Conflict and Violence as the major theme illuminating the history of the world in the twentieth century.

Essay by macca11874High School, 12th grade August 2009

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The history of the world in the twentieth century has been dominated by conflict and violence. Upheavals and revolutions, the emergence of new states and the development of technology have undoubtedly contributed to significant historical change. However, this essay argues that the main driver of change - the predominant theme of the twentieth century that best explains world history - is conflict and violence; indeed, a number of the other defining themes of that century are arguably linked to and have been driven by overt conflict and wars. In a singular century of atrocious global conflict and strife, major conflicts completely altered the balance of economic and political power; among other outcomes they ended the age old global domination of Europe and led to the emergence of the fresh superpowers, Russia, the United States and more recently China. Writing in 1950, Harris and Baylet argued that the “two world Wars and their intervening wars, revolutions and crises are now generally recognized to be episodes in a single Age of Conflict which began in 1914 and has not yet run its course.”

They were correct: the Cold War was just commencing. This essay examines and analyses the two world wars and the Cold War - three catastrophic international conflicts - to portray and to support the contention that conflict has been the main theme of the twentieth century. It utilises periodization, the attempt to categorize or divide time into discrete named blocks , to examine these three key events and periods of the twentieth century. Based on this analysis the essay then elaborates on the theme that conflict and violence best illustrates the history of the world in the twentieth century.

At the beginning of the twentieth century the global political order was comparatively stable. Victoria still reigned in dominant Britain;...