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20th-Century Timeline

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Last updated date: 15th Jul 2024
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What is the 20th Century and the Major Event?

Before understanding the major events that unfolded during the century we must understand the 20th-century timeline and its meaning. The twentieth century saw both great triumphs and tragedies. The twentieth (twenty) century began on January 1, 1901, and ended on December 31, 2000, according to the MCMI (MM). The article discusses the major events and the issues in world history in the 20th century. The article also briefly mentions the main change that the society went through that is capitalist industrialization.

More About 20th Century

Since we have seen what is the 20th century?  We can now develop a basic understanding of the major political events during this period. 

World war I and World war II are the most important historical and political conflicts to date and both of these global conflicts took place during the 20th-century timeline. Apart from these are several other important events that took place during the twentieth century. Capitalist industrialization and modernity were the two most important paradigm shifts that western society experienced. It would not be wrong to say that these events influenced the eastern countries including India. 

Some of the major issues in world history in the 20th century included the following. The Spanish flu epidemic, World War I and World War II, nuclear weapons, nuclear power, and space exploration, nationalism and decolonization, technological developments, and Cold War and post-Cold War conflicts dominated the twentieth century and are the major political events that unfolded in the 20th-century timeline. 

Capitalist Industrialization

Capital pervaded all parts of life in the 20th century, both in cultures where it advanced quickly and, more interestingly, in societies where it emerged but was stymied by entrenched older social and economic systems. The twentieth century saw the world divided into advanced or 'developed' countries and those classified as 'developing’ countries.

Indeed, the quick economic progress that capitalism industrialization entailed became a factor in the backwardness of several nations, as well as the backwardness of a huge majority of individuals inside those societies. Aspects of these disparities include colonialism and socioeconomic differences. To put it another way, inequality was as much a part of capitalism as it had been in previous societies.

When we speak of capitalist industrialization, we are referring to the changes in the organisation of production that occurred in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The evolution of capitalism is inextricably linked to changes in industrial structure.

Capitalism is an economic and social system characterised by private property ownership, i.e., the means of production—land, factories, and raw materials—are all privately owned and controlled, and production is carried out for the sake of profit rather than for the benefit of the producers. 

As a result, what is produced becomes a commodity or something that can be sold and profited from. It has an exchange value rather than a use-value, and it has an unequal exchange value because it benefits those who control the resources rather than those who work to produce them.

A Timeline of the 20th Century

Since we can answer questions like when was the 20th century and what is the 20th century, let us look into the major events during the decades of the 20th-century timeline.

Planes, televisions, and, of course, computers did not exist when the twentieth century began. These inventions significantly altered people's lives all around the world, with many of the changes originating in the United States. Two world wars, the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Holocaust in Europe, the Cold War, revolutionary social equality movements, and space exploration have all occurred during this century. Let us follow the issues in world history in the 20th century.

The 1900s

The Wright brothers' first flight, Henry Ford's first Model-T, and Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity all occurred during this decade, which marked the start of the century. The Boxer Rebellion and the San Francisco Earthquake were among the challenges.

The silent film business (Georges Melies' 400th film, "A Trip to the Moon," was released in 1903) and the teddy bear both grew in popularity during the 1900s. The Tunguska event, which occurred in Siberia in 1908, was a tremendous and enigmatic explosion that is now assumed to have been caused by an asteroid's airburst.

The 1910s

World War I, the first "total war," dominated this decade. Other significant changes occurred during the Russian Revolution and the start of Prohibition in the United States. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City caught fire in 1911; the "unsinkable" Titanic hit an iceberg and sank in 1912, killing over 1,500 people; and the Spanish flu killed millions around the world.

On a brighter note, the Armory Show of 1913 stunned the art world with its radical innovations, culminating in the Dada movement, while people in the 1910s received their first taste of an Oreo cookie and completed their first crossword puzzle.

The 1920s

A soaring stock market, speakeasies, short skirts, the Charleston, and jazz characterised the Roaring '20s. Women's suffrage made significant progress throughout the 1920s, with women voting in 1920. The discovery of King Tut's Tomb catapulted archaeology into the spotlight.

The 1930s

In the 1930s, the world was hammered hard by the Great Depression. Because of this, the Nazis were able to gain power in Germany, build their first concentration camp, and begin systematic persecution of Jews throughout Europe. They invaded Poland in 1939, for World War II to break out.

Other notable events of the 1930s were the loss of pilot Amelia Earhart over the Pacific, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow's fatal crime spree, and Chicago mobster Al Capone's imprisonment for income tax evasion.

The 1940s

By the time the 1940s began, World War II had already begun, and it was unquestionably the most significant event of the first half of the decade. During the Holocaust, the Nazis created extermination camps to slaughter millions of Jews, who were eventually released after the Allies captured Germany and the war ended in 1945.

The Cold War between the West and the Soviet Union began shortly after World War II concluded. In the 1940s, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated, and apartheid in South Africa was established.

The 1950s

The Golden Age is a term used to describe the 1950s. The polio vaccine was developed, Disneyland debuted in California, and colour television was invented. The Cold War continued when the United States and the Soviet Union initiated a space competition.

In the 1950s, segregation was declared unlawful in the United States, and the civil rights movement began. The decade also saw the death of one of the greatest scientist Albert Einstein on 18 April. 

The 1960s

One of the major events during the 1960s took place was the tear, also known as the Year of Africa because 17 African nations claimed independence in 1960. Many people associate the 1960s with the Vietnam War, protests, and rock 'n roll. 

The Stonewall Riots and the beginnings of gay rights, the Women's Liberation Movement, and the still-growing civil rights movement were among the decade's other revolutionary movements. The Beatles rose to fame, while Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech.

Geopolitics was equally dramatic alongside these revolutionary cultural shifts: the United States entered the Vietnam War, the Berlin Wall was constructed, the Soviets launched the first man into space, and Presidents John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Robert F. Kennedy were all slain.

The 1970s

In the early 1970s, the Vietnam War was still a big event. The deadliest earthquake of the century, the Jonestown massacre, the Munich Olympics atrocity, the kidnapping of American hostages in Iran, and the nuclear disaster at Three Mile Island dominated the era.

Disco became highly popular culturally, M*A*S*H* premiered on television, and "Star Wars" was released in theatres. The Supreme Court ruled abortion lawful in Roe v. Wade, and the Watergate scandal came to a head when President Richard Nixon resigned.

The 1980s

The end of the Cold War was ushered in by Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev's programmes of glasnost and perestroika. The unexpected fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 came soon after.

The eruption of Mount St. Helens, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Ethiopian famine, a massive toxic gas leak in Bhopal, and the AIDS pandemic were all calamities in this decade.

Since we have understood when was the 20th century let us look into one of the most tragic nuclear accidents: The Chernobyl. 

The Chernobyl disaster was a nuclear accident that happened on Saturday, April 26, 1986, at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant's No. 4 reactor, near the city of Pripyat in the Soviet Union's Ukrainian SSR. In terms of both cost and casualties, it is regarded as the worst nuclear accident in history.

The Chernobyl disaster sparked widespread concern. Because many individuals distrusted the Soviet authorities, there was a lot of discussion regarding the situation at the site in the First World during the early days of the event. 

The Chernobyl disaster, along with the Challenger space shuttle disaster, the Three Mile Island accident, and the Bhopal disaster, have all been used as case studies in research into the root causes of disasters, such as sleep deprivation and mismanagement, by both the US government and third parties.

The 1990s

The decade saw many important political events which included the Persian Gulf War, the fall of eastern European communist regimes, and the reunification of Germany. The disintegration of the USSR also took place during the decade. The dissolution of the Warsaw pact occurred during the early part of the decade. 

The Cold War ended, Nelson Mandela was released from jail, and the internet revolutionised life as we knew it—the 1990s seemed to be a decade of both hope and relief in many ways.

The Oklahoma City explosion, Kabul was seized by the Taliban, the Columbine High School shooting, and the Rwandan genocide was among the many tragedies of the decade.


In conclusion of the article, we have understood what is the 20th century and the major events of the timeline. There is a lot to be proud of in the last hundred years of history. We have witnessed the fall of communism and the defeat of fascism. In Latin America, Eastern Europe, South Africa, and many other places of the world, democracy has triumphed.

FAQs on 20th-Century Timeline

1. When did World War I take place?

After the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in 1914, World War I, commonly known as the Great War, began. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand led to WWI, and it lasted till 1918.

2. When did World War II take place?

World War II, also known as the Second World War and abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global conflict that took place between 1939 and 1945. World War II began on September 1, 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland under Adolf Hitler's leadership. In May 1945, Germany unconditionally surrendered, bringing World War II to a close.

3. What is the Spanish flu epidemic?

The Spanish flu pandemic, commonly known as the Great Influenza Epidemic or the 1918 influenza pandemic, was a global influenza pandemic caused by the H1N1 influenza A virus that killed millions of people.