A Brief History of the World Post World War Two
The period after the Second World War would see a time of rebuilding across Europe. Western society would remain conservative after the disastrous consequences of the changes in the 1920s and 1930s. Using many of the technological advances made during the war people would go on to invent the things that the 20th Century will be remembered for. Culture in the 50s moved on as television boomed in popularity and the film industry started exploring new areas such as science-fiction and horror. With the invention of the electric guitar popular music moved from traditional bebop and jazz and moved into blues and rock and roll, artists such as Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley lead the way as music looked to rebel against the conservative culture of the time.
The 1960s were the time when younger people looked to break away from the culture established by their parents and the decade has since become known as the Swinging Sixties. Drug use among young people hit an all-time high. The social revolution that formed out of the sixties was a reaction against the US involvement in Vietnam, the Cold War and widespread anti-war sentiments. The social changes during this time would eventually lead to more equality for women, black people and homosexuals. The time was not without its political problems however, with America’s continued war in Vietnam proving unpopular along with the assassination of Martin Luther King and President John F Kennedy.
The 1960s saw significant strides made in technology, building on those of the previous two decades. In 1961 Yuri Gagarin, a Russian cosmonaut, became the first man to orbit the Earth in a spacecraft. Just eight years later the American crew of Apollo 11 were the first people to land on the moon. Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the satellite, and the first man to walk on an object other than Earth. Early computers started to take shape and the first programming languages were written.
Over the following decades social change would not be as radical but continue to be evolutionary in nature. The heavy drug using culture would cross over into the 1970s but would eventually die down after many campaigns to warn about the health effects of sustained drug abuse. The 1970s saw great leaps forward in physics theory with Stephen Hawking publishing a number of theories on black holes. Many probes including the Voyager spacecraft were sent to the outer reaches of the solar system during the 70s as our understanding of space grew.
The 80s and 90s would see the collapse of communism in Europe with the break-up of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. East and West Germany would return to a united Germany and many new countries were created in the Eastern bloc. Some were formed in bloody conflicts and others, such as the Czech Republic and Slovakia, were formed peacefully.
The 1990s were characterised by the rise of the Internet and power of computers and communication technology. Bill Gates, the head of Microsoft, would become the richest man in the world during the 90s on the back of the success of his company’s operating system, Windows, which was installed on the vast majority of the world’s computers. His dream of a PC on every desk was realised during this decade and Internet access would increase exponentially over the decade as more and more houses connected to the web. The mobile phone was another one of the major cultural changes during the decade. Although invented in the 1980s, the mobile phone reached practical sizes and prices during the 90s, ending at almost 100% market penetration in developed countries at the turn of the century.
At the end of the twentieth century fears of a global computer crash at the turnover to the year 2000 proved to be falsely held and no problems were encountered. Population of humans had reached 6.1 billion and global warming and environmental damage would go on to be a major concern in the 21st Century after a hundred years of heavy industry began to take its toll.
The major world-changing event of the early 21st Century occurred on the 11th of September 2001 when Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four civilian aircraft and crashed them into the World Trade Centre in New York, the Pentagon in Washington DC and the last into a field in Pennsylvania. The attacks destroyed the World Trade Centre and caused almost three thousand deaths.
The USA were quick to respond, declaring a war on terror and would subsequently invade Afghanistan and Iraq, hoping to remove Al-Qaeda and its leaders. They still have not captured Al-Qaeda’s leader, Osama Bin Laden, but they were successful in removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. Hussein was later sentenced to death by the Iraqi government and executed on December 30th 2006. The decade has been marred by further Muslim extremist attacks against countries in the West that they see as oppressing their freedoms. Bombs were detonated in Madrid in 2004 and in London in 2005.
Against the backdrop of the war on terror technological advances made substantial advances. Personal computer development and the Internet continued to make great progress with broadband access available across much of the civilised world. Space exploration and scientific discovery would continue. Despite the setback after the disintegration on reentry of Space Shuttle Columbia NASA carried on with its space program. In 2008 the Phoenix Lander touched down on Mars much further North than any other probe and was tasked with finding signs of water on the Red Planet. Also in 2008 the Large Hadron Collider was switched on at CERN in Switzerland with the hope of discovering the secrets behind the Big Bang.
There have been an unusually large number of natural disasters in the early 21st Century with 310,000 people dying in the tsunami caused by an Indian Ocean earthquake. There were also many deaths from Hurricane Katrina and powerful earthquakes in Peru, Kashmir and China. With global warming, terrorism and over-population beginning to cause problems at the start of the century humanity must find ways to alleviate these problems as the world population is set to hit nine billion by 2050.