The 20th Century – A History of the Western World

The West has been the dominant civilization in the world for most of the history of human culture. It set the terms of global trade and is the source of most technological innovations, scientific advancements and cultural trends. During the Renaissance, the West rose beyond its classical roots to create its own unique culture. The 18th century’s Age of Enlightenment and the 19th century’s Age of Exploration further consolidated its dominance.

Until very recently, however, historians and others have tended to think of the Western world in strictly cultural terms, separating it from non-Western cultures. It was, according to this traditional narrative, the site of true civilization opposed by “barbarians,” and only people born in Europe or descended from people who were born in Europe could claim a truly significant historical legacy.

This conceit reached its apogee during the first half of the twentieth century, when many European powers fell upon one another in the name of expanding their share of global dominance, and ideologies such as fascism and Nazis placed racial superiority at the center of their worldviews. This unleashed racial warfare, not only against the members of races that Europeans already considered inferior (such as Jews and other non-Europeans), but also on members of European ethnicities that fascists and Nazis believed to be sub-human.

These events and other factors led to a massive shift in the balance of power in the world. The 20th century was marked by three World Wars and several other wars that had significant international consequences. The era was also marked by the rise of nuclear technology and the expansion of modern industrial economies.

In addition, the century saw a series of political and social changes that have dramatically altered the world in which we live today. Some of these include:

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