Similarities and Differences in the Early Vs. Late 20th Century Europe

7 July 2016

Europe in the 20th century underwent many drastic changes, as to be expected over the course of 100 years. During that time, an industrial revolution took place, a feminist movement swept Europe, and new methods of government replaced the old ones. The political, social, and economic similarities and differences between the first half and the second half of the twentieth century in Europe occurred mostly in the areas of women’s roles, industrial technology, and the structure of the government. At the beginning of the 20th century, gender based roles were normal among middle class families all over Europe.

Men were the main supporters for the family, working outside of the home and providing money and a home for the family. Women were to bear and raise children as well as tending to the needs of their husbands. As told by a woman living during the early 20th century, women were to “‘do anything which may please [her] husband, promote economy, or embellish [her] table,”’ (Sandford). “Women remained legally inferior, economically dependent, and largely defined by family and household roles,” (Spielvogel 422-423). When it came to education, “the education of women should, of course, be strictly feminine,” (Sandford).

Similarities and Differences in the Early Vs. Late 20th Century Europe Essay Example

School for women was compared to “sipping like butterflies at every flower” (Sandford). Education was seen as unnecessary to women since they would never use it. For men, it was different though. They still had to go to school and learn logic from Aristotle, science from Newton, and history from Thucydides and Livy. It was expected for boys to attend school to get a good education. These roles were accepted socially and would not change until later in the century. The second half of the 20th century was greatly different from the first half in terms of women. Women had more roles in the second half, and had greater access to education.

Women were having less children on average and the population remained the same. This led to a bigger market for women to work in, including law, medicine, government, and education jobs. But just like the first half, women were forced to work for lower wages and received less opportunities. During the 70’s and 80’s, a women’s movement swept across Europe. Women sought more power over their bodies. Women came in the hundreds of thousands to demonstrate for laws for contraception and abortion. Since women were becoming more active in government, some actively began to take part in government.

Margaret Thatcher shows very well how the ideals and roles of women changed over the course of the 20th century. Margaret Thatcher is best known for being the first and only woman to rule as prime minister of Britain as well as being the longest ruling prime minister. She broke through the previous names of women even being nicknamed “The Iron Lady” (Spielvogel 541). If Margaret had lived just 50 years earlier, she would not have had the same authority and chances to rule. This is an example of major differences between the first and second half of the twentieth century in terms of women’s rights and roles.

The second half of the 20th century was a time of change especially in terms of the industrial growth. New forms of technology were being invented and improved. Huge improvements were made in the areas of war and technology. The atomic bomb was invented by American and European scientists. The revolutionary new invention of computers has proved to be useful. The industries of science and technology flourished so much during the second half of the 20th century, some people worried about the effects that the technology production had on earth’s resources (Schumacher).

In the beginning of the 20th century, the government in Russia was overly organized and Tsarist. The population of Russia was dramatically increasing, but the production of food was not increasing at the same rate as the population growth, leading to major food shortages. The people of Russia were very unhappy with the Tsar and there were many riots protesting their government due to the food shortages and Russia’s failed involvement in the First World War. On top of these problems, Russia was faced with a huge loss in life from the war, further upsetting the people of Russia.

Many riots and demonstrations were held to protest the Tsar’s refusal to drop out of the war. This was a period of chaos and turmoil. Tsar Nicholas II was finally forced to abdicate in February of 1917 because he was disliked by most of Russia at the time. This was clearly a stage of despair and anger towards the government. After the Tsar resigned, the Duma took control. The Duma was the legislative body of Russia and they set up a provisional government whose goals were to restore the tsar and maintain order within society.

Instead of focusing on problems within the country, the Duma’s main concerns were with the war. This resulted in an eruption of utter disarray of the people. Subsequently, the people lost all hope in the government and began to refuse all types of government. Society was in a free-for-all and theft was a major problem. “Apartments [emptied] themselves automatically of their objects of value” (Naudeau). All of these events led to total chaos in Russia with everyone in disbelief of the government.

With all the chaos of the first half of the 20th century, a power was needed to assemble and organize Russia in the second half. A new thinking was brought by Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev was the leader of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991. He launched a political movement called Perestroika to restructure the Communist Party. The purpose of Perestroika was to take the previous ideals of Leninism and combine them with Communism (Gorbachev). The previous dictatorship of over 70 years was ended by Gorbachev and the Communist Party began to gain more power (Mikhail).

Just after Gorbachev was chosen as the Communist Party general secretary, he started to become immensely popular all around the world. Different from the Duma, Gorbachev had a new policy that’s main purpose was to end the Afghan war. Gorbachev’s willingness to moderate the military shows how different the ruled from the previous ways of government. Gorbachev later began to reform political policies that had been in place since 1917, when the Duma was established. These policies included how leaders would be elected and removed the special status that Communist officials had over non-Communist officials.

The monopoly that was willingly taken away from the Communists further separated the second half from the first half of the century politically. On the contrary, Gorbachev began to show similar qualities to the Tsar and the Duma. The industrial and agricultural output began to decline and the people became upset with the government. To deal with it, Gorbachev started to move towards a private ownership and system of farming. Since the people were no longer under heavy control, groups such as the Christian Armenians and the Moslem Azerbaijanis engaged in war between each other due to their rivalries (Mikhail).

It is clear that there were differences between the Duma in the first half of the century, and Gorbachev in the second half, but similarities can also be seen between the two methods of ruling. Therefore, the political, social, and economic similarities and differences between the first half and the second half of the twentieth century in Europe occurred mostly in the areas of women’s roles, as shown through Margaret Thatcher, industrial technology, displayed in major inventions, and the structure of the government seen in Russia.

A limited
time offer!
Save Time On Research and Writing. Hire a Professional to Get Your 100% Plagiarism Free Paper