Do you know what events changed the path of World History? And the world was never the same again. Over centuries, poets and philosophers have intensively reflected on human life and the cosmos that surrounds us. Some view it as a Stage which we are destined to roll back from someday, while to a few others, it is nothing more than abated respite in an utterly meaningless cycle of birth and rebirth.
Having been exposed to these philosophies and ideologies for two years in my undergrad, I dared to come up with a supposition myself. When you begin to think of it, for most parts of the world it is very much like a benign hearth that isn’t yet entirely devoid of its fire.
It is vested with unfathomable potential, yet somehow, it chooses dormancy and passiveness. At the same time, it is unpredictable. You can never guess which spark may ignite a fire that can effortlessly set everything ablaze in seconds.
7 Events that Changed the Path of World History
It is tough to briefly encapsulate these sparks or watershed events that kindled a fire in this world so that it could never retreat to its former self. Yet I have attempted a broad chronological categorization of such events that glaringly stand out from the rest in altering the entire face of humankind. Presenting to you, events that changed the path of world history.
1) The Renaissance (16th to 18th Century)
Renaissance or ‘rebirth’ is the name given to the cultural, social, and ideological movement stretching over a span of three centuries which started in Europe and gradually took the entire world under its fold. Renaissance essentially meant a return to the classics (i.e., the Greek and Roman literature) after a long cultural decline and stagnation.
Men began to study classics with a fresh eye, and humanities became synonymous with broadening an individual’s horizons. With various discoveries in Science and Astronomy, the emergence of imperialism, and the Reformation of the Church by Martin Luther, people began to question the truths they had blindly trusted so far. The theocentric world was now turning anthropocentric.
Man became the center of the universe now, and the Renaissance thinkers believed that men owed a responsibility to the society in which they lived, contrary to the medieval beliefs, which held that the most critical responsibility of the people was to pray to God and aim at saving their souls. This event contributes massively to world history.
Renaissance is an important landmark event in the history of the world as it marks the end of the dark Middle Ages and revives classical antiquity. The period is also characterized by widespread religious wars and significant reforms of the State.
The period marks the crescendo of English literary accomplishments with feathers like William Shakespeare and John Milton embellishing its cap. In the Renaissance, the European arts of painting, sculpture, and architecture reached an eminence not exceeded in any other age!
2) The Industrial Revolution (18th and 19th Century)
Another major event in world history was this. During the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century, several changes took place in England and a few other countries of the world in the field of industry. By the end of the nineteenth century, the western world had taken great strides in industrialization.
The invention of various heavy machines to do the work which was hitherto done manually and a glorious advancement in technology was responsible for the Industrial Revolution. This event contributes massively to world history.
Consequentially, England gained wealth and prosperity changing from a ‘land of factories’ to a ‘land of farmers.’ The Industrial Revolution altered every facet of everyday life. With rapid development in the textile and coal industries, transport was also forced to transform. In turn, it led to a drastic change in society.
It also caused great changes in the economic and social lives of the people and altered the relationship between workers and employers.
It was responsible for the fading away of traditional life and a change in the attitudes of the common man. What Mathew Arnold said in a different context could be used here to capture the essence of the Industrial Revolution: “materializes the upper class, vulgarizes the middle class, and brutalizes the lower class.”
3) American War of Independence (4Th July 1776)
America was the first nation to oppose the British monarchy, with thirteen of her colonies striving for complete independence. When George III came to the throne of England in 1760, he passed laws to tax and restrict the freedom of the colonies under England. The Townshend Acts of 1776 taxed all the essential commodities like lead, glass, tea, paint, and paper imported by the colonies.
This led to the famous Boston Tea Party of 1773, in which a group of colonists dressed as Indians boarded the British ships carrying a cargo of tea and threw the entire contents into the sea. This was like the final nail in the coffin of the British monarchy in America, and the Declaration of Independence was drawn up on July 4, 1776. This event contributes massively to world history.
The colonies won the war against England and this revolution made possible the establishment of a new nation, the United States of America. The independence of the USA had far-reaching effects. Reformers in other parts of Europe were quick to recognize in it the victory of liberty over tyranny. Britain lost one of her most important colonies, and King George III became very unpopular due to the American War of Independence.
This loss also brought about a change in the influence of events in Parliament. For the first time, the Americans had proved to the world that it was justified to take arms against an unfair government, which inspired the peasants of France so much that it led to the famous French Revolution six years later. This revolutionary war also inspired the French soldiers who had aided the colonies.
4) French Revolution (1792)
A watershed event in the history of humankind, the French Revolution is held responsible for a profound alteration in the course of modern history. The first clear expression of nationalism came to Europe with the French Revolution and triggered the global decline of absolute monarchies, replacing them with republics.
The political upheaval began in 1789 when the French King Louis XIV brought divine right absolutism to its peak. With the Declaration of the Rights of Man, all feudal rights were abolished, and local government was reorganized. The common people were frenzied and raised the motto of ‘Equality, Liberty and Fraternity’, which later became the watchword of this movement. This event contributes massively to world history.
King Louis XVI and Mary Antoinette were beheaded on the guillotine on treason charges, and the First Republic was proclaimed on 21st September 1792.
Thus, this revolution established the political supremacy of the middle class and transferred the bulk of the landed property to the peasantry in the countryside. This movement played a critical role in shaping the destinies of many nations by showing the world the power inherent in the will of an individual.
5) The First World War (July 28, 1914, to Nov 11, 1918)
The murder of Archduke Ferdinand, the heir to the Austrian throne, and his wife Sophie in the capital city of Bosnia, Sarajevo was the immediate cause that triggered the horrific First World War. Bosnia was then an annexed territory of Serbia.
The Austrians held the government of Serbia responsible for the royal assassination and immediately attacked Serbia. Other countries decided to jump into this fray and consequentially the world was dichotomized into two factions of the Central Powers and the Allied Powers.
Austria favored only a local war in its nascent stage, it spread like wildfire in Europe and beyond, setting ablaze everything that came its way. As the days progressed, the world descended deeper and deeper into an abyss of bloodshed and mass murder. This event contributes massively to world history.
Men were butchered like animals; houses were raided and cities were burned to the ground. The First World War accounted for an unprecedented casualty rate of more than 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians. This terminal conflict was unlike anything the world had witnessed before and it paved the way for many revolutions across various nations.
6) The Second World War (1st September 1939 to 2nd September 1945)
The world still had not recovered from the aftermath of the First World War when it had to face the horrors of a second world war. It was like a transition from hell to an inferno. The wounds of the First World War were fresh anew.
World War II, however, had its germs in the peace settlement of the Treaty of Versailles, whose terms were both harsh and humiliating for Germany and it was in many ways a continuation after a hiatus of twenty years, of the disputes left unsettled by World War I.
Adolf Hitler of Germany joined hands with Mussolini of Italy to tear away the unjust Treaty of Versailles. These dictators had an enormous role in the world that plunged into a second world war. Sparked by Hitler’s invasion of Poland, this war dragged on for six deadly years until the final Allied defeat of the Nazis by Hitler’s suicide and Japan by the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The massacre that followed was one the world will never be able to get over.
World War II was a deadly conflict that virtually involved almost every part of the world and accounted for 40,000,000 to 50,000,000 deaths, making it the deadliest and the largest war in the history of the world.
It is estimated that more than 1,00,000 people were killed, leaving thousands more slowly dying of radiation poisoning. The world war ended with the US and USSR emerging as the world leaders with immediate effect. Thus, changing world history.
The emergence of Russia (USSR) gave rise to the desire for freedom in colonies under European control in Asia. The British and French colonies lost their previous glory and leadership as most countries began to embrace communism and communist regimes.
Germany was divided into four zones, each handed overtone of the victor nations. Italy was also deprived of all its previous colonies. The United Nations Organization was set up on 24th October 1945 due to the Second World War and continues to function up till now. This event contributes massively to world history.
7) 9/11 Attacks (2001)
September 11, 2001, holds the gruesome tale of the day the superpower America was taken down by 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda hijacked four airliners and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States as thousands watched the horrific events unfolding. This event contributes massively to world history.
This attack resulted in the mass casualty of over 3000 civilians and 400 policemen and firefighters. The attack resulted in a huge gaping hole in the 80th floor of the 110-storeyed World Trade Centre in New York instantly killing hundreds of people and trapping many more on the thirty higher floors.
It triggered the Global War on terrorism which includes under its umbrella the major initiatives taken by the U.S. government to combat terrorism. No terrorist attack of the 21st century has been as ruthless and deadly as the 9/11 bombing. This event has a major hand in the unfortunate generalizing of Muslims as terrorists in America.
Compiled By- Shraddha Singh