World History
20th Century

These are episodes around the world that took place in the 20th Century. Click here for 20th Century American history.


The Debut of Tennis's Davis Cup
Professional tennis has a yearlong tournament in which players compete for their country against other players playing for theirs. The prize is the Davis Cup, and it debuted in 1900.

The Tunguska Event: Fire from the Sky
The Tunguska Event was loud and destructive, one of the largest and loudest explosions in recorded history. >The explosion occurred on the morning of June 30, 1908, in a remote region of Russia, near the Podkamennayta Tunguska River. The explosion levelled 830 square miles of forest, knocking down tens of millions of trees.

Baroness de Laroche: 1st Licensed Female Pilot
The first woman to earn a pilot's license was Raymonde de Laroche. She did so in 1910. She was born Elise Raymonde Deroche but became known as Baroness de Laroche. The Aero-Club of France issued the Baroness a license on March 8, 1910. She was 24.

Mona Lisa Stolen
The Mona Lisa, one of the world's most famous and recognizable paintings, was stolen from the famed Louvre Museum on August 21, 1911.

Titanic: Not Unsinkable After All
The Titanic, the so-called "unsinkable ship," struck an iceberg on April 15, 1912, and sunk to the bottom of the ocean, claiming the lives of more than 1,500 of the 2,220 people onboard.

Piltdown Man: One of Archaeology's Greatest Hoaxes
On December 18, 1912, Great Britain announced Piltdown Man to the world. It was the first public acknowledgement of a set of bones that at first electrified the science community but then were later proved to be a hoax.

The Opening of the Panama Canal
On August 15, 1914, the Panama Canal opened for business, with the passage through of the Ancon, an American cargo-passenger ship.

The Christmas Truce
One of the oddest yet most compelling episodes in World War I happened on Christmas Day in 1914: Both sides stopped shooting.

The League of Nations
The League of Nations was an international organization designed to keep the peace in the wake of the chaos-causing Great War, known to posterity as World War I.

The Opening of King Tut's Tomb
One of archaeology's greatest mysteries was solved in 1922, when the tomb of King Tut was found and opened.

Hedy Lamarr, Actress and Inventor Hedy Lamarr, well known as an actress, was also an inventor. And her invention forms the basis of much of today's communications technology.

The Dunkirk Evacuation
In a desperate act of heroism and self-sacrifice, thousands of pilots rescued hundreds of thousands of Allied troops trapped by advancing Germans. It took place at the French port of Dunkirk.

Kristallnacht Devastates German Jews<
On November 9, 1938, mobs in German-owned territories assaulted Jews on the streets, in their homes and their businesses, and even in their places of worship. Businesses were vandalized. Synagogues were burned. It came to be called Kristallnacht, the "Night of Broken Glass." It was the beginning of the Holocaust.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the most translated document on Earth. A product of the United Nations, the Declaration grew out of a desire to prevent the kind of atrocities that occurred during World War II.

The First Artificial Satellite Orbits Earth
On October 4, 1957, the Soviet launched the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik, from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The tiny spacecraft orbited Earth once every 90 minutes and was set to broadcast at frequencies of 20 and 40 Mhz. It wasn't long before anyone who could listen to those frequencies heard the telltale beeps that signified the Soviets' giant leap forward into the space race.

The Day That Iceland's Women Went on Strike
The vast majority of Iceland's women went on strike on October 24, 1975. This included women who worked at home, looking after families and households. The stated reason for the strike was to call attention to how much less than men women earned, often for the same work. At the time, men earned 60 percent more than women.

Nelson Mandela Freed from Prison
In 1990, Nelson Mandela was released from prison, after serving a harsh sentence for speaking his mind on the racial policies of his country's government.

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David White