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11.1: Regional configurations of historical territories

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    At the beginning of the twentieth century, the world order changed dramatically based on new economic, political, and social controls. European industrialization brought technology and financial power as they colonized much of the world, including India, most of Africa, parts of China, and Latin America. The pink area on the world map (11.1.1) displays how many different places England controlled. Although Russia in dark purple appears to have a vast empire, most land was locked in permafrost and ice. In the bright blue, France colonized a large part of Africa and Indochina. Many of the lands and territories had names unknown today. 

    map of the world
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): 1914 World map of empires, colonies, countries, territories (Andrew0921, CC BY 3.0)
    map of the world
    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): 2015 World Map of Countries (CIA, Public Domain)

    Because access to any country was easy, at first by ship and then by airplane, travel changed the movement of people, and the century was filled with wars, revolutions, and uprisings. By the end of the century and the beginning of the twenty-first century, different countries and country boundaries emerged, as seen on the map (11.1.2). The world was altered during the century by:   

    • Rapid economic growth puts increasing pressure on the natural environment.
    • A return to economic protectionism expressed chiefly in high tariffs for imports undermined global economic integration.
    • Two world wars, which unleashed terrible weapons such as the atomic bomb backed by the power of industrial production, devastated Europe, Japan, and other combat zones and helped undermine European wealth and power.
    • Countries with rising economies, notably the United States, Japan, and the Soviet Union, began to challenge Europe’s economic power.
    • Anti-colonial and nationalist movements began to weaken Europe’s grip on its colonies and spheres of influence.
    • In the sciences and arts, new theories, attitudes, and insights eroded the confidence of late nineteenth-century European thinkers. The horrors of global war provoked new ways of looking at the world and a search for new ideas beyond Europe. At the same time, new technologies of mass communication brought to prominence a modern mass culture that was no longer the preserve of elite[1]

    “Modernism developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, amid the throes of the Industrial Revolution and the rise of progressive political movements. Industrialization, urbanization, rapid social changes, and advances in science and the social sciences overthrew established systems of order and meaning worldwide, from Paris to New Delhi to Tokyo. In the arts, modernists and avant-gardists idealized personal freedom and individualism, advocated the destruction of traditional orthodoxy to create radically new forms of culture, and championed the spirit of self-ex­pression and experimentation. In Asia, modernism developed in a myriad of ways. Across countries in East Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia, artists’ experience and expression of modernism were shaped by particular historical contexts. This included colonialism and independence struggles, World War II and the ensuing Cold War between Western democracies and the Eastern Bloc, and various national movements promoting indigenous cultural identity. For modern Asian artists coming of age in the postwar period (1945–1989), the central question was, how to be modern without being Western? Artists used or challenged the interna­tional languages of modernism to forge unique world views, often drawing from premodern and non-Western ideas and practices to inspire new forms of self-expression, political protest, and cultural critique. Their work expands our under­standing of global modernism and the power of art in times of turbulent change.”[2]


    [1] World History for all of us

    [2] Guggenheim Museum 

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