Ap world history 1900 – Present The Modern Era How era impacts essays

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  • 1900 – Present
  • The Modern Era

How era impacts essays

  • 2003 – Impacts of world trade 1750- present

The 20th Century

    • World conflict & the decline of empires
    • Decolonization and Nationalism
    • Cold War conflicts
    • Social Reforms
    • Globalization
    • Environmental Issues

WORLD WAR I The Great War, 1914-1918

    • M -- Militarism
    • A -- Alliances
    • N -- Nationalism
    • I -- Imperialism
    • A -- Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand (the spark that lit the powder keg….)


  • The Balkan region is the powder keg…


  • Promises of self-determination
  • Use of colonial soldiers
  • Machine guns, trench warfare, submarines, planes, tanks = major death and destruction
  • Financial strains on empires
  • Treaty of Versailles ends the war but will set the stage for World War II


  • Germany, Austria-Hungarian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire make up the Triple Alliance
  • Britain, France, Russia and eventually the U.S. make up the Triple Entente, or Allies
  • Fighting was concentrated in Europe between France and Germany, in trenches, with very little progress made in 3 years
  • Between 16 and 28 million people died as a result of World War I


  • Germany must take responsibility for starting the war and pay reparations to the victors
  • Germany had to disband its military and give up land they considered Germanic
  • Britain and France take the lands held by the Ottoman Empire (Iraq, Palestine, etc.)
  • League of Nations is created (President Wilson’s idea but the U.S. does NOT join)


THE 1920’s

  • The U.S. becomes a recognized world power
  • Britain and France regain strength as Germany suffers
  • Russia is now in the Soviet Union after the Bolshevik (Communist) Revolution of 1917
  • Economic boom time until 1929 when a global depression hits



  • Hitler and Mussolini were both Fascists (a militaristic nationalism that would stop at nothing to make the country powerful)

WORLD WAR II, 1939-1945

  • CAUSES: Increased nationalist uprisings following WWI and the problems of the global depression
  • Fighting took place in Europe, Northern Africa (colonies of European powers), Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Ocean
  • Total Warfare = destruction of entire cities with firebombing; much deadlier weaponry than in World War I


  • Germany surrendered in 1945 but Japan refused to surrender
  • The U.S. dropped two nuclear bombs (a new technology only America had) on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
  • Finally Japan surrendered, ending World War II
  • At least 65 million deaths from World War II

The Impact of World War II

  • Empires no more…colonies fight for independence and gain it
    • India, China, Vietnam, Israel, Afghanistan, and African nations all begin the struggle for freedom from western domination


  • The Cold War begins with the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. beginning an arms race, a space race, fighting proxy wars around the globe
    • The Domino Theory
    • The Containment Theory
    • Détente


  • The United Nations begins and is headquartered in New York…American isolationism is over and a new era of global involvement begins
  • The U.N. has the goal of keeping peace between nations by promoting free trade and attempting to negotiate conflicts rather than fight wars

20th Century Revolutions

  • After World War II, colonies and developing world nations struggle for independence and change
  • Issues confronting these nations:
    • The need to industrialize rapidly
    • Corrupt and unresponsive political systems
    • Harsh living and working conditions
    • Foreign intervention
    • Need for land reform

The Mexican Revolution, 1910

  • Mexico had a second revolution after the initial one to gain independence from Spain in the 19th century
  • This one forged a new government and a new constitution of 1917 with some real changes
    • Land reforms with limits on foreign ownership of key resources
    • Guaranteed rights of all workers
    • Restrictions on the power of the Catholic Church
    • Educational reforms (public schooling for all)


  • The Czar was seen as corrupt and selfish by most Russian people, who were poor and powerless
  • The Bolsheviks, a Communist rebel group led by Vladimir Lenin (aided by Stalin and Trotsky) overthrew the Czar’s regime and took over (after a long war)
  • The Soviet Union was formed in 1922 with Russia being the key nation in the new Communist powerhouse
  • Authoritarian rule with new political, economic, and cultural structure in place


  • Sought the end of corrupt government
  • Land reform to help the peasants gain a better life as well as the working class
  • Sought the end of corrupt government
  • Centered more on improving the lot of industrial workers (Proletariat) along with some land reform

CHINA in the 20th Century

  • Qing Dynasty falls in 1911
  • Japan invades and brutalizes China for decades
  • Nationalists led by Chang Kai-shek fight against the Communists led by Mao Zedong
  • Mao wins and China becomes a Communist nation in 1949; Nationalists flee to Taiwan
  • Mao promised land redistribution, rights for women, education access, tax reform, and cooperative farming

Cuban Revolution, 1959

  • Fidel Castro and Che Guevara lead rebel forces against dictator (Batista) in Cuba for years
  • Batista is backed by the U.S. because he allowed American business interests to control his nation’s resources…and he wasn’t a Communist (remember how the Cold War made the U.S. operate in a very black/white fashion)
  • Castro seizes control in 1959 and executes opponents, nationalizes industries, and creates a Socialist nation just miles from the coast of Florida
  • He threatened to spread Communism to other Latin American nations which will create a lot of Cold War tension….just what we needed!


  • Also known as the Islamic Revolution
  • 1953 Shah Reza Pahlavi came to power in Iran with the help of the CIA; he repressed all opposition and violated their constitution and promoted western values, angering his conservative Muslim population
  • 1979 the Ayatollah Khomeini led a revolution and overthrew the Shah, creating a new constitution based on Islamic law
  • 55 American hostages were taken and held for 444 days
  • 1980-1988 Iran fought a war with Iraq over oil fields

Patterns of Decolonization and Nation-Building

    • Violent Revolutions and Civil War (China, Algeria, Vietnam, Palestine)
    • Non-violent, negotiated independence (India, Ghana, Turkey)
    • Both violent and non-violent methods (Kenya, Egypt, South Africa)

Palestine and Israel

  • Zionism led thousands of Jews to migrate to Palestine, controlled by Britain after World War I (Balfour Declaration helped)
  • Palestinians living there (Arab Muslims) resented the flood of immigrants and began fighting
  • The UN promised nationhood to both groups but only delivered for Israel in 1948
  • Israel had to fight several wars to defend herself against neighboring nations who resented a Jewish state in their region (Israel won all of these wars thanks to the support of the U.S.)
  • Israel took more land after victories


  • Algeria broke away from French colonial rule after a war lasting from 1954-1962
  • Arab nationalism vs. French colonialism
  • 300,000 lives lost


  • Indian National Congress formed in 1885 which got nationalist sentiment started
  • Gandhi and other nationalist leaders tried to prevent violent uprisings and concentrated instead on non-violent resistance
    • Boycotts, marches, hunger strikes were designed to make the British realize their policies in India were immoral and India deserved independence
    • 1947 India is partitioned and becomes 3 nations (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh)
    • Many died as a result of religious violence between Muslims and Hindus after partitioning

Decolonization in Africa GHANA

  • 1957 - Ghana (the Gold Coast) gained independence, led by western educated Kwame Nkrumah
  • Used non-violent methods like Gandhi
  • Developed a parliamentary democracy similar to the British model
  • By 1963, all of British African colonies except for Rhodesia were independent


  • Presence of many British settlers prevented a smooth transition of power
  • Jomo Kenyatta used non-violent protests
  • Mau-Mau Revolt of 1952 led by tribal group known as Kikuyus was suppressed by the British
  • Finally in 1963 Kenya was granted independence and Kenyatta was the new leader of the new nation


  • Small white minority ruled over large black majority using system of Apartheid (separateness)
  • No protests tolerated and leaders and members of the African National Congress were imprisoned or executed
  • 1990 – ANC becomes legalized and Apartheid finally ends after 80 years
  • Nelson Mandela is freed from prison and becomes the president of the new South Africa

Challenges of Independence

  • Ethnic disputes
  • Weak economies still dependent on industrialized nations (that used to own them)
  • Growing debt (constant loans from IMF and World Bank)
  • Widespread social unrest
  • Military responses to restore order
  • High population growth
  • Resource depletion
  • Education deficit and “Brain Drain” as a result
  • Neo-Colonialism through economic debt

THE COLD WAR, 1945-1991

  • The U.S. and the U.S.S.R. in a tense ideological standoff pitting democracy and capitalism against Communism
  • Both sides were nuclear by the 1950’s so the Cold War was very tense indeed
    • Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 looked like the start of World War III and the end of the world
    • Proxy wars were fought all over the world in Africa, Latin America, and Asia

NATO and the Warsaw Pact

  • After World War II, the democratic western nations (Britain, U.S., France) joined NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) to form a united front against the spread of Communism in Europe
  • The Soviets and their allies formed the Warsaw Pact to promote Communism in Europe and the world

U.S. Cold War Policies

  • Containment: block Soviet influence and prevent the spread of Communism
  • Truman Doctrine: monetary support given by the U.S. to nations that resisted Communism
  • Marshall Plan: post WWII assistance program to give food, aid, industrialization support to war torn nations of Europe to keep Soviets out


  • The Berlin Wall – built in 1961 to keep East Germans inside the Communist controlled section of East Berlin
  • The Iron Curtain” – controlled satellite nations under Communism like Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia

The Korean War, 1950-1953

  • Soviets aided North Korea’s new Communist government and the South was aided by the United Nations, led by the U.S.
  • Stalemate was the norm, and an armistice was signed in 1953
  • There are still two nations and North Korea is an example of a Communist dictatorship today, while South Korea has done very well as an “economic tiger” in the global economy


  • French colony since the 1880’s
  • During World War II, Japan took over
  • Nationalist leader Ho Chi Minh formed the Viet Minh to fight France for independence
  • France asked for help from the U.S. in 1954 and then pulled out as Vietnam was divided into two nations with Communists in control of the North under Ho Chi Minh


  • Viet Cong Communists fought against the South (who were aided by the U.S.)
  • 500,000 U.S. soldiers were unable to defeat the Viet Cong due to many factors:
    • Limited war strategy of the U.S. (fear of bringing China into the war)
    • Dedicated insurgency (refusal to be colonized again)
    • Guerilla war by the Viet Cong
    • Corrupt government in South Vietnam supported by the U.S. made America unpopular with the Vietnamese
    • 1973 the U.S. leaves Vietnam and in 1975 Vietnam is united under one Communist government

The Arms Race & The Space Race

  • The Cold War was all about defense spending, with both the Soviets and the U.S. spending trillions of dollars developing the newest, deadliest weaponry
  • The Space Race was also evidence of Cold War competition, with the Soviets winning the first round by launching the satellite Sputnik in 1957 (making Americans panic that they were falling behind the Russians); but the U.S. won the Space Race by being the first to land a man on the moon in 1969


  • Communism fell in Europe in 1989 and in the Soviet Union in 1991
  • Most of the transitions were non-violent, but Romania was pretty bloody
  • Reasons for collapse of Communism in Europe:


  • In the 1990’s, the global economy became even more global
  • NAFTA, EU, and WTO
  • Consumerism
  • Interdependence of the global economy:
    • Recession in Greece impacts the EU which impacts the United States which impacts the entire world
    • Many large companies are multinational
    • “The World is Shrinking”
    • Cultural imperialism (McDonald’s everywhere)


  • In the 1990’s, Global Terror networks like al-Qaeda take the place of Communism as the major threat to the west


  • Rise of feminism and women’s rights
  • Civil rights movements
  • Anti-Apartheid movement in S. Africa
  • Class, religious, racial, gender, sexual reforms worldwide but of course in many places there is still resistance to these changes


  • Continued urbanization
  • Green Revolution (improved agricultural yields in developing world)
  • Deforestation
  • Ozone depletion and other environmental concerns
  • Rapid population growth in one century, now at 7 billion people

GOOD LUCK TO YOU ALL! And don’t forget to study!

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