Welcome to 20th Century World History 11

Welcome to 20th Century World History 11

20th Century World History 11 introduces you to the history of the twentieth century, beginning with the treaties that ended World War I and ending with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. While studying these events, you will also be learning something of the skills necessary to interpret historical events -- how to ensure historical information is accurate and relevant, how to develop historical empathy, and how to present clear, logical arguments based on a knowledge of the events, for example. These skills will be helpful to you throughout life.

Characters in this Course

We have created a series of eight fictional characters, who will comment on the course from time to time, as if from the margins.

The characters function in a variety of ways:

First, we hope that you will find them interesting. Each has her or his own point of view, connected in part to their nationality, in part to their political philosophy, in part to their gender. Paying close attention to them will help you understand the difference between fact and opinion, for example, as they tend to agree on the facts, but have differing opinions. Sometimes they help you with the learning outcomes, and explain parts of the course to you. On occasion, you will be asked to explain their views, or explain what you think their views would have been had they expressed them. So pay close attention to them throughout the course.

Enrico Piccinini

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Italian Euro-Communist; newspaper journalist, a reporter for Paduva newspaper

We communists felt we could create a perfect society. A society where no one exploited anyone. We were wrong, at least for our lifetime. The attempt failed, and certainly in the Soviet Union, led to new oppression.

We in Italy were the first Communists, back in the 1980s, to denounce the Soviet Union. What they were doing, destroying civil liberties, was wrong. We said: this is not what we want for Italy. Most other Communists were angry with us, saying that we must defend the Soviet Union in spite of everything. But we were right and they were wrong.

Today, in Italy, the Democratic Party of the Left, the successor to the Communist Party, no longer hopes to end exploitation, but hopes merely to reduce it. And we embrace the idea of the economic market; we just want to make certain it is humane.

What' important about the twentieth century? It has seen an increase in freedom for suppressed groups. At the beginning of the century, freedom was for white males; today it is for everyone. This has been a century of radical, revolutionary action, and these action carried out by people seeking to end their own oppression have changed the world forever.

Marlene Stefanik

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Canadian feminist, environmentalist, simple living advocate; personal counsellor, Vancouver

I was born in Whitehorse in 1960. I knew I was a feminist by the time I was thirteen, but was afraid of calling myself one until I was thirty-five. I was so determined to please other people that I sometimes found it difficult to say what I believed!

The twentieth century has been the struggle against oppression. Women, blacks, First Nations people, handicapped people, the young, the old, gays, religious minorities, all have struggled to achieve their rights in this century.

Today, I feel pretty well all of the radical movements of the century come together in the simple living movement.

All the old movements, whether capitalist or communist, or something in between, believed in consumerism. Communism, we are told, failed because it didn't succeed at consumerism. Because it couldn't create enough consumer products to make people happy. I think that's all wrong-headed. Consumerism never makes people happy in the long run. Americans were at their happiest, according to the polls, in 1957. In 1957, people were consuming as much as possible, sure. And they were getting more things every year. But they consumed a lot less than today. Since then, increases in the power to consume just haven't made people happier. So I think its time to think again about consumerism.  Live simply, so others can simply live is our motto. I see simple living as the wave of the future.


William Brown

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Scottish international businessperson; engineer, sells machine parts in former Communist world

The twentieth century is focusing on the defeat of a well-meant error - socialism. To put it simply: freedom won against two forms of totalitarianism: fascism and communism. Individual rights, civil liberties, and democracy are commonplace in over half of the world, and most other countries are showing some hope. And this is all due to capitalism, largely North American capitalism. In the United States, a system of a free-market, guided by government to ensure fairness, simply out-produced any other system in the world. It is this idea "free-market capitalism" and not the actions of well-meaning radicals, that has made the world a better place.

Ingrid Berg

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Swedish businessperson; sells business management services, largely in Africa and Asia

Many Swedes, myself included, think this talk about a struggle between free-markets and communism is overblown nonsense. All the "free" markets have a lot of controls on pollution, on toxic ingredients, and so on while all the "command economies" of communism had a fair amount of free exchange of goods - they had to, or things would have fallen apart sooner. So we have always followed a middle way, working to get for ourselves all the benefits of capitalism's ability at production, along with socialism's ability to ensure fair distribution. Also, we have stayed out of wars, having no ambition to rule anyone except ourselves. In the process, we have become richer than most of Europe. It's sad that, when communism ended, the countries of East Europe did not look to the rich social democracies to the west of them as an example.


Munir S. Batal

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Immigrant from Cyprus to London, England; working in family-owned hotel as assistant manager. He's a Turkish Cypriot.

The most important event in the century, perhaps in world history, is the migration from the poor countries to the rich countries. Over one hundred million people are now involved in trying to migrate to wealthier countries. In Bangladesh, over ten per cent of the population has already applied for American visas, and at least that many again are in the process of getting their documentation together for an application.

When this migration finishes, it will have changed the world forever. The whole world will become multi-cultural. Today, in rural villages in Wales, for example, where, fifteen years ago, the people hadn’t even seen a South Asian, there are Tandoori restaurants.

And this migration cannot be stopped. There are just too many of us.

Ikuko Tanaka

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Japanese businessperson; works for a drug company in Kyoto that is exporting traditional oriental medicines to North America.

I majored in English in university, and much of my work consists of translating instructions into English. I also represent my company at business events throughout the English-speaking world. I am very proud of being the first woman ever to represent my company at major events. I am thirty-five and single. Many Japanese often see world events very differently than westerners.


Janine Garceau

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French produce farmer

With my husband Pascal, I operate a market garden farm 80 kilometres outside of Paris. Both of us are graduates of the agricultural program at the local polytechnique. We both are active in the local farmer's cooperative. We have two children, Marie-Claire 14, and Claude, 12, both of whom help with the farm. We sell our produce to restaurants and have a booth at a weekly street market in Paris. My father was in the army in the Second World War but escaped capture by the Germans. My family lived in German-occupied (Vichy) France during the war and father played a minor role in the resistance.

I see France as having struggled throughout the twentieth century between the forces of freedom, represented by the French Revolutions of 1789, 1830, 1848, and 1871, and the forces of reaction, represented by the ancien regime before the Revolution and Restoration of the monarchy after Napoleon's defeat, Petain and Vichy France in World War II and President Charles De Gaulle after the war. We French have both of these traditions deeply embedded in our character, and the struggle between freedom and organization is our story.

Wolfgang Holtzbaum

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Fifty-five years old; he teaches grade 10 mathematics at the Hochschule, or high school, in Leipzig. His wife, Gretchen is a freelance journalist who specializes in politics and financial issues. They have two grown children.

My father never recovered from wounds suffered in the battle for Stalingrad and died just months before the war in Europe ended. Since Leipzig is in what was East Germany, my family and I have lived most of our lives under communist rule and the adjustment to life in newly unified Germany has not been easy.

Germany is a very complex country. Many in the English-speaking world think of Hitler and the Kaiser, and say that Germany is simply an authoritarian country. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Germany had the world's largest Social Democratic Party at the beginning of the 20th century. Both libertarian and authoritarian traditions are very strong in Germany. For me, the collapse of Communism was not as hard as it was for many. I got to keep my job, and my wife, Gretchen, found a job. There were no free-lance journalists under Communism, I assure you! But many people have suffered, and continue to suffer, as we make the adjustment to a free-market society.

You should check back to this list from time to time to remind yourself of the point of view of the characters.
Copyright 2004, Open School BC
Last modified: Sunday, 8 January 2017, 1:03 PM