The Ten Most World-Changing Events of the 20th Century
For this list, I will mostly be including isolated events which occurred from 1900-1999. This means I am not including periods which occur over a large period of time. These will mostly be moments or events which span only a day or so. Therefore, advancements and inventions are not included, neither are the influence or works of particular people unless that influence came from a major event.
10. Attack on Pearl Harbor
December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, USA
The Second World War had been raging for two years already before Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. During that time, the United States played only a supporting role in the allied effort but had yet to engage in the fighting. Yet when those Japanese planes emerged from the western sky and bombed their Hawaiian naval base, they were thrust into the fray.
Japan had now declared itself on the side of the axis powers and the USA was now a full member of the allies. World War II had become much more worldly and touched almost every aspect of the globe. This is truly, as Roosevelt predicted, a day which has lived in infamy.
9. The October Revolution
November 7, 1917, Petrograd Russia
1917 was a highly tumultuous year for Russia; a year which changed their country forever. In the midst of the Great War, Lenin and his Bolsheviks led their revolution with the ideas of Marxist communism behind them. They took over the government and captured the Winter Palace, an action which would lead to the demise of the royal family and the birth of the USSR.
Needless to say, this new, powerful ideological force which implanted itself in Russia would dominate the world scene throughout the century. The war of Democracy and Communism took seed that day drew the whole world into their conflict.
June 6, 1944, Normandy, France
The 20th century appears to be split into two halves- the pre-WWII era and the post-WWII era. Both were strikingly different periods as the end of the war brought a lot of societal change along with it. And the turning point of the century which separates these two halves appears to be June 6th, 1944 when the allied forces left the shores of Britain and invaded Nazi-occupied Europe. This was the beginning of the end of the biggest conflict in world history as well as the hinge between these two distinct periods. D-Day was a massive undertaking which changed the course of history.
7. Discovery of Penicillin
September 28, 1928, London England
Now, I did claim that this list would not include technological advancements or inventions, since they are more a process than an event. The discovery of penicillin however is an exception, since its discovery did occur through a lab accident by scientist Alexander Fleming. Sure, development of the drug came afterward, but it was this unexpected event which kicked it off.
The impact that penicillin had upon medicine was profound as once devastating bacterial diseases could now be fought off with the new advent of antibiotics. This realization of using naturally formed fungal drugs may have been an mishap, but one of the most prosperous mishaps in recent history.
6. Fall of the Berlin Wall
November 9, 1989, Berlin, Germany
The tearing down of this physical and symbolic barrier between the democratic and communist worlds was a massive media event. The fall of the wall was a very concrete symbol of the fall of soviet communism itself. this would lead to the dissolution of the cold war which dominated the globe for half of a century and reduced one of the most powerful countries in the world.
5. Assassination of Franz Ferdinand
June 28, 1914, Sarajevo, Austria-Hungary
The spark which ignited the powder keg. When Serbian Black Hand member Gavrilo Princip shot the Austrio-Hungarian heir, a domino chain of international treaties was set off and World War I soon began. This was a massive war which changed warfare and changed the entire culture of international relations in the world, took the lives of 9 million soldiers and almost an entire generation of young men, and from the ashes would rise the even larger conflict of WWII. All because this one man was shot. (Well, not ALL because, but you know what I mean…)
4. Stock Market Crash of 1929
October 29, 1929, New York City, USA
Also known as Black Tuesday, the Wall Street market crash at the end of the 20’s sunk the world into the Great Depression which dominated the 30s. Life became hard as jobs were few and far between and the prosperity of the 1920’s seemed to stop altogether and it would take a full-scale war to pull the world out of its funk.
The United States and all of the countries who felt the ripple effects (which were many) learned just how important economic health was. Since then depressions have come and gone, but none so far have been as devastating.
3. Creation of Israel as a Jewish State
November 29, 1947, UN General Assembly
The United Nations did something pretty unprecedented when they actually approved a partition plan to divide Palestine and provide Jewish people with their own state. This declaration created an immediate war of independence with Palestine and the fighting has continued ever since.
Political unrest in the middle east has since become a mainstay on the world stage and the presence of Israel has caused a lot of fear and instability in the region, making governments all over the world anxious.
2. The Moon Landing
July 21, 1969, Sea of Tranquility, The Moon
Mankind walked on the moon. Think about going back one thousand, two thousand, heck even one hundred years ago and try telling people that. Think about how amazing that would seem to them. Mankind has actually reached the moon.
So why is it at #2? mostly because of the relative waste of potential of space age advancements since Armstrong and Aldrin’s fateful venture. We managed to set foot upon the heavens, yet since then progress with space exploration has been quite slow in comparison. It should have had mor of an influence as it did.
So why is it no lower than #2? It was hard not giving this the #1 spot to be honest, since its hard not to put this into a larger context and a wider perspective. If we were to do so, how can it not be one of the most world-changing events? Since the beginning of human life on earth, we have wondered and worshiped the moon, that great celestial object in the night sky. To think that we have actually managed to reach it and visit this legendary location is astounding. I can only think that in the next hundred, two hundred, one thousand years, this event will increase rapidly in importance when all other events of the 20th century fade away.
1. The Bombing of Hiroshima
August 6, 1945, Hiroshima, Japan
Man-made destructive power like the world had never before known and hardly dared to imagine was suddenly thrust upon us at the end of the Second World War. Nuclear and atomic energy was no longer a theory; it was a weapon, and a weapon that had now actually been used in combat. The world has not been the same since.
The cold war was the direct descendant of this event as the United States had declared the power they now held for the Russians to see. Fear gripped the world as the ultimate method of destruction was now a looming threat.only twice have atomic bombs been used against people, but 65 years later that threat is still a constant presence.
It is unfortunate that our boom of scientific knowledge and advancement, which has led to so many wonderful things, has also led us to creating the tool of our doom. What is sadder still is that we humans have even dared to use this upon ourselves on the unsuspecting cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those were dark days, the impact of which has rocked our very existence.