.  Cold War intensity declined after the 1950s.  By the 1970s arms limitation agreements were signed.  Most European colonies in Africa and Asia gained independence.  Some established close relations with different Cold War rivals; others, like India, were nonaligned.  New international connections emerged as global economic interactions increased.  The Cold War closed in the 1980s as the economically weakening Soviet Union was unable to match American military spending.  In 1989 the Soviet Union had to recognize the independence of its European satellites.  The communist system in Europe then collapsed, and the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991.

Period III: The 1990s and Beyond.  Several new international and military features appeared in the initial stages of the new era.  The military power of the United States was unrivaled.  Regional conflicts required new attention.  The United Nation and the United States attempted, with varying results, to contain them.  Regional identities heightened in East Asia, the Islamic world, and India.  New emphasis was placed on regional, supranational, trade blocks - the European Union, the North American free trade agreement, and looser arrangements in other areas.  Most major societies moved towards more common commercial policies.  State-run enterprises were replaced by increased private competition and freer market forces.  A move to democratic political processes, beginning in the late 1970s, continued.  No single framework emerged in an international era where superpower rivalry had disappeared.

Conclusion: A Legacy of Uncertainty.  World War II weakened the Western Europe and propelled the United States into a leadership position in the West . New superpowers emerged, and American cultural influences surged.  Asian and African peoples were able to take advantages of the changes to end colonial domination.  The rebalancing of world power and the increase in importance of the global economy were the main results of the postwar era.


internationalization: the idea that peoples should unite across national boundaries; gained popularity during the 19th century; led to the establishment of organizations like the International Red Cross.

World Court: permanent arbitration court established at The Hague in 1899; failed to resolve problems of international conflict.

western front: war line between Belgium and Switzerland during World War I; featured trench warfare and massive casualties among combatants.

Italian front: war line between Italy and Austria-Hungary; also produced trench warfare.

eastern front: war zone from the Baltic to the Balkans where Germans, Austro-Hungarians, Russians, and Balkan nations fought.

submarine warfare: a major part of the German naval effort against the allies during World War I; when employed against the United States it precipitated American participation in the war.

Balfour Declaration (1917): British promise of support for the establishment of Jewish settlement in Palestine.

Brest-Litovsk Treaty (1918): Russia and Germany agreement; Russia withdrew from the World War I and lost territory to Germany in return for peace.

Treaty of Versailles: ended World War I; punished Germany with loss of territory  and payment of reparations; did not satisfy any of the signatories.

League of Nations: international organization of nations created after World War I; designed to preserve world peace; United States never a member.


Socialism in one country: Stalin's concept of Russian communism based solely upon internal Soviet development; the resulting isolation helped the Soviet Union to avoid some of the consequences of the Great depression.

National Socialist (Nazi) Party: led by Hitler in Germany; gained support during economic chaos after World War I and the Great Depression; advocated an authoritarian state and an aggressive foreign policy; gained power in 1933.

Adolf Hitler: Nazi leader of Germany from 1933 to 1945; led Germany into World War II.

Benito Mussolini: Italian leader who created a fascist government during the 1920s; stressed an aggressive foreign policy and nationalist glories.

anschluss: union between Germany and Austria under Hitler in 1938.

Munich Conference: meeting caused by German occupation of part of Czechoslovakia in 1938; Western leaders agreed to the action after Germany promised future peace.

appeasement: name given to the policy of British leader Neville Chamberlain because of his acceptance at the Munich Conference of German aggression.

Tripartite Pact: 1940 alliance between Japan, Germany, and Italy.

Munich conference: 1938 meeting between German, French, and British leaders; allowed Czechoslovakia to be dismembered by Germany in return for promises of future peace.

Tripartite Pact (1940): treaty between Germany, Japan, and Italy

Pearl Harbor: American naval base in Hawaii attacked by Japan in Dec. 1941; caused American entry into World War II.

blitzkrieg: German term meaning lightening warfare; involved rapid movement of troops and tanks.

Vichy: collaborationist French government established at Vichy in 1940 following defeat by Germany.

Winston Churchill: British prime minister during World War II; exemplified British determination to resist Germany.

siege of Stalingrad: 1942 turning point during Germany's invasion of Russia; Russians successfully defended the city and then went on the offensive.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki: two Japanese cities on which the United States dropped atomic bombs in 1945; caused Japanese surrender.

Holocaust: Germany's attempted extermination of European Jews; resulted in six million deaths.

Teheran Conference (1943): meeting between the leaders of the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union; decided to open a new front against Germany in France; gave the Russians a free hand in eastern Europe.

Yalta Conference (1945):  agreed upon Soviet entry into war against Japan, organization of the United nations; left eastern Europe to the Soviet Union.

Potsdam Conference (1945): meeting between the leaders of the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union in 1945; the allies accepted Soviet control of eastern Europe; Germany and Austria were divided among the victors.

Cold War: struggle from 1945 to 1989 between the communist and democratic worlds; ended with the collapse of Russia.

eastern block: the eastern European countries of Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and Eastern Germany dominated by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

iron curtain: term coined by Churchill for the division between the Western and Soviet spheres.

Marshall Plan: United States program begun in 1947 to help Western European nations recover from the devastation of World War II.

NATO: North Atlantic Treaty Organization; formed in 1949 to counter the threat of Soviet Union; included western European democracies, Canada, and the United States.

Warsaw Pact: the Soviet response to NATO; made up of Soviets and their European satellites.

Korean War: war following the 1949 invasion of South Korea by North Korea; communist powers supported the former, the Western powers the latter.

Vietnamese war: a long struggle beginning with the Vietnamese effort to expel the French; the United States unsuccessfully intervened to prevent communist victory.

nonalignment: newly independent former colonial nations who proclaimed neutrality during the Cold War.


1.  Discuss the proposition that both the causes and the outcome of World War II were the result of problems created in the Treaty of Versailles.  Versailles had alienated German, Japan, and Italy and helped to create radical governments in each that advocated programs of aggressive territorial acquisition.  Eastern Europe, through the creation of many small nations, emerged unstable.  World War II delivered almost all of them to the Soviet orbit.  Control of the Pacific, including Japan, went to the United States.  The problems resulting form the division of the Ottoman Empire were still unresolved after 1945.  The process of decolonization initiated during World War I led to rebellion and independence after World War II.  The failure of the League of Nations led to the creation of a more powerful United Nations.

2.  Discuss the influence of global wars and the Great Depression on the destruction of Western global dominion.  Both wars demonstrated the application of industrial society to warfare.  Capitalization was required.  Europeans met their needs through deficit spending and borrowing, thus causing excessive inflation.  The depression of 1929 was partly caused by such actions.  It disrupted the global network where the West supplied manufactured goods in return for agricultural products and raw materials from dependent economies.  The spread of the depression to the latter at least temporally broke the cycle of dependency.  World War II ended the depression and resulted in new core economies (United States, Japan).  It also destroyed the military and imperial dominance of Western Europe.  The United States and Russia emerged as the great powers.






1. What were the causes leading to World War I?

2. What was the impact of World War I on the worlds' societies and economies?

3. What were the causes of the Great Depression?

4. What was the worldwide impact of the depression?

5. How were the diplomatic problems of World War II settled?

6. In what ways did the period from 1914 to 1945 mark the end of the old world order?

3. What were the causes of the Great Depression?

4. What was the worldwide impact of the depression?

5. How were the diplomatic problems of World War II settled?

6. In what ways did the period from 1914 to 1945 mark the end of the old world order?

7. What were the consequences of the ending of the Cold War.



Map References

Danzer, Maps
Source Maps: S49, S50, S51, S52, S53, S54, S55, S56. Reference Maps: R15, R30.

Audio Cassettes

Bertrand Russell. Bertrand Russell Speaking
Woodrow Wilson. The Fourteen Points, in Great American Speeches, 1898-1918
The Poetry of Pasternak
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Yertushenko Reads Babi Yar and Other Poems. Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Great American Speeches: 1931-1947
Finnegan's Wake. James Joyce
The Metamorphosis. Franz Kafka
The Stories of Franz Kafka
Babbitt. Sinclair Lewis
From Caedmon


J. M. Keynes. The Economic Consequences of the Peace
Ulysses. James Joyce
A Room of One's Own. Virginia Woolf
The Economic Consequences of the Peace. J. M. Keynes
What Is to Be Done. V I. Lenin
Mein Kampf.  Adolf Hitler
"Existentialism, 1946." Jean‑Paul Sartre
Charter of the United Nations
"Report to the Communist Party Congress" N. S. Khrushchev
In Kishlansky, op. cit.


1945: Year of Victory. Films for the Humanities and Sciences BN-1607
Adolf Hitler. Films for the Humanities and Sciences BN-1854
All Quiet on the Western Front. Filmic Archives, 4058E
Animal Farm. Filmic Archives, 5E
Anschluss + 50 Years. Films for the Humanities and Sciences BN-1630
Attack and Reprisal. Filmic Archives 4024E
Awakening. Films for the Humanities and Sciences BN-2812
Caudillo: The History of the Spanish Civil War. Films for the Humanities and Sciences
Chernobyl. Films for the Humanities and Sciences BN-1264
Czechoslovakia 1968. Films for the Humanities and Sciences BN-793
Dateline: 1939—Warsaw, "The Eagle & The Bear." MTI Film and Video JS-6494M
Dateline: 1943—Europe, "The Eagle & The Bear." MTI Film and Video JS-6125M
Dateline: 1941 Yugoslavia, "The Eagle & The Bear." MTI Film and Video JS-6485M
Disaster in a Pleasant Climate: Trouble in Italy and Spain. Films for the Humanities and
Sciences BN-2263
Eisenstein. Filmic Archives, 408E
Face to Face. Films for the Humanities and Sciences BN-2815
Franklin D.. Roosevelt: The New Deal. ACI Productions
Hitler's Henchmen. Filmic Archives 4027E
Hitler. Filmic Archives, 4356E
Hitler: A Career. Filmic Archives, 4026E
How the Nazis Came to Power. Films for the Humanities and Sciences, BN-2550
Just Around the Corner. Filmic Archives, 1195E
Kamikaze: Death from the Sky. Filmic Archives 4461E
Lenin and the Bolsheviks. Filmic Archives, 4487E
Losing the Peace. BN-2259
Mussolini: Rise and Fall of a Dictator. Filmic Archives, 4084E
Mutiny on the Western Front. Filmic Archives, 30611E
Nazi War Crimes: Babi Yar. Filmic Archives, 4490E
Night and Fog. Filmic Archives, 653E
Of Pure Blood. Filmic Archives, 4029E
Olympia, Part I (Festival of the People). Leni Riefenstahl. Filmic Archives, 600E
Olympia, Part II (Festival of Beauty). Leni Riefenstahl. Filmic Archives, 601E
Our Soviet Allies/WW II. FilmicArchives, 4489E
Out of the Ashes, No. 8 in "Heritage: Civilization and the Jews." Films­Inc-Education
Philby. Films for the Humanities and Sciences, BN-2789
Picasso: Artist of the Century. Films Inc
Red Star Rising - The Dawn of the Gorbachev Era. Filmic Archives, 4285E
Rehearsal for D-Day. Films for the Humanities and Sciences, BN-1739
Russia in World War I. Films Inc
Solidarity. Films for the Humanities and Sciences, BN-2587
Stalemate. Films for the Humanities and Sciences, BN-785
Stalin. Films Incorporated Video
The '20s: From Illusion to Disillusion. Films for the Humanities and Sciences, BN-2562
The Battle of Arnhem. Films for the Humanities and Sciences, BN-2273
The Battle of Gallipoli. Films for the Humanities and Sciences, BN-2469
The Battle of the Marne. Films for the Humanities and Sciences, BN-2468
The Battle of Verdun. Films for the Humanities and Sciences, BN-1481
The Berlin Wall. Films for the Humanities and Sciences, BN-2591
The Blitz. Films for the Humanities and Sciences, BN-2670
The Cavalry of the Clouds. Films for the Humanities and Sciences, BN-1723
The Eagle and the Bear Series (series touching year by year hot spots in the Cold War
since 1945). MTI Film and Video
The End of a Revolution. Films for the Humanities and Sciences, BN-2260
The End of the Old Order. Learning Corporation of America
The End of the World. Films for the Humanities and Sciences, BN-2270
The Final Chapter. Films for the Humanities and Sciences, BN-2672
The Great Depression: A Human Diary. Mass Media Associates
The Great War. McGraw-Hill/NBC
The Hungarian Uprising: 1956. Films for the Humanities and Sciences, BN-2600
The Life of Anne Frank. Films for the Humanities and Sciences, BN-1609
The Music of Auschwitz. CBS Films
The Plow that Broke the Plains and Night Mail. Filmic Archives, 1194E
The Rise of the Dictators. Time-Life Films
The Second Russian Revolution. Coronet/MTI Film and Video
The Smell of War. Films for the Humanities and Sciences, BN-784
The Spanish Civil War. Films for the Humanities and Sciences, BN-2597
The Spanish Civil War. Films for the Humanities and Sciences, BN-2597
The Suicide of a Camp Survivor. The Case of Primo Levi. BN-3059
Triumph of the Will. Leni Riefenstahl. Filmic Archives, 436E
Unraveling Hitler's Conspiracy. BN-3982
Verdun. End of a Nightmare. Indiana University
Versailles. The Lost Peace. Films, Inc
Wilfrid Owen: The Pity of War. BN-1360
Will There Always Be An England. Carousel Films
Witness to Genocide. Filmic Archives 4305E
World War I. Films for the Humanities and Sciences, BN-2598
World War I. A Documentary of the Role of the USA. Encyclopedia Britannica
World War II. Films for the Humanities and Sciences, BN-2594
Years of Gloom and Hope. Films for the Humanities and Sciences, BN-2261

Holocaust Museum Resources

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW, Washington D.C. 20024-2159 has three excellent pedagogical aids to assist instructors to deal with the Holocaust.

     1. Guidelines for Teaching About the Holocaust
2. Annotated Bibliography
3. Annotated Videography                                                                                                                                |

These are available on request. Send requests to the Education Department at the Museum.


Source :

Web site link:

Google key word : The 20th century in world history summary and study guide file type : doc

Author : not indicated on the source document of the above text

If you are the author of the text above and you not agree to share your knowledge for teaching, research, scholarship (for fair use as indicated in the United States copyrigh low) please send us an e-mail and we will remove your text quickly.


The 20th century in world history summary and study guide


                                 Pages 668 – 675



Introduction: The 20th Century as a New Period in World History


The 20th century has provided a rare break in world history, comparable in scope to the 5th century or 15th century. The contemporary period in world history had just taken shape even at the end of the 1990s. Two impulses of the 20th century affect the periodization. One impulse emphasizes the continuities of the century. At the other extreme, many other observers reflect a modern culture that emphasizes rapid and fundamental change and the creation of very strong and influential global contacts. These historians see the 20th century as a third revolution comparable to the Neolithic and Industrial Revolutions. There are three phases. The first was between 1914 and 1945 including the two wars and the Great Depression, which led to a new international order. Between 1945 and 1991, decolonization and the Cold War dominated much of the world. The end of the Cold War either began a third phase, or, as some argue, perhaps a new period.

The Repositioning of the West   

Western decline resulted in part from the two world wars. Western population decreased as a percentage of the world total and immigration to western countries increased rapidly. The West has also lost its technological monopoly including its military superiority, and has been challenged as the preeminent world trader and manufacturer. More decisive was decolonization in which European empires broke up and the rise of non-European super powers, namely the Soviet Union (Russia), the United States, China, and Japan.

International Contacts


The intensification of international contacts was a basic feature of the 20th century. Technology was critical: Innovations included faster communication, faster transport, and larger capacities for communication and the movement of goods. Levels of world trade increased and more corporations operated internationally. Diplomatic contacts were internationalized and influential international organizations arose. International cultural influences spread.

International Challenges in Politics and Culture

Change undermined long-standing traditions in all institutions and structures. Governments have changed, often adopting Western style institutions, and all governments have taken on new roles in societies and economies. Belief systems have been modified or challenged by systems that were more secular. Growing interest in science also challenged them. Another change was the displacement of long-standing beliefs in rigid social inequalities.


What contradictory impulses affect the understanding of the 20th century?


How significant is the 20th century in world history? Is it a period? Why?

How did the West’s global position change during this period?


What countries have dominated this period?

What international contacts and exchanges typify the 20th century?


What conditions have changed and remained the same in the 20th century?





Multinational Corporations

TIME LINE: The 20th Century (Pages 670 – 671)


What major events herald the beginning of the period?

Why might one argue that the 20th century ended in 1989 or 1991?


What revolutions and major wars occurred between 1910 and 1999?

Based on items of the timeline, what themes dominated this period?




Map: World Distribution of Manufacturing, 1930 (Page 672)

Which nations are the largest industrial powers?

Which continents are most and least industrialized?


Map: The World in 1995 (Page 672)

What nations and regions have experienced recent conflict and unrest?

Based on the map and timeline, what regions seem the most violent?




All of these themes are typical of the 20th century in world history EXCEPT:

increased national sentiment.

increased religious revivalism.

rapid and fundamental changes.

increasing cross-cultural contacts and connections.

continuing dominance of the world by western powers.

Which of these statements about the West’s 20th century position is a FACT?

The western domination of the world has continued.

The West’s population relative to the rest of the world has declined.

Fewer people immigrate to the West and the U.S. today than in 1900.

European empires and colonial empires persist today.

The west and the USA still have a monopoly on military technologies.


Regarding world trade and manufacturing in the 20th century,

Japan is the wealthiest nation with the largest economy.

Brazil, China, and similar nations cannot compete with the western dominated global economy.

the U.S.A. has the largest business and economic sector, but has many rivals.

most societies now earn of bulk of their profits from international trade.

the largest sector of the world economy is still agriculture.

The intensification of international contacts in the 20th century is largely due to



international trade.

the spread of global diseases.

the intensification of religious feeling.


Diplomatically, 20th century international relations

has been dominated by the U.S., Russia, Western Europe and China.

has too many actors for any one power to dominate.

while important, have seen the decline of embassies and diplomatic staffs.

has seen a proliferation of non-governmental organizations such as the U.N.

has been dominated by the United Nations.

In the 20th century the role of the governments in societies around the world has

increased dramatically.


remained similar to past traditional roles.

lost many roles and functions to non-governmental organizations.

had little effect on citizens.


In the 20th century, all of these institutions have challenged or modified the traditional dominance of religions over world societies EXCEPT:





mass education.


The 20th century has seen what significant social change in most world societies?

The disenfranchisement of minorities

Pauperization of most workers and the middle class

The elimination of social and political elites

The wide-spread acceptance of differences in gender, race, ethnic, and sexual preferences

The displacement of long-time systems of inequalities

The system of government or political ideology, which seems to have had the largest support in the 20th century has been

aristocratic monarchy.



popular sovereignty.



All of these events have had profound effects on the development of the 20th century EXCEPT:

World War I.

the Agricultural Revolution.

World War II.


the Cold War.



Compare and contrast the beginnings of the contemporary and early modern periods.


Compare and contrast the decline of Western influence in the 20th century with the decline of Chinese or Arabic Muslim influences in earlier periods.

Compare the patterns and nature of international contacts in the 20th century with contacts in the Classical, Post-Classical, or Early Modern periods.


Compare and contrast demographic and environmental changes in the 20th century with the shift from the Neolithic cultures to classical civilizations or the Industrial Revolution.


The 20th century world encompassed the globe. All continents were explored and except for the Antarctic, settled. Physical geography no longer played an important role as protection or isolation from contact. Physical geography was critical only in the sense that it helped or retarded development and population through its resource base or lack of one. The only barrier to movement or communication remained distance and time. Although civilization became truly global, strong regional alliances arose. And vast super cities spread out.


Modern Alliances



European Union


Arab League




Historic Alliances and states

Warsaw Pact Organization


Triple Entente

Triple Alliance

Axis Powers


U. S. S. R.




Mexico City


Los Angeles



Hong Kong


Sao Paulo




United States



United Kingdom









Saudi Arabia







South Africa













Source :

Web site link:

Google key word : The 20th century in world history summary and study guide file type : doc

Author : not indicated on the source document of the above text

If you are the author of the text above and you not agree to share your knowledge for teaching, research, scholarship (for fair use as indicated in the United States copyrigh low) please send us an e-mail and we will remove your text quickly.


The 20th century in world history summary and study guide


If you want to quickly find the pages about a particular topic as The 20th century in world history summary and study guide use the following search engine:




The 20th century in world history summary and study guide


Please visit our home page Terms of service and privacy page




The 20th century in world history summary and study guide