The Most Important Events of the 20th Century

The 20th century was a time of great change, upheaval, and progress. It was a time when the world moved from an era of colonialism to one of globalization; when new technologies and medical advances were made; when women finally won the right to vote and equality began to be pursued for all races and creeds. In this article, we will explore some of the most important events that took place in the 20th century.

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, 1914

Francis-Ferdinand Assassination
Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, duchess of Hohenberg – Source:

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on 28th June 1914 is often cited as the event which sparked the First World War. Ferdinand was heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his death at the hands of a Serbian nationalist led to Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia. This in turn led to a series of alliances and declarations of war, dragging the major European powers into conflict.

The first world war

First World War
The First World War started in 1914 (Image: IWM via Getty Images)

The first world war was fought from 1914-1918 and was one of the most significant events in human history. Over 16 million people were killed, making it one of the deadliest conflicts in history. The war saw the end of the German, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Russian empires, as well as the rise of the United States and Japan as global superpowers.

The Russian Revolution, 1917

Russian Revolution

The Russian Revolution of 1917 was a series of political upheavals which saw the overthrow of the Russian monarchy and the establishment of a communist state. The Revolution began in February 1917 with mass protests in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) against the Tsarist regime. These protests quickly escalated into a full-scale revolution, leading to the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II and the formation of a new government led by Vladimir Lenin. The Revolution had a profound impact not only on Russia but on the whole world, ushering in a new era of communist rule.

The Treaty of Versailles, 1919

Treaty Of Versailles
The treaty was signed in the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles – Getty Image

The Treaty of Versailles was signed at the end of the First World War in 1919. The treaty resulted in the defeat of the Central Powers and the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The treaty also saw the creation of the League of Nations, an international organization designed to prevent future wars.

Women’s Suffrage, 1918-1928

Women'S Suffrage

Women’s suffrage, or the right of women to vote, was a major political achievement of the early 20th century. Women had been campaigning for suffrage for many years, but it was not until 1918 that they finally won the right to vote in Britain. This victory was followed by similar achievements in other countries, such as the United States (1920), Canada (1918), and Australia (1902).

The Great Depression, 1929-1939

Great Depression
Image credit: Library of Congress | Pubic domain

The Great Depression was a global economic downturn that began in 1929. It was caused by a number of factors, including over-production, stock market speculation, and the policies of the US Federal Reserve. The Depression led to widespread unemployment, poverty, and hunger, as well as political instability in many countries. In some places, such as Germany, it paved the way for the rise of dictatorships.

The Second World War, 1939-1945

Second World War

The Second World War was the deadliest conflict in human history, resulting in the deaths of millions of people across the globe. It began in 1939 with the German invasion of Poland, and quickly escalated as Nazi Germany began to conquer Europe. The war finally ended in 1945 with the Allied victory over Nazi Germany, Japan, and Italy.

The Holocaust, 1941-1945

The Holocaust
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The Holocaust was the systematic murder of millions of Jews by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. It is considered one of the darkest chapters in human history, and its effects are still felt today.

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The Bombing of Hiroshima, 1945

Bombing Of Hiroshima

The Bombing of Hiroshima on 6th August 1945 was a turning point in the Second World War. It marked the first time that a nuclear weapon had been used in warfare, and led to the surrender of Japan just days later.

The Creation of United Nations, 1945

Creation Of United Nations

The United Nations is an international organization founded in 1945 with the aim of promoting peace and security around the world. The UN has 193 member states and works to resolve global issues such as poverty, climate change, and human rights.

Creation of Israel as a Jewish State, 1947

Creation Of Israel

The creation of Israel as a Jewish state was the culmination of a long process of Zionist settlement in Palestine. The first Zionist Congress was held in 1897, and over the next few decades, Jewish settlers began to establish communities in Palestine. The United Nations voted to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states in 1947, and Israel declared independence the following year. The Arab-Israeli War of 1948 saw the defeat of the Arab armies and the expansion of Israel’s territory.

The Cold War, 1947-1991

Cold War
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. president Ronald Reagan at a Soviet/US Summit in 1985 (Image credit: Getty/ Bettmann)

The Cold War was a period of political and military tension between the US and the Soviet Union. It began in 1947 with the Truman Doctrine, which committed the US to support countries threatened by Soviet expansion. The Cold War reached its peak in the early 1980s with the deployment of US nuclear missiles in Europe and finally ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The American Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1968

American Civil Rights Movement

The American Civil Rights Movement was a series of protests and campaigns against racial discrimination in the United States. It began in 1954 with the Supreme Court’s decision to desegregate public schools and ended in 1968 with the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

The Vietnam War, 1955-1975

Vietnam War
Hovering U.S. Army helicopters pour machine gun fire into a tree line to cover the advance of South Vietnamese ground troops in an attack on a Viet-Cong camp 18 miles north of Tay Ninh, near the Cambodian border, March 1965. (AP Photo/Horst Faas)

The Vietnam War was a conflict between the communist North Vietnamese and the US-backed South Vietnamese. It began in 1955 with the outbreak of fighting in the north and escalated in 1965 when the US began to bomb North Vietnam. The war finally ended in 1975 with the unification of Vietnam under communist rule.

The First Man in Space, 1961

First Man In Space
Yuri Gagarin, posing for a photo op before the Vostok 1 mission on April 12th, 1961 Credit: Getty Images

On 12th April 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to travel into space. His historic flight lasted just 108 minutes, but it was a significant achievement for the Soviet Union and opened up the possibility of exploration of the solar system.

The Invention of the Internet, 1960s

Invention Of The Internet

The Internet is a global network of computers that allows users to communicate with each other and share information. It was invented in the 1960s by a team of US scientists working on a project for the US military. The Internet has revolutionized communication and commerce and has had a profound impact on our lives.

The Apollo Moon Landing, 1969

The Apollo 11
Apollo 11 was the mission that first brought mankind to the moon

On 20th July 1969, American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the Moon. The Apollo Moon landing was a major achievement for the US and a symbol of America’s dominance in the Space Race.

The Iranian Revolution, 1979

Iranian Revolution
Ruhollah Khomeini (centre) greeting supporters after returning to Tehrān, February 1979.
AP Images

The Iranian Revolution was a series of political upheavals that saw the overthrow of the Iranian monarchy and the establishment of an Islamic Republic. The Revolution began in 1978 with mass protests against the Shah, and culminated in the attack on the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979. The Revolution had a profound impact on Iranian society, leading to a more conservative and religious government.

The Fall of the Berlin Wall, 1989

Fall Of The Berlin Wall
Police from both sides stand idly by as the Berlin Wall is breached for the first time between East and West, at the Sandkrug Bridge crossing-point on Invaliden Strasse, in November 1989 (AFP/Getty)

The Fall of the Berlin Wall was a symbol of the end of the Cold War. The Wall was built in 1961 to stop East Germans from fleeing to the West, and its destruction in 1989 marked the end of communist rule in East Germany.

The fall of communism  in Eastern Europe, 1989-1991

Fall Of Communism
Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images

The fall of communism in Eastern Europe was a series of political events that led to the end of communist rule in the region. It began with the Solidarity movement in Poland in 1989 and ended with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The fall of communism led to a wave of democratization in Eastern Europe and the end of the Cold War.

Digital Revolution, 1980s-Present

Digital Revolution

The Digital Revolution is the change from analog to digital technology in all aspects of our lives. It began in the 1980s with the development of personal computers and the Internet and has since transformed communication, entertainment, and commerce. The Digital Revolution is ongoing, and its impact is felt in every aspect of our lives.

The Gulf War, 1990-1991

Gulf War

The Gulf War was a conflict between Iraq and a coalition of countries led by the US. It began in 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait and ended in 1991 with the defeat of Iraqi forces. The war was marked by the use of new military technologies, such as precision-guided missiles, and the mass expulsion of Iraqi civilians from Kuwait.

The End of apartheid in South Africa, 1994

Apartheid In South Africa

The end of apartheid in South Africa was the result of a long and violent struggle against racial segregation and discrimination. The apartheid system was finally dismantled in 1994 when Nelson Mandela was elected as the country’s first black president.

These events had a significant impact on life as we know it. Some, such as the moon landing and the fall of the Berlin Wall, were momentous occasions that changed the course of history. Others, such as the rise of digital technology, have been more gradual but no less transformative. Each event has left its mark on our world and shaped the way we live today.


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