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MODERN HISTORY: The world at the beginning of the 20th century

Reworked overview of the forces and ideas for change and continuity in the world at the turn of the 20th century. For Preliminary Year 11 Modern History
by

Adelaide Lee-Warner

on 29 August 2013

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Transcript of MODERN HISTORY: The world at the beginning of the 20th century

The World at the beginning of the 20th Century
Divisions within society: class
1. Class divisions

Divisions within society

At the start of the 20th century women throughout the world were considered second class citizens, whether or not they had wealth to support them. We had clearly defined gender roles and as many nations progressed industrially the demand for equality began to rise.
Impact of technological change & urbanisation
Industrialization became a regional phenomenon, as a result of the growth in technological change. Industrialisation resulted in the growth of capitalism.
Industrialisation created major challenge & change to the old political, social, economic & cultural order of the early 20th century, this was because it;
(i) undermined the social & political power of the old order
(ii) encouraged the move from country to town to city

Urbanisation saw housing erected cheaply, quickly & without the sewerage, garbage & other services needed to support it. The spread of disease became a major problem, and divisions between social classes were reflected in the nature & location of their housing. The increased population densities – resulted in high unemployment & a loss of workers rights

The world of Empires
The major empires included:
(i)Britain
The British Empire gave it status as the world’s greatest power. It covered about 25% of the earth’s surface. The British colony provided Britain with a vast amount of resources, however at the same time Britain faced challenges from its colonies (India) – the people were becoming vocal about the need for self-determination
(ii)France
Had the second largest empire. The French government was determined to bring French civilization to its colonies = costly building & education programs – this undermined France’s economic strength.
(iii)Germany united as a nation in 1871
Was only a new nation & as such had missed out on the opportunities to take control of land overseas. The German’s were keen to increase their empire, in order to compete with the British & French.
(iv)Russia
Had acquired its empire through expansion in Europe.






Many religious traditional views endured. However, religious tolerance had failed, and there seemed to be constant religious rivalries and philosophical thought which questioned religion.
Challenges to the existing order
(i) Anarchism: a political movement aiming to replace government power with voluntary co-operation among society’s individual’s and groups.
As a result of the population expansion, class divisions began to form throughout the world.




An individual's membership of the upper, middle or lower classes reflected her or his economic roles within society.
* Upper classes - usually family money & status, wealth created through land ownership (drawn from the old order of feudalism), dominated political life.
* Middle classes - new social group emerging throughout the world, developed as a consequence of the industrial revolution, included people with such occupations as lawyers and doctors. They supported the ideas of liberalism ..(liberalism, political doctrine that takes protecting and enhancing the freedom of the individual to be the central problem of politics. Liberals typically believe that government is necessary to protect individuals from being harmed by others; but they also recognize that government itself can pose a threat to liberty. As the revolutionary American pamphleteer Thomas Paine expressed it in “Common Sense” (1776), government is at best “a necessary evil.” Laws, judges, and police are needed to secure the individual’s life and liberty, but their coercive power may also be turned against him.)
* Rural or working class - The working class provided the labour for those who controlled the nation's resources - low wages & poor working conditions usually saw discontent. The working class saw hope in socialism & trade unionism.
2. Gender divisions
2. Religious divisions
At the start of the 20th century, the world map was dominated by “empires”. Colonies provided the imperial owners with food sources & raw materials. They created opportunities to enhance the wealth & prestige of the empire builders. The gap was increased between the wealth & power of the ruling nation & that of the nations they governed. However, a lot of these empires required infrastructure to sustain them.
(ii) Democracy: a political philosophy meaning the rule of the people. In the early 20th century it reflected the belief that all males should have a say in the society’s government by exercising their right to elect to a representative body.
(iv) Socialism: a doctrine promoting the people’s ownership of a nation’s resources & the use of these for the benefit of all citizens
(iii) Liberalism: a political philosophy from the 15th century that became important during the French revolution. It incorporated the idea that people in society have rights as individuals (rather than a class) but focused on increasing the political power of the middle class. It was hostile towards movements seeking to increase working class power.
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