Events in History that Changed the World
Events in History: When we think of events in history, our minds are understandably drawn to the most dramatic events. We divide and subdivide time in accordance with important milestones. Think of the birth of Jesus Christ, which has forever divided history into before and after. However, change is often more of a process than an events in history. To just about everyone, except for the Virgin Mary, the birth of Christ changed little. At least at the time. Although the importance of specific events in history can be overstated, something truly earth-shattering will occur on occasion. Life-changing events do not happen in a vacuum. However, they can, at times, overwhelm contemporaries and significantly change the course of events in history. We wished to remain faithful to the concept of crucial moments; this list avoided long-term processes such as the agricultural or industrial revolutions. These were not moments but rather a chain of events in history and developments spanning years or even centuries. With that in mind, here are the ten most dramatic world-altering events in history.
The spread of European power to the Americas had far-reaching consequences. The resources and rich farmland in America fueled capitalism and fed the increasing influence of Europe, allowing it to become the most powerful continent in the world. It also changed the diet and tastes of the world, introducing such staples as tomatoes, potatoes, wild rice, peanuts, corn, and chocolate to the Eastern Hemisphere. Finally, it had some awful consequences which we have yet to reckon with. For example, it facilitated the rise of oppressive colonialism and genocide against the native population and the development of the “Atlantic triangle,” which enlarged the thriving slavery market and brought misery and death to millions. Sealing the Magna Carta, Runnymede, 1215 When the rebellious barons of England forced the Magna Carta on the incompetent John I, they had no clue that their accomplishment would change human events in history forever. Instead, they simply wanted the King to be accountable for his unfair and arbitrary rules, which had hurt their holdings and status. However, the ideas in it would aid millions in their fight against arbitrary power. The key was the general principles behind the barons’ grievances. Take this foundational passage for example: “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land. To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.” English law would ultimately evolve towards the devolution of the divine right of kings towards greater and more equitable political participation. However, the precedent of the Magna Carta would remain firmly in the minds of reformers and revolutionaries for centuries. As the English model of democracy spread throughout the world, the ambitious medieval document would facilitate an accessible and accountable form of government on all continents of the globe. Not least was its influence on the Bill of Rights in the United States and, ultimately, the Universal Deceleration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948.
Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand
The Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina, June 28, 1914, A 50-year-old with a very impressive mustache was shot to death near the Latin Bridge on this day. There is no doubt that the victim was an important individual. He was set to take over the Austro-Hungarian throne after the death of his father. Nonetheless, far more important people have been assassinated without making this list. So, why were these events in history a world changer? The assassination began a crisis between Austria and Serbia, which saw the former threaten the latter’s autonomy. The Russian Tsar was disturbed by this development and prepared to support his Slavic brethren in Serbia. But, afraid of an attack from the east, Wilhelmine Germany mobilized and brought the French and eventually the United Kingdom into a global war.
The Great Wars
The Great War (or World War I, as we call it today), had profound repercussions. First, it saw the end of several monarchies and empires, most notably the Russian, Ottoman, and Austrian variants. Second, a group of Bolshevik revolutionaries took over Russia. Third, Austria splintered into several independent countries. Meanwhile, the destruction of the Ottoman Empire created the modern Middle East with its myriad of problems. Finally, a dissatisfied Germany bided its time for round two. The Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7, 1941, In late 1941, the Japanese government determined that the best way to solve its resource deprivation problem was by attacking and destroying the US Navy Pacific fleet. The attack was tragic from the American perspective, killing over 2,000 and sinking many vessels. The attack wholly altered US foreign policy and, as a result, global events in history over the 80 years that have followed. The American economy was the largest and most powerful in the world. However, it was politically disinclined to take a leadership role in international relations. Moreover, most Americans believed they were safe from attack due to the stopping power of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The trauma of December 7 changed that attitude substantially. In the short term, the US entered World War II and defeated Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany. In the long-term, it concentrated its substantial capabilities on becoming a “global police” and creating a network of international institutions such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organization. Meanwhile, US culture spread throughout the world through the influence of Hollywood. American power has ebbed and flowed since, but they remain the dominant force in international relations today.
Fall of Constantinople
The Fall of Constantinople, May 29, 1453, The city of Constantinople was arguably the wealthiest and most important city in the world for centuries. Starting as the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, it was the administrative center of its successor: the Byzantine Empire. More than that, Constantinople was the center of religion, culture, and commerce for the entire Christian faith. The city was designed by Constantine the Great to withstand sieges and frontal assaults. Indeed, it had overcome perilous sieges before. However, the cities walls fell to the cannons of Mehmet II. The upstart leader of the Ottoman Sultanate brought the greatest city in the world to its knees. The crown jewel of the city was the legendary Hagia Sophia. It held the influential Patriarchate of Constantinople and was the site of Byzantine coronations. Mehmet turned it into a mosque, becoming the seat of power for the long-lived Ottoman Empire. The name of the city was changed to Istanbul, thus ending the era of Roman rule once and for all. The Storming of the Bastille, Paris, France, July 14, 1789, There had long been agitation against the Ancien Régime. However, the Storming of the Bastille is a watermark in the events in history of the French Revolution. The building in question was a notorious prison, which housed political prisoners and revolutionaries. As a result, the Bastille was the most noxious symbol of monarchic repression. An angry revolutionary mob attacked the prison and overpowered the guards, freeing the prisoners and taking control of the ammunition store within.
Liberty, Equality, Fraternity
The rioters’ success inspired countless French nationals to revolt against the regime and demand “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” for all. Though the French Revolution was far from an unqualified success, it ended arbitrary monarchical power. Moreover, it introduced a new form of democratic nationalism which spread throughout the world. To this day, many countries sport a tri-color flag in honor of the French Revolution and its values.
Origin of Species
Publication of the Origin of the Species, November 24, 1859, Charles Darwin’s book is the definition of a seminal work. By convincingly explaining the process of natural selection, the English biologist laid the ground for a massive leap forward in science. The book described the process of evolution and the changes that occur through adaptation and reproduction. Darwinian science laid the groundwork for genealogy and modern biology. The work in the Origin of the Species was so hugely influential that it led to spectacularly fantastic and horrific results. Today, scientists can cure and prevent countless disorders and illnesses through DNA research built upon a Darwinian foundation. Unfortunately, however, the ideas of natural selection also inspired Nazi war crimes and the morally abhorrent practice of eugenics.
Republic of China
The Proclamation of the Chinese Republic, January 1, 1912, China has one of the longest-lived and proudest human cultures. For 2,132 years, it was dominated by a succession of dynasties. However, the antiquated form of governance was unable to fend off the modern problems of the modern era. Colonial powers carved out spheres of economic and political influence in the country, entering what the Chinese consider “an era of national humiliation.” In 1911, a group of revolutionaries in the country’s south finally managed to overthrow the Qing dynasty.
The Revolutionary Alliance worked to replace the older institutions with a republican system of governance. The new government in Nanjing tried to unite the country under its rule but proved unsuccessful. In certain regions, warlords emerged to frustrate these attempts. Nonetheless, the 1911 Revolution began the complex process of creating a solid centralized Chinese state. The Communist takeover in 1949 proved another milestone on the way to the re-emergence of China as a massive global force. Today they are the undisputed significant power in Asia and well on the way to leading the international community. The far-reaching effects of Chinese unification and modernization will be with us for centuries to come.
Partition of India
The Partition of India, August 15, 1947, Like most of the non-European world, the Indian subcontinent had been subjected to colonial humiliation. British rule in the area commenced officially in 1858, though it was well underway by then. However, World War 2 had wearied the major colonial powers, and they lost much of their drive. Meanwhile, the events in history of the 20th Century awakened a virulent stream of nationalism throughout the colonized world. India was a vital part of this story.
The British Empire was the largest and most influential of all. It was said that the “sun never sets on the British Empire.” Meanwhile, India was the most crucial holding in its colonial network. It was touted as the “Jewel in the crown.” It was also the most populous and essential in terms of world trade. When the British government granted India independence, it essentially ended a specific world order. It was no longer deemed acceptable for European powers to subjugate the rest of the world. Meanwhile, the Indian strategy of struggle, including the non-violent tactics championed by Mahatma Gandhi, served as a blueprint for freedom fighters worldwide. Unfortunately, the partition did not solve all the region’s problems. India was divided into two countries, India and Pakistan. The two have since fought several wars and are now caught in a long-term nuclear standoff. In conclusion, the world does not change in a moment. However, a specific day can see dramatic change occur as the result of long-term historical processes.