Edward Ross Dickinson, “The World in the Long Twentieth Century: An Interpretive History”

What can be called the long twentieth century represents the most miraculous and creative era in human history. It was also the most destructive. Over the past 150 years, modern societies across the globe have passed through an extraordinary and completely unprecedented transformation rooted in the technological developments of the nineteenth century. The World in the Long Twentieth Century lays out a framework for understanding the fundamental factors that have shaped our world on a truly global scale, analyzing the historical trends, causes, and consequences of the key forces at work. Spanning the 1870s to the present, this book explores the making of the modern world as a connected pattern of global developments. Students will learn to think about the past two centuries as a process, a series of political and economic upheavals, technological advances, and environmental transformations that have shaped the long twentieth century.


About the Author

Edward Ross Dickinson is Professor of History at the University of California, Davis. He is the author of The Politics of German Child Welfare; Sex, Freedom, and Power in Imperial Germany; and Dancing in the Blood: Modern Dance and European Culture on the Eve of the First World War.



“Edward Dickinson has written a very important and original survey of modern world history, one that deserves to be widely read and discussed. For specialists in the history of the twentieth century, this is an indispensable text.”—Journal of Modern History

“Clearly written and brimming with insight, Dickinson’s global history of the past 150 years is a tour de force. Both novice and veteran historians will find the perspectives in these pages illuminating, especially with respect to political, economic, and environmental history.”—J. R. McNeill, author of Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the 20th-Century World

The World in the Long Twentieth Century offers a sweeping account of the powerful forces that have reshaped our world in modern times. The narrative arc of ‘expansion,’ ‘explosion,’ and ‘acceleration’ is compelling, and Dickinson’s strongly argued and well-supported emphasis on transformative technological, economic, and environmental forces is original. Moving beyond well-known cultural and political dimensions, this book presents a considerable amount of little-known information—often illustrated through fresh graphic presentations—that offers new ways to integrate this timely history into a truly global frame.”—Ian Christopher Fletcher, coeditor of Women’s Suffrage in the British Empire: Citizenship, Nation, and Race 


The World in the Long Twentieth Century is a remarkable contribution, offering a truly innovative approach to global history that lays the historical groundwork for understanding the socially and ecologically challenged world we confront today. It tells the story of the past 150 years from the planetary level, that is, from the perspective of human existence in and transformation of the natural world. With this planetary-ecological lens, Dickinson finds a compelling framework with which to synthesize the generally unsynthesizable twentieth century, with stories of mass migration, of imperialism and war and decolonization, of technological and economic transformation of the earth, and of the human condition.”—Tracie Matysik, author of Reforming the Moral Subject: Ethics and Sexuality in Central Europe, 1890-1930

“College teachers at all levels will welcome Dickinson’s The World in the Long Twentieth Century, an insightful thematic approach to recent world history that presents a clear, logical, and fascinating alternative to traditional textbooks. His focus on long-term, worldwide changes—such as migration patterns, the removal of peasants from grasslands, and the ‘explosion’ of the early twentieth century—will give students a firm basis for understanding the forces that have built their world. This book is an intelligent, original conceptualization of world history that will stimulate student thinking and discussion. I cannot recommend it highly enough.”—Shennan Hutton, editor of Sites of Encounter in the Medieval World, Lecturer in History at University of California, Davis


Table of Contents


1. The Biological Transformation of Modern Times
Population Explosion, 1800–2000
Expansion into Challenging Biomes, 1800–2000
A Century of Mass Migrations, 1840–1940
2. Foundations of the Modern Global Economy
The Global Development Project, 1850–1930
Scientific-Technical Revolution, 1850–1900
Technological Change, Efficiency, and Growth, 1850–1930

3. Reorganizing the Global Economy
Global Commodity Extraction, 1870–1914
Free Trade and Emancipation, 1840–1890
“Free” Trade and Imperialism, 1840–1920

4. Localization and Globalization
Race, Ethnicity, and Nationalism, 1830–1940
Cultural Globalization: Religious Innovation, 1800–1920
Cultural Globalization: Peace and Dance, 1890–1930

5. The Great Explosion
The Global Revolutionary Moment, 1890–1923
War for World Domination: Phase I, 1914–1923
The Problem of the Peasant in the 1920s and 1930s

6. New World (Dis)Order
War for World Domination: Phase II, 1935–1950
Decolonization and Cold War, 1945–1990

7. High Modernity
The Great Acceleration, 1950–1975
The Welfare State, 1950–1975
Development, 1950–1980

8. Revolt and Refusal
Counterglobalization, 1960–1980
The Great Deceleration? 1975–1990
The Ecological Moment, 1960–1990

9. Transformative Modernity
Real Development, 1975–2000
The New Right, 1968–2000
The Gender Revolution, 1950–2000

10. Democracy and Capitalism Triumphant?
The Global Triumph of Democracy after 1980
The End of the World?
The End of the “Natural” World
The End of the Twentieth Century

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