the world at the beginning of the twentieth century
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  • Principal focus: Students lay the foundations for their twentieth-century studies by investigating the forces and ideas for change and continuity that shaped the early twentieth-century world using the methods of historical inquiry.
  • Outcomes
  • Students:
  • P1.1 describe the role of key individuals, groups and events of selected studies from the eighteenth century to the present
  • P1.2 investigate and explain the key features and issues of selected studies from the eighteenth century to the present
  • P2.1 identify forces and ideas and explain their significance in contributing to change and continuity from the eighteenth century to the present

P3.1 ask relevant historical questions

  • P3.2 locate, select and organise relevant information from different types of sources
  • P3.3 comprehend and analyse sources for their usefulness and reliability
  • P3.4 identify and account for differing perspectives and interpretations of the past
  • P3.5 plan and present the findings of historical investigations, analysing and synthesising information from different types of sources
  • P4.1 use historical terms and concepts appropriately
  • P4.2 communicate a knowledge and understanding of historical features and issues using appropriate and well-structured oral and written forms
students learn about
  • The nature of European society
    • Rich and poor
    • Urbanisation and industrialisation
    • Social change
    • Forms of government
  • Imperialism
    • reasons for growth of imperialism
    • impact of imperialism on Africa and/or Asia and/or Middle East
    • colonial rivalries
  • Emerging forces and ideas
    • politics of the working class: socialism, trade unionism, Marxism
    • anarchism
    • Nationalism
    • internationalism/globalisation
    • democracy/liberalism

Causes of World War One

    • long term and short term causes
  • The world of the early twentieth century differed markedly from our world at the beginning of the twentieth first. If you were 16 or 17 in 1901:
  • It is likely you would have left school – if you had ever been there
  • you would probably have been born into poverty
  • your hard physical labour – up to 12 hours a day, six days a week on the farm, in the mine or factory – would have been essential to your family’s economic survival
  • some of the other children born into your family would have died in the first 12 months of life
  • Your life expectancy could have been anywhere between 23 and 50 depending on the area of the world in which you were born
the nature of european society
The nature of european society
  • In 1901:
  • The world’s population was about 1600 million and rapidly increasing
  • 57% lived in Asia; 25% in Europe; 7.5% in Africa; 5% in North America; nearly 4% in South America and about 0.4% in Australia and New Zealand
  • Europe exerted the greatest POWER and INFLUENCE
  • BUT changing – 25 million migrated, mostly to the U.S, the “land of opportunity”

People’s experiences of life and their ways of thinking differed according to:

      • Sex
      • Nationality
      • Religion
      • Social class
      • Economic position
      • Government
      • location
rich and poor
Rich and poor
  • An individual’s membership of the UPPER, MIDDLE or LOWER class reflected his or her economic role within society and the opportunities that resulted from it.
  • Those born into Europe’s upper classes had status derived from family background and wealth created from the ownership of land farmed by others

The upper class dominated European POLITICAL LIFE

  • They often also provided the OFFICER CLASS within a nation’s military forces
  • Its members enjoyed HIGH STATUS, PRESTIGE and INFLUENCE that did not necessarily reflect talent or ability
  • Their wealth came mostly from the work of others
  • They exhibited it through:
      • their grand houses maintained by servants
      • Their vacations in European resort towns
      • Leisure pursuits ranging from hunting to balls
      • Expensive clothing
      • Access to education including private schooling and tertiary education
middle classes
Middle classes
  • Europe’s middle class comprised both the new group of people involved in the development and control of INDUSTRIES and COMMERCIAL VENTURES, and those in professions such as LAW and MEDICINE.
  • Their wealth and influence in society resulted from INDIVIDUAL EFFORTS more than their family connections.
  • They mimicked the lifestyles of the upper classes, had access to similar educational opportunities and SOUGHT THE SAME SOCIAL AND POLITICAL INFLUENCE
working class
  • Most Europeans belonged to the working class.
  • The working class PROVIDED THE LABOUR for those who controlled a nation’s resources and it endured LOW WAGES and INADEQUATE LIVING CONDITIONS
  • In a working-class family, everyone struggled to survive
  • While in some countries, children were required to attend primary school, they were still needed to contribute to their family’s income in some form or other

The urban lived in overcrowded conditions, either in dormitories at their workplace or in overcrowded housing nearby. Some lived as many as 30 to a room in houses converted into multiple flats. Often a family holding the main lease would sublet its space, sharing their living conditions with others as they could not afford to pay the rent on separate family housing. Privacy was difficult. Unsanitary conditions led to disease.

In the countryside, poverty resulted from the seasonal nature of much of the available work.

Many people of other classes felt the POOR DESERVED THEIR FATE.

  • They viewed them as LAZY, DISHONEST, and UNDESERVING.
  • Poverty cycle – hard to break with the poor receiving LOW WAGES, and having a FEW EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES
  • By the end of the nineteenth century, western Europe, by embarking on industrialisation had undergone a revolution in the way people worked
  • In urban areas, factories replaced the home as places of production
  • Machinery replaced manual labour
  • Work became more specialised and production greater and more efficient
  • Industrial skills of the European powers provided the MILITARY, MEDICAL and COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY that underpinned their success in IMPERIAL EXPANSION
  • BRITAIN and GERMANY = European industrial giants (66% of Europe’s steel output)
  • Britain’s coal and textile industry – greater than all Europe together
  • Their industrial strength led them to be able to impose POLITICAL, ECONOMIC, SOCIAL, CULTURAL and RELIGIOUS influence throughout the world

Industrialisation stimulated technical innovation.

  • Electricity was providing a new power source in FACTORIES and on TRAMCARS
  • STEAM TRAINS were replaced with ELECTRICAL TRAINS allowing the growth of underground trains
  • Telephone was introduced
  • Edison’s invention of the gramophone gave people access to recorded music
  • France’s Lumiere brothers creation of cinema opened up a whole new world of entertaiment
the city

During the decades surrounding the turn of the century, great cities like Brussels, Paris, Milan, London and Berlin became thriving embodiments of modern life. But many artists revealed disturbing undersides to these urban centres.

The 1913 canvas, The City, by German expressionist artist Jacob Steinhardt (1887-1968) is one apt example. In this painting, throngs of people and modern streetcars push through the city boulevards at night. Electric lights from street lamps and store windows blaze; around corners, people half-disappear into shadows. In the left foreground, a man sleeps, perhaps dreaming. Above him, a distracted nude woman (probably a prostitute) sits framed at a window, while above her haunting figures reveal and lean out to ogle the action. Buildings loom over the people below. The scene evokes the frenzy, decadence and danger of the modern city – the dark side of the years leading up to the “Great War”

CONSIDER: How this painting suggests the stresses of city life during the years before World War I.

The Stages of a Worker’s Life (Leon Frederic)

Leon Frederic (1856-1940), for a time Belgium’s most famous painter, tried to encompass all stages of a worker’s life in this large 1895 triptych.

In the foreground of the central panel, children on the right play cards while on the left they carry and nibble bread. Their parents and young couples stand just behind them; in the background are the aged members of the working class whose ultimate fate is marked by the distant but approaching funeral coach.
The left side panel depicts the man’s work world, where men of all ages, from adolescence to old age, engage in manual labour or observe it. In the foreground they are digging while in the middle ground they struggle with heavy beams. Behind them are factories where they work.
The right side panel shows the women’s world, all mothering and nurturing with babies in their arms and at their breasts. Behind them are market stalls where they shop. Here is a vision of workers’ lives in a nutshell; hard labour for men, childrearing and food preparation for women, and at the end old age and death for all.

CONSIDER: Whether this seems like a realistic depiction of workers’ lives; how in content and tone, a corresponding depiction of middle-class lives might look.


This term has a number of shades of meaning.

  • It refers to the pride and sense of unity felt by a people of the same language, race, history and culture
  • It refers to the movement by which people, once they become conscious of their nationality, attempt to form a nation state
  • It refers to the way in which the people and governments of existing nations tend to put their own interests first, at the expense of other nations or international interests. For example, disarmament is in the interests of the whole world but invidual nations insist that they have the right to be armed in order to defend their own nation.
In traditional societies a sense of nationalism was not strong; many people knew no other loyalty than to their local landlord. At the beginning of the 19th Century, there were only a few nations in Europe.

Elsewhere people lived in small states dominated by local nobles such as in the areas of modern Italy and Germany

OR people were a part of large empires, such as the Austrian or Ottoman empires which were made up of many nationalities.

  • In 19th Century Europe, conservatives were those who wished to keep kings in power, protect the interests of the nobility and resist the demands of both liberals and socialists. In many countries conservatives gradually conceded to the demands of the liberals and socialists and the term has become more general, often used now simply to describe those who seek to resist change and protect existing interests.
  • In the 20th Century, conservative parties have tended to be those who seek to protect the sort of society which emerged under nineteenth century liberalism. Extreme conservatives may support aggressive nationalism, an authoritarian “law and order” approach to organising society and a resistance to the claims of unionists and socialists.
  • Nineteenth Century liberalism emphasised the rights of the individual and his/her basic freedoms (freedom from unlawful arrest, free speech, freedom of assembly). Liberals demanded a constitution and rule by law in order to guarantee those freedoms.
  • The second key demand for early liberals was representative government which allowed participation through and elected parliament. Such demands were not necessarily democratic because the franchise, the right to vote, was expected to be limited to those people in society with some standing and property, in other words the middle class.

A third key element of liberalism was support for a free enterprise capitalist economy, without any interference from government. The efficient operation of capitalism would create employment and wealth in which all society could share.

  • In Australia, the Liberal party is often portrayed as a conservative party. In fact most of its beliefs stem from nineteenth century liberalism, although like most of its democratic parties, it has accepted elements of socialism.