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World History: The Twentieth Century

The twentieth century saw the domination of the world by Europe wane, and the United States and the Soviet Union rise as superpowers. After 1990 the Soviet Union collapsed and the United States became what some have termed a hyperpower.

Communism and the Soviet Union Superpower
The century saw the rise of powerful ideologies. First with communism in the Soviet Union after 1917, which spread to Eastern Europe after 1945, and China in 1949, and scattered other nations in the Third World during the 1950s and 1960s. The 1920s saw militaristic fascist dictatorships gain control of Germany, Italy, Japan, and Spain.

These transitions were evinced through wars of unparalleled scope and devastation. The First World War destroyed many of Europe's old monarchies, and weakened France and Britain. The Second World War saw most of the militaristic dictatorships in Europe destroyed and saw communism advance into Eastern Europe and Asia. This led to the Cold War, a forty-year stand-off between the United States and its allies and the Soviet Union and theirs. Human civilization was put into jeopardy by the development of nuclear weapons. After out-spending the US on weaponry, the US saw a collapse in the Soviet state, with fragmentation of the former republics, some re-joining Russia in a commonwealth, others reaching out toward Western Europe.

Technological Progress and Advances in Medicine
The same century saw vast progress in technology, and a large increase in life expectancy and standard of living for the majority of humanity. As the world economy switched from one based upon coal to one based on oil, new communications and transportation technologies continued to make the world more united. These developments produced their own concerns, however, such as environmental degradation.

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