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The 20th (twentieth) century began on January 1, 1901, and ended on December 31, 2000. It was the tenth and final century of the 2nd millennium. Unlike most century years, the year 2000 was a leap year, and the second century leap year in the Gregorian calendar after 1600.

The 20th century was dominated by a chain of events that heralded significant changes in world history as to redefine the era: Spanish flu pandemic, World War I and World War II, nuclear weapons, nuclear power and space exploration, nationalism and decolonization, the Cold War and post-Cold War conflicts; intergovernmental organizations and cultural homogenization through developments in emerging transportation and communications technology; poverty reduction and world population growth, awareness of environmental degradation, ecological extinction; and the birth of the Digital Revolution, enabled by the wide adoption of MOS transistors and integrated circuits. It saw great advances in power generation, communication and medical technology that by the late 1980s allowed for near-instantaneous worldwide computer communication and genetic modification of life.

The 20th century saw the largest transformation of the world order since the Fall of Rome: global total fertility rates, sea level rise and ecological collapses increased; the resulting competition for land and dwindling resources accelerated deforestation, water depletion, and the mass extinction of many of the world's species and decline in the population of others; consequences which are now being dealt with. Man-made global warming resulted in more extreme weather conditions; the average global temperature on Earth has increased by a little more than 1° Celsius (2° Fahrenheit) since 1880; Two-thirds of the warming has occurred since 1975, at a rate of roughly 0.15–0.20 °C per decade.

The repercussions of the World Wars, Cold War and globalization crafted a world where people are more united than any previous time in human history, as exemplified by the establishment of international law, international aid, and the United Nations. The Marshall Plan—which spent $13 billion ($100 billion in 2019 US dollars) to rebuild the economies of post-war nations—launched "Pax Americana". Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union created enormous tensions around the world which manifested in various armed conflicts and the omnipresent danger of nuclear proliferation. The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 after the collapse of its European alliance was heralded by the West as the end of communism, though by the century's end roughly one in six people on Earth lived under communist rule, mostly in China which was rapidly rising as an economic and geopolitical power.

It took over two-hundred thousand years of human history up to 1804 for the world's population to reach 1 billion; world population reached an estimated 2 billion in 1927; by late 1999, the global population reached 6 billion, with over half being concentrated in East, South and Southeast Asia. Global literacy averaged 80%. Penicillin and other medical breakthroughs combined with the World Health Organization's global campaigns for the eradication of smallpox and other diseases responsible for more human deaths than all wars and natural disasters combined yielded unprecedented results; smallpox now only existed in labs. Machines were being utilized in all areas of production, feeding an increasingly intricate national supply chain, meaning for the first time in history, mankind was no longer constrained by how much it could produce, but rather by peoples' willingness to consume. Trade improvements reversed the limited set of food-producing techniques used since the Neolithic period, greatly enhancing the diversity of foods available, resulting in an upturn in the quality of human nutrition. Until the early 19th century, life expectancy was about thirty in most populations; global lifespan-averages exceeded 40+ years for the first time in history, with over half achieving 70+ years (three decades longer than a century earlier).

20th century Media

321,465 media by topicpage 1 of 3215
Oldsmobile Sales Co., Rock Creek Park, [Washington, D.C.]
[Albert J. Myer, U.S. Army Signal Corps officer, full-length portrait, facing front, standing under canopy in front of a tent, with one hand on ridge pole, with two men, one sitting on the left and the other sitting on the right]
[Albert J. Myer, U.S. Army Signal Corps officer, full-length portrait, facing slightly left, holding sword, sitting under canopy in front of a tent with two men, one sitting on the left and the other standing, holding the ridge pole]
[Sketch of U.S. Army Signal Corps observation and signal tower]

[Sketch of U.S. Army Signal Corps observation and signal tower]

Title devised by Library staff. Printed on verso: Silsbee, Case & Co. Photograph Artists, 299 1/2 Washington St., Boston.

Signal corps on Rapidan River

Signal corps on Rapidan River

No. 397. Title from item. Hand written on verso: "Miller, vol. 8, p. 323". Gift; Col. Godwin Ordway; 1948.

Signal Corps Detachment, Elk Mountain, Md., October 1862

Signal Corps Detachment, Elk Mountain, Md., October 1862

No. 4483. Title from item. Gift; Col. Godwin Ordway; 1948.

Harrison's Landing, Virginia. Headquarters of Signal Corps
Pleasant Valley, Maryland. Group of Signal Corps detachment
Bealeton, Virginia. Officers of Signal Corps. Headquarters, Army of the Potomac
Washington, District of Columbia. Officers' quarters at Signal Corps camp near Georgetown
[Headquarters of Signal Corps, Washington D.C., April 1865]
Washington, District of Columbia. Signal Corps camp near Georgetown
Washington, District of Columbia. Group of Signal Corps officers in camp near Georgetown
Washington, District of Columbia. Signal Corps camp near Georgetown
Washington, District of Columbia. Group of officers of Signal Corps. Camp of Instruction
Washington, District of Columbia. Signal Corps camp near Georgetown
Meyer, General Albert J., Father of the Signal Corps.
Aguascalientes, the portales of the market
[Men toasting each other possibly in front of a bar, Mexico]
Group of polygamists in the Utah Penitentiary

Group of polygamists in the Utah Penitentiary

8 men standing in prison stripes. Photoprint copyrighted by John P. Soule. This record contains unverified data from caption card. Caption card tracings: Geogr.; Prisons...; Polygamy.

A Florida stove

A Florida stove

Photograph shows men gathered around a cast iron stove. Stereo copyrighted by George Barker. This record contains unverified, old data from caption card. Title from item. "Gems of American Scenery" card mount.

Delaware pillory and whipping post

Delaware pillory and whipping post

Ground level whipping post, above which is a platform for the pillory, presently occupied by two African American men; a ladder leans against the platform, a group of men loiter in the background. Title from it... More

Hon. Thomas F. Marshall taking the temperance pledge

Hon. Thomas F. Marshall taking the temperance pledge

Thomas F. Marshall, later Republican Congressman from Nebraska, is shown seated, with arm raised.

Boatmen of the St. Lawrence
The organ grinder

The organ grinder

Man with monkey on his shoulder and hand organ on his back. Photo copyrighted by Overpeck, Hamilton, Ohio. No. 2. This record contains unverified, old data from caption card. Caption card tracings: Animals Monk... More

Sampling tea at Rosita factory

Sampling tea at Rosita factory

Gift; William P. Meeker; 1971. Forms part of: Jackson, William Henry, 1843-1942. World's Transportation Commission photograph collection (Library of Congress).

[2 men] Setting a Bear Trap
Rescued from the Navarch

Rescued from the Navarch

Captain and Mrs. Whitesides of the NAVARCH seated on deck of ship; 4 men standing in background. Photo copyrighted by Dr. S.J. Call, U.S.N. This record contains unverified, old data from caption card. Caption c... More

[Three men standing in doorway]
5 men seated in Solomon's Quarries
"A Happy Home in Alaska"

"A Happy Home in Alaska"

Photograph shows three people and a dog, outside of tent. 36252 U.S. Copyright Office Stereo copyrighted by the Keystone View Co., B.L. Singley. No. 9205. Caption card tracings: Photog. I.; Dwellings; Alaska; Shelf.

Pack mules with ammunition on the Santiago Trail, Cuba /

Pack mules with ammunition on the Santiago Trail, Cuba /

"A great pack train approaches rapidly, following the gray bell-mule. Cowboys dash to and fro, keeping them bunched. Clouds of dust arise as they pass"--Edison films catalog. About 12,000 mules were taken to Cu... More

[Two African American men standing next to a tree in Georgia]
[Two African American men sitting in horse-drawn carriage; bakery and other commercial buildlings in background]

[Two African American men sitting in horse-drawn carriage; bakery and ...

In album (disbound): Negro life in Georgia, U.S.A., compiled and prepared by W.E.B. Du Bois, v. 3, no. 243. B&w copy prints for LOT 11930 are provided as surrogates of original photographs for reference use in ... More

A morning catch, north of the Arctic Circle, Alaska

A morning catch, north of the Arctic Circle, Alaska

Stereograph shows two men with 10 fish on stick over their shoulders. Stereo copyrighted by B.L. Singley - Keystone View Co. No. 11533. This record contains unverified, old data from caption card. Caption card ... More

[Two African American men in horse-drawn carriage and two standing alongside]

[Two African American men in horse-drawn carriage and two standing alo...

In album (disbound): Negro life in Georgia, U.S.A., compiled and prepared by W.E.B. Du Bois, v. 3, no. 233. Photograph damaged. B&w copy prints for LOT 11930 are provided as surrogates of original photographs f... More

Tearing himself away

Tearing himself away

Man leaving woman, who is dressed in sleepwear.

May Scheider
Lady Brigid King - Tenison
Mrs. Carter Harrison
Luella Duys & Eleanor Horrmann
Louise Falconer, Margaret French, Mrs. John C. Powers, Ruth Roberts, Mrs. F.W. Chesebrough, Emilie Brown, Mrs. Nina Duryea and Grace Bristed
Rasch

Rasch

Photograph shows choreographer and dancer Albertina Rasch (1891-1967) dancing. (Source: Flickr Commons project, 2012)

Homer
Longfellow statue, Portland, Maine

Longfellow statue, Portland, Maine

Copyright by Detroit Publishing Company. No. 012477.

Duchess Northumberland
Marg. Clark
Mrs. Humphrey Ward
Claire Smith
Mary Johnston, seated with magazine
Paquin Morning Gown
Capt. C. Nungesser and wife
MacGuigan
Anna Fitziu
Minni Brokaw & Phyllis Thompson
Mrs. John DeKoven Bowen seated
Mrs. W.D. Melton
Children gathered around Xmas tree, Children's Temporary Home
Lady Eden
One of King Sisters
Lady Warrender
Left, Almyra Deitz; Right, Leslie Deitz
Cahill [standing near piano]
Draper
Heink
Mae Murray (chinchilla coat)
Emma Lansing
Mrs. T.H. Carter
Larrmore (seated at table)
Lajinska
Janet Martine
Rev. L.W. Batten
Mrs. C.S. Raizen
Goodson
Kyrle Bellew in "Scandal"
Mrs. J.A. Martine
Hulda Guthner
Mrs. E. Caruso
Italian opera singer Galli - Curci
Harriet May Mills
Mrs. O.H.P. Belmont
Curci
Forina
Alice Drexel
Mme. Revyl & Jane Lory
Edith Deacon, with other ladies, holding bouquet
Farrar
May Yohe
Farrar in full length fur coat
Italian opera singer Galli-Curci
Chase
Lachansha
Peterson
Fannie Crosby
Elizabeth R. Wylie
Clara Leb. Morgan
Basil Manly & Taft
Mrs. G. Cornwallis West
Olga Petrova
Estelle Taylor
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