(19th century - 20th century - 21st century - more centuries)
As a means of recording the passage of time, the 20th Century was that century which lasted from 1901-2000. Colloquially, this is often known as the nineteen hundreds, referring to the years 1900 to 1999.
The twentieth century was remarkable due to the technological, medical, social, ideological, and international innovations, and due to the rise of war, genocide, and democide on an unprecedented scale. The trends of mechanization of goods & services and networks of global communication which were begun in the 19th century continued at an ever increasing pace in the 20th. Virtually every aspect of life in virtually every human society changed in some fundamental way during the twentieth century.
Important developments, events and achievements
Science and Technology
Wars and Politics
Five overall worst atrocities of the 20th century
(measured in numbers of people killed; also see )
- World War II and regime of Adolf Hitler (1937-1945), over 50 million dead, including the Holocaust, killing two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe (6 million).
- Regime of Mao Zedong and Chinese famine (1949-1976), over 48 million dead.
- Regime of Joseph Stalin (1924-1953), over 20 million dead.
- World War I (1914-1918), over 15 million dead.
- Russian Civil War (1918-1921), over 8.5 million dead.
Culture and Entertainment
- Movies, music and the media had a major influence on fashion and trends in all aspects of life. As many movies and music originate from the United States, American culture spread rapidly over the world.
- After gaining political rights in the United States and much of Europe in the first part of the century, women became more independent throughout the century.
- Modern art developed new styles such as expressionism, cubism, and surrealism.
- The automobile provided vastly increased transportation capabilities for the average member of Western societies in the early to mid-century, spreading even further later on. City design throughout most of the West became focused on transport via car. The car became a leading symbol of modern society, with styles of car suited to and symbolic of particular lifestyles.
- Sports became an important part of society, becoming an activity not only for the privileged. Watching sports, later also on television, became a popular activity.
Highest grossing films of the 20th century
Most critically acclaimed films
Longest running television programs
Disease and Medicine
- Though modern medicine is better than ever, an influenza pandemic kills 25 million in 1918-1919 (the Spanish Flu), while AIDS, killing many, especially in developing countries, remains uncurable.
- Advances in medicine, such as the invention of antibiotics, decreased the number of people dying from diseases. Contraceptive drugs and organ transplantation were developed. The discovery of DNA molecules and the advent of molecular biology allowed for cloning and genetic engineering.
Natural Resources and the Environment
- The widespread use of petroleum in industry -- both as a chemical precursor to plastics and as a fuel for the automobile and airplane -- led to the vital geopolitical importance of petroleum resources. The Middle East, home to many of the world's oil deposits, became a center of geopolitical and military tension throughout the latter half of the century.
- A vast increase in fossil fuel consumption leads to depletion of natural resources, while air pollution possibly leads to global warming and the ozone hole. The problem is increased by world-wide deforestation, also causing a loss of biodiversity. The problem of a depletion of natural resources is decreased by advances in drilling technology which led to a net increase in the amount of fossil fuel that is readily obtainable at the end of the century, as compared with the amount considered obtainable at the beginning of the century.
- Gnassingbe Eyadema, Togo
- Felix Houphouet-Boigny, Côte d'Ivoire
- Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia
- Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya
- Idi Amin, Uganda
- Nelson Mandela, South Africa
- Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe
- Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt
- Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana
- Julius Nyerere, Tanzania
- Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, Libya
- Cecil Rhodes, South Africa
- Haile Selassie, Ethiopia
- Leopold Sedar Senghor, Senegal
- Sekou Toure, Guinea
- Theodore Roosevelt, USA
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt, USA
- Dwight Eisenhower, USA
- John F. Kennedy, USA
- Richard Nixon, USA
- Ronald Reagan, USA
- Bill Clinton, USA
- Wilfrid Laurier, Canada
- William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canada
- Pierre Trudeau, Canada
- Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, Cuba
- Fidel Castro, Cuba
- Juan Perón, Argentina
- Salvador Allende, Chile
- Augusto Pinochet, Chile
- Emiliano Zápata, Mexico
- Pancho Villa, Mexico
- Neville Chamberlain, United Kingdom
- Winston Churchill, United Kingdom
- Margaret Thatcher, United Kingdom
- Charles de Gaulle, France
- Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria, Austria-Hungary
- Kaiser Wilhelm II, Germany
- Adolf Hitler, Germany
- Helmut Schmidt, Germany
- Helmut Kohl, Germany
- Gerhard Schröder, Germany
- Benito Mussolini, Italy
- Francisco Franco, Spain
- Jozef Pilsudski, Poland
- Josip Broz 'Tito', Yugoslavia
- Milan Kučan, Slovenia
- Olof Palme, Sweden
- Nicolae Ceausescu, Romania
- Lech Walesa, Poland
- Middle East
- Russia and Soviet Union
Economics and Business
Writers and Poets
Decades and Years
Note: years before or after the twentieth century are in italics.