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Significant events of the 20th century

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Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UK Essays.

Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

Prior To The 1950s—- Post WWII History

America in the early years was effectively notorious for its exploration and agricultural accomplishments, whereas Europe at the time was still thought to be the enlightening Mecca that Americans in the early years leaned on for their customs, cultural cues and education. As came and went, more Americans began to shy away from customary European entertainment and civilization, mostly in part to the arrival of immigrants from a variety of countries around the globe, and then started to create their own creations and ideas of different aspects of trendy culture. In addition, Americans are afforded the right to freedom of expression and freedom of speech via the constitution, and are not restricted in their cultural and artistic activities. America has also conventionally captivated the culture of its people that have a history of migrating here and sometimes the result is itself, a culture that is brand new. For example, look at genuine Chinese food vs. American “Chinese” food and the assimilation of exact cultural arts from other countries like anime, origami and yoga. If we look at American culture through the decades, we are offered an amazing image of how America has expressed itself through every cultural and entertainment channel, but has progressively conquered globally in these areas as well.

1950s—Television Era

Before the 1950s, while television enjoyed partial commercial accessibility, it was here in a form that would not be recognizable to us. Most of the broadcasts were only able to be viewed in the same actual building, and sometimes only in the city they were broadcast in. The images and quality itself were an assortment of roughly silhouettes and unrecognizable lines that presented virtually nothing for entertainment. Later on in the 1940’s, the quality of viewing improved, as well as larger screens being incorporated, nonetheless once WWII started, broadcasting (mainly local) was reduced and most were eventually suspended pending post war, or until the end of the war.

On the other hand, the plan was set, and shortly post-war, TV broadcasting was changed with energy and full of life. Industrialization, which had been stationary during the war, had begun. Television networks focused on nationwide advancements due to technological advances that were formed during the war added to upgrading television. Also, the economy was way better after the war than it was going into the war, and that allowed prices for televisions to drop, and income increase paved the way for many people to have the extra family time to heap the benefits of the new technology and etc (Bradley, 1998). I do not believe television producers even knew what they had just made and the impact it could have on society. However as advances continued, it evolved into something perfectly clear and something that people would embrace. TV eventually became allowed to dictate people’s spending and buying habits.

Television in time would generate pop icons that would exceed boundaries of geography and time as never seen before, and would especially affect people on a money-making level. The 50’s were arguably the golden age of television and very talented stars such as Sidney Poiter, Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, Charlton Heston, George C Scott, Grace Kelly, Jack Lemmon, Ernest Borgnine and James Dean were created (Ganzel, 2007). Those stars even today are global idols and icons. Television in a lot of different ways educated America what your place in a family should be, what a family really was, how you should think about the world around you, and purchases you should make for yourself and your home. Shows such as The Honeymooners, I Love Lucy, Father Knows Best, and The Goldbergs all reflected the typical family that families were expected to be at the time they ran on air (Ganzel, 2007). Despite the fact that the objective of the “up to date” television might have been worldwide communication, the television was able to do that and a great deal more in the process. Television is the most unparalleled educational device since the discovery of books and it has become a widespread fixture in even the less fortunate homes all around the country. Important and up to date world news is just a click away on the remote control and that is something that we need. It is very important to know what is going on around us at all times. The advertising influence Television has is unmatched. Television is a business of itself and not to mention, television collects net worldwide revenues that in 2008 reached $123 billion, with this country alone accountable for $43 billion of that profit (Bradley, 1998). Television as a whole has affected our society in immeasurable ways, from food, poetry, music, comedy, film, fashion and much more and will keep on to do so for many years to come.

1960s—The Culture Wars Era

Drugs, Sex and Rock ‘n’ Roll is not the only thing that defined the 1960s. The 1960’s bought to us the war in Vietnam, and people started to think about themselves and defined notions about culture and behavior. The country started to become more geared up to challenge authority, social norms and politics, the nuclear family and gender roles (Goodwin, 1999). Younger people became firm not to replicate or copy their parents’ lives. People in the middle class began to feel cramped up in their homes with two or three kids and a dog and fought to locate a solution where all of us could be accepted for our respected uniqueness. In the struggle for this solution, this country as an entirety would move backward and forward through the 1960’s from one excessive thing to another by accepting the hippie drug culture or instead accepting a lifestyle of religion based on love, happiness and peace (Goodwin, 1999). On most occasions, it was difficult to distinguish the two.

During these times, it was not out of the ordinary for a lot of people to draw closer together as one for a specific cause. Sometimes that cause was racial injustice, the Vietnam War, the assassinations of leaders at the time like Dr. Martin Lither King Jr. and John F. Kennedy or even music. The country started to realize that there was influence in numerical figures. Most people started to feel free to state their religious, sexual, political, social beliefs and miles freer to partake in them. Throughout the 1960’s, it became one the first decade that established that even music can have a say in social revolution and social reform. During this decade, not only was the American Dream recreated over and over again, but it was also questioned (Digital History, 2010). Also throughout this decade, music approaches included punk rock, metal rock, R&B Soul and electronic (Goodwin, 1999). This was a decade that moved an entire younger group and made them think further about what was going on throughout the 1960s. The icons of this decade were groups like The Temptations, The Beatles, legends like Elvis and Jimi Hendrix, and how could I forget the controversial Dylan, Bob that is. Events such as Woodstock were evidence of music’s influence in the 1960’s, which had some of the most powerful and controversial acts of the decade performing. Scott McKenzie’s performance of the song “San Francisco” in the latter part of the decade bought out over 100,000 people, majority of them younger people from all over the globe to observe San Francisco’s hit the “Summer of Love” as they would say (Goodwin, 1999). People took the fashion, drugs, and music into their homes and even cities while in the process starting an enlightening movement that would carry on over into the next decade after people experienced those events.

Women’s rights and gay rights defined challenges in sexuality in the 1960s. People were saying you have the ability and right as a citizen to love who you want to love, the desire for women to be treated as equals to men, sexually and with occupation pay, and to appreciate people who did not love the way you loved. Sex was thought to be a normal part of everyday life, and was considered a beautiful thing. Music, art and movies as a whole started to become more affected largely by the drug culture of the time, particularly psychedelic drugs like LSD, psilocybin and mescaline, and also became more sexually explicit (Goodwin, 1999). The 1960’s may be seen by a large majority of the country now as being the partying decade, which rode right into the 1970s. Most of the contact on morality, philosophy, art, fashion, music, lifestyle and was ultimately captivated by conventional people of the country, and I think this collision course is still in full effect today all around the world and is still being felt today.

1970s—Disco Fever

At the start of the 1970’s, the words “rock & roll” had started to be almost insignificant. The kids that wore flowers had grew on up to become the grown ups of the 1970s. On the other hand, music still had the impact it had in the 1960s and still played a huge role in the younger people’s lives and drugs such as cocaine and heroine had burst onto the scene. Legendary groups like the Beatles split. Hendrix, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Elvis and John F. Kennedy all passed away or were killed and it seemed that Americans abandoned “social change” and just lived life to the fullest and lived life as if there was no tomorrow (Gillis, 1999). Music in the decade split into many different genres quicker than the music industry could catch up with, with Disco most notably, being at the pinnacle of the changes. Social dancing reappeared and in the process made more use of clubs being built all across the country in lots of key cities (Lewis, 2002). Also, fashion from the disco music not only affected styles here in the country, but globally as well. Small cities that contained no disco clubs would compensate by having parties in empty warehouses, peoples’ homes and even lofts. Even during this time a DJ would play a variety of songs from different genres without stopping for breaks. This is when you mix one song right onto another one without stopping the songs (Gillis, 1999). America was on a mission to find a party that never stops.

There was also widespread, yet secretive insight that drugs were bought into America by the government of the US, as a way to make cash and have power over the masses. We don’t know, but for whatever reasons, drugs that would boost disco and sex lights were for the most part wanted and in the process caused a thriving subculture of drugs that mainly consisted of heroine, marijuana, Quaalude’s, and cocaine (Lewis, 2002). Cocaine was the usual choice of course since “coke” allowed you to get high all day and night without “coming down” or getting tired. Cocaine was mainly useful for the dance parties that lasted all night and the sex day parties. The disco trend affected just about each facet of popular American culture. You could see it reflected in the theaters with movies like Saturday Night Fever with John Travolta and Cheech and Chong burst onto the scene (Gillis, 1999). Saturday Night Fever had the all time best selling soundtrack, and also trendy fashion with pants (flared legged), muumuus, long collars, leisure suits and platform shoes, and in television, food, art, and radio (Gillis, 1999).

Disco was dead by the end of the 1970’s but a lot of Americans by then took pleasure in dismissing a imperfect social and political system that didn’t accept them and marginalized values. On the other hand, the 1970’s and disco is still looked upon as synonymous to each other and warmly decorated eras ever, and it’s the impact of the 1970s is still in full effect in current movies, television shows, fashion and even music with the come back of the leg flare pants.

1980s—Reaganomics, End Of Cold War And Cable

Cable has arrived beginning in the 1980s. Before the 1980s, television (local to be precise) was made up of three key stations. Those stations were mainly CBS, NBC, and ABC. Later on in the 1970’s, HBO had arrived. Ted Turner then formed CNN (Cable News Network) in 1980, whereas Barry Diller and Rupert Murdoch formed Fox, television’s fourth station (Whitley, Peggy, 2008). Nearly 81% of families in America were watching TV on a daily basis and an average of seven hours daily (Whitley, Peggy, 2008). No other decade came close to those averages that the 1980s put up. The 1980’s saw for the first time the beginning of crime dramas, mini-series, soap operas, talk shows and the come back of sitcoms a la the beginning of sitcoms that were animated like “The Simpsons”. Before the 1980s, shows on cable i.e. on the MTV station did not exist, but the first music video ever broadcast by the British group “The Buggles” would echo for the decades following (Whitley, Peggy, 2008). MTV formed an entirely new platform a la the music video and did not just hand the stars an extra display place other than the variety shows they had. Michael Jackson and other stars were hurled to global stardom via the music videos and etc. European groups also went through a comeback with America with groups like The Rolling Stones, The Cars, and Culture Club all gained stardom and capitalized off of this new middle ground to reach global and American crowds. Then, the radio was reduced to playing the things that were in style on the television instead of vice versa. The 1980s also started the MTV Music Awards show. Television definitely achieved one of his main goals and much more. It provided us with 24/7 up to date news coverage and entertainment and to its’ credit, became a multi-trillion dollar business.

Reaganomics were also a huge part of the decade. Many thought the policy would fall flat on its face. But it turned out to be one of the most successful policies of the century. Reagan decreased income tax rates, most notably cut corporate rates and the extremely lofty charges for the rich while increasing defense spending (New York Times, 2010). The idea was to increase incentives for savings and investment. Simultaneously, the government inflicts rigid cash to boggle down the incredibly high rate of inflation that was in place when and before he became President. The instant result was an unfathomable recession which didn’t earn him anything but critics, but made a very strong surge to recovery and beyond recovery (New York Times, 2010). On the flip side, rates (savings) kept falling and unemployment was still a huge issue mainly until the late 1980’s. The country still ran huge deficits throughout his two terms in the White House (New York Times, 2010). The Cold War was ending around this time, and the fall of the Berlin Wall ended this decade due to pressure from Reagan and a willingness to change the structure of the country by Mikhail Gorbachev. Those two ended the Soviet Union because the country could no longer afford a war and feed their people at the same time (New York Times, 2010). The Soviet Union split a short time after into several different territories. Lastly, George H.W. Bush becomes the 41st President of the United States in 1988.

1990s—Gulf War, Baby Boomer And The World Wide Web

In 1990, The United States begins combat in what was known as the “Gulf War” after Iraq invaded Kuwait. What led to the war was the previously mentioned Iraq invading Kuwait scenario in 1990, subsequent not proven Iraqi arguments that Kuwait was illegitimately “drilling” oil diagonally between Iraq’s territory (Gross, 1999). The offensive was met with urgent financial sanctions by the UN (to be precise United Nations) against the Iraqi. Conflict started in January 1991 with US soldiers directly enforcing them, ensuing in a significant triumph for the alliance forces that eventually forced Iraqi soldiers out of Kuwait with minimum deaths to the coalition. At the start of 1992, William Jefferson Clinton became the 42nd President of the United States and being the first baby boomer to sit in the White House. You also had the race riots of LA in 1992 after four police officers were acquitted after the brutal beating of Rodney King. Throughout 1994, genocide was going on in Rwanda that claimed millions of lives (Sutton, 2007). In 1993, terrorists bombed the World Trade Center and in the process it resulted in 1042 injuries, nearly $600 million in property damage, and six deaths and in 1995, conservative extremist Timothy McVeigh set off a bomb in Oklahoma City at their downtown Federal Building killing tons of people (168 overall) (Sutton, 2007). We also around this period had the boom of the World Wide Web. The internet made it much more convenient to research and gain information for your own personal use, communicates, advertise/promote, uses goods and services as well as buys them without leaving your home (Gross, 1999). We saw the rise and fall of President Clinton whose Presidential skills were top notch, but his personal life tended to overshadow his personal achievements. His affairs and lying about the affairs caught up to him when he was impeached in 1998, but to his fortune he was acquitted in 1999 (Gross, 1999).

Hip hop had emerged onto the scene in the 1990s. Mainly hip hoppers were the musical talents that felt like outcasts in society. They started the trend of baggy shorts and pants, du rags, and music that wouldn’t be tolerated in any other decade (Sutton, 2007). Rappers like Tupac Shakur and groups such as NWA were out for social change as they called it. They often voiced their displeasures through their music aimed at politicians and police. The decade often had their share of losses in the music industry with the shooting deaths of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G., suicide of Kurt Cobain and many other famous celebs. Most know the 90s and look back at them as the age of the World Wide Web and the “free for all” decade.

Present—New Age

From the 1950s through the 1990s, the world changed drastically. People’s outlook on religion, war, values, and sexuality changed for the most part. People became bolder towards the federal government and started to question very questionable situations. Reporting from the media even changed thanks to the Watergate scandal. Information as a whole became more accessible due to internet and television. Music became more global as well as communication as an entirety. Each decade had very low points, as well as very high points. But one thing has remained constant throughout each decade. That one thing has been “change” for better or worse. The country made history in 2009 with the election of Barack Obama as the first African American President to sit in the White House. More cell phones are being created and they will expand on those i.e. IPhones, where you could do things and order things like flowers, movies and etc. from your own bed or even at work. More research specifically cures for cancer and stem cell research are being conducted so I expect cures for those to happen soon. Women are making progress through the governmental ranks. I predict we’ll have a woman US President in the near future. And as we go into the next few decades, we are going to see a lot more “changes” based on history.


Bradley, Becky. (1998). American Cultural History 1950-1959. Retrieved on February 18, 2010 from http://kclibrary.lonestar.edu/decade50.html

Digital History. (2010). Learning about the Vietnam War. Retrieved on February 19, 2010 from http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/modules/vietnam/index.cfm

Ganzel, Bill. (2007). Television. Retrieved on February 18, 2010 from http://www.livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe50s/life_17.html

Gillis, Charles. (1999). American Cultural History 1970-1979. Retrieved on February 19, 2010 from http://kclibrary.lonestar.edu/decade70.html

Goodwin, Susan. (1999). American Cultural History 1960-1969. Retrieved on February 19, 2010 from http://kclibrary.lonestar.edu/decade60.html

Gross, Ernie. (1999). 1990s. Retrieved on February 20, 2010 from http://www.kyrene.k12.az.us/schools/brisas/sunda/decade/1990.htm

Lewis, Chris. (2002). The 1970s and America’s Crisis of Confidence. Retrieved on February 19, 2010 from http://www.colorado.edu/AmStudies/lewis/2010/anxiety.htm

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