The past hundred years have been among the most dramatic in history. Marked by two world wars and a Cold war, it has been a century characterized by the fight for freedom against tyranny, and equality of treatment whatever your status, gender or race.
In this gallery, we explore ten world-changing events of the past century—the moments that shaped and defined the world we live in today.
1. Women's Suffrage At the start of the twentieth century, women across the world were fighting for the right to vote. In Britain it took a radical campaign led by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters Christabel and Sylvia to achieve votes for women.
This image captures the moment in 1914 when Emmeline Pankhurst, who had chained herself to the railings of Buckingham Palace in protest, was arrested and literally carried away. Women were fully granted the right to vote in 1928.
2. Russian Revolution In 1917 a revolution in Russia overthrew the Tsarist monarchy and brought Vladimir Lenin to power as leader of the world’s first communist government.
Pictured here is Tsar Nicholas II (far left) with his children. Growing unrest fuelled by strikes and demonstrations across Russia forced the Tsar to abdicate in 1917. In July 1918 he and all his family were murdered by the Communists. Rumours circulated that his youngest daughter Anastasia (pictured second from the right) survived the slaughter. Forensic evidence has since dismissed the veracity of these claims.
3. World War I In 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by a Serb nationalist in Sarajevo. The local conflict escalated into a world war that lasted 4 years and 3 months. More than 37 million men died in the land war. Civilian deaths amounted to over 10 million.
World War I was characterized by trench warfare. Here Allied troops attack the Hindenburg line—highly fortified German trenches—during the Battle of the Argonne in 1918. The battle caused the final breakdown of German resistance and helped bring about the armistice.
4. Wall Street Crash Following a decade marked by optimism, high employment and prosperity, the Wall Street Crash in 1929 caused a complete evaporation of confidence in banks and the stock market. Leading to widespread bankruptcies, destitution and unemployment, the crash was the trigger for the worldwide Great Depression during the 1930s.
In this image panicked bankers rush to withdraw their deposits in cash.
5. Holocaust The holocaust was the worst genocide in history. It saw the organized and systematic extermination of nearly 6 million Jewish people by Nazi Germany before and during World War II. Anti-Jewish economic and nationalistic policies led to deportations, ghettos, massacres, and then to the starvation, torture and gassing of Jewish people in the concentration camps of central Europe.
6. Atomic Bomb On August 6, 1945 an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan during World War II. The blast virtually levelled more than ten sq km (four sq mi) of the city and killed more than 100,000 people, 66,000 of whom died instantly. Three days later, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki killing a further 60,000 people. The US justification for using the atomic bomb was to end the war quickly, without the loss of American lives.
The devastation caused by the bomb had so great an impact on the world that historians draw a sharp distinction between the nuclear age and all previous periods.
7. Civil Rights Movement Martin Luther King, Jr., emerged as a leader of the American civil rights movement. Throughout his career, he organized non-violent protests and delivered powerful speeches on the necessity of eradicating racial inequalities. In 1963 King led a peaceful march to the Lincoln Memorial, where he delivered his most famous speech which began:
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.”
8. Moon Landing In 1969 humankind achieved the long-sought goal of landing on the Moon. Neil Armstrong marked his first step on the surface of the Moon by saying the now iconic words “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. Joined by fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the two men spent more than two hours walking on the lunar surface before re-boarding Apollo 11 (manned by Michael Collins) and returning safely to Earth.
9. Genetic Mapping In 1953 Watson and Crick published a paper revealing the double-helix structure of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). The implications of this discovery (the double-helix pointed to ways in which DNA could be reproduced and to ways in which DNA could encode information) were immense and remain a driving force behind science today.
This scan, showing the arrangement of specific polymorphisms within different DNA samples, allows experts to take a closer look at the genetic make-up of each individual. With the completion of the human genome sequence in 2003, geneticists hope to compile a map identifying and locating every gene in the human body, and to use it to catalogue the genetic differences between individuals in the population.
10. September 11 Terrorist Attacks
On September 11, 2001 over 2,800 people lost their lives when two hijacked aeroplanes flew into the side of the World Trade Center. While thousands descended the stairwells of the twin towers to safety, many firefighters were seen climbing up the stairs in a heroic attempt to rescue trapped office workers.
The attacks awakened the United States to its vulnerability to terrorist attacks and led to President Bush and his government launching a “war on terrorism”.