Unit Abstract and Historical Overview- MC3 Unit V

At the end of the previous era, European states had emerged to hold enormous economic, political, and military power in the world, including most of Africa, India, and Latin America.  Ideas that had originated in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries became highly influential outside Europe.  The United States and Japan also grew in industrial and military power, rivaling Europe’s global control.  On the other hand, a number of former centers of economic influence declined – most notably China and the Ottoman Empire. 

The time period from 1900 to 1945 can be described as an age of crisis and achievement.  During the early years of the 20th century, competing political, ideological, and economic blocs generated tensions and conflicts, culminating in two global wars.  Liberal democratic and capitalist systems of the west confronted fascist and totalitarian systems in Russia, Italy, Germany, and Japan resulting in ideological, economic, political, and military battles.  By the end of the era, the United States emerged from two global wars and economic depression to assume a new role in the world. 

Set against this backdrop, the emergence of a global system of communication and transportation connected all regions of the world. Across these systems flowed new ideas, inventions, and commodities that generated “modernity.”  Additionally, the growth of the first forms of mass media (radio and movies) allowed individuals to experience global events from other regions, thereby increasing global awareness. Within this context, propaganda fueled nationalistic trends.

Three crises originating in Europe altered the world system that had developed in the previous era: World War I, depression, and World War II.  Combined, these events weakened Europe’s dominance.  First, both wars wreaked havoc on European life, property, economies, and spirit.  Second, communism and fascism challenged the rise of liberal, capitalist democracies in Europe and then across the world.  Finally, nationalist leaders inspired uprisings and political revolutions, attempting to cast off European imperial control.  Accordingly, the first half of the 20th century was marked by unprecedented death and destruction caused by poverty, disease, and new forms of technology.  The first half of this century also saw the combination of scientific racism with nationalist movements leading to genocide, first of the Armenians by the Turks and then of Jews by the Germans.  By the end of the era, the European hegemony was weakened as the United States grew in power and world stature while communism flourished in the USSR.
Last modified: Tuesday, June 26, 2012, 5:39 PM