Posts Tagged ‘20th Century’

Just for perspective.

My Grandma (mum’s mum) was born on February 10th, 1900.

Imagine the life she led.

She was named for a distant relative who was wounded in the Boer War11, which ended when she was only two years old.  She was still a toddler when the Wright Brothers made their first controlled, powered flight1; but before she died, Concorde had made supersonic passenger flights possible2 and Neil Armstrong had walked on the moon3.


Born in a grimy mill town, she would have been forced into work just as ‘The Great War’ began and all the young men went off to the trenches. By the time that war ended, she was eighteen and had then to survive the Spanish Flu pandemic4.

Edwardian-1905-Market-Square-Huddersfield-PostcardShe was married and had borne two children by the time the Great Depression hit the U.K. in 1929/305. Unemployment in some parts of the north reached up to 70% and I can only assume that she and her young family survived because mills were (presumably) less affected than heavy industry and mining.

Next came the second World War, which saw her son enlisted in the Royal Navy; he served in the Far East. Once again, she will have had to work in the filthy, noisy mills to survive. I never really knew what my grandad did, other than ‘work with horses’. He died while I was still very young. Then, along with a variety of international conflicts which involved young British conscripts6, and two other significant wars in the far east, she saw the Iron Curtain come down and lived the rest of her life under threat of nuclear annihilation. She didn’t live to see the Berlin Wall come down, but she did read of its erection in those early days of the cold war.


She witnessed the final throes of the British Empire7, the birth of the NHS8, colour T.V., mini-skirts9, Teddy Boys10 and fighting on the south coast12. During the 1960’s she even experienced and enjoyed holidays in Spain – having (I seem to remember) been driven there with my uncle’s family. I’d love to have seen Spain then, or even when my own parents flew there with my younger brothers in the 1970s.

I think my grandma (mam) had a remarkable life, living through most of a century of change and turmoil.

She died in 1973.

1 – http://firstflight.open.ac.uk/index.php

2 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concorde

3 – https://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/k-4/stories/first-person-on-moon.html

4 – https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-pandemic-h1n1.html

5 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Depression_in_the_United_Kingdom

6 – https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/aug/20/national-service-consctiption-britain-richard-vinen-review

7 – https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/india-and-pakistan-win-independence

8 – https://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/health-and-social-care-explained/the-history-of-the-nhs/

9 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1960s_in_fashion

10 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teddy_Boy

11 – https://www.britannica.com/event/South-African-War

12 – https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20140515-when-two-tribes-went-to-war?ocid=global_culture_rss&referer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F

Thanks to all original owners of photographs – none are my own.

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The Greatest person of the 20th Century (BBC 2)

We recently sat and watched the first of an eight-part series that was broadcast on on BBC 2. It started airing in January and has now completed, so I know the ‘popular’ results – but having so far only seen the one entitled ‘Leaders’, I’m not sure how the BBC’s criteria for being iconized is laid out. Nor am I sure why this sort of progamme seems to have been dumbed down. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0by86tp

The ‘Icons’ presented for discussion (there was a public vote after the programme) were:

  1. Winston Churchill
  2. F.D. Roosevelt
  3. Margaret Thatcher
  4. Nelson Mandela

Margaret_Thatcher_cropped2I get why these people were on an original list, but am not sure how they made the cut.

Were their achievements ones that affected world affairs?  In the case of Margaret Thatcher, I think not and can only suppose that the research team found her to be one of the most iconic and divisive for presentation to a UK audience.  In her case, there was no mention of the Falklands War, the poll tax riots or of the miner’s strike (although images of  police action were shown).

Nelson_Mandela,_2000_(5)Nelson Mandela too.  His actions certainly affected South and Southern Africa, which may well, over time, have a longer lasting effect on the world, but initially, in the 20th Century, he has had, like Margaret Thatcher, a more localised influence on events. I would argue that Dr. Martin Luther King had a similar legacy and I might have pitched these two heroic men against each other for this position. (I know now, that Martin Luther King appears in a later episode entitled ‘activists’.)

Sir_Winston_Churchill_-_19086236948_(cropped)Winston Churchill was portrayed as a leader who, despite being very much a man of the people, was able to make some very hard choices and have them carried out. His sinking of the French Fleet in Mers-el-Kebir was given a very light touch during the programme, and his many flaws were overlooked. I have no objection to his inclusion in the list as he was able to influence and work with others to determine world affairs.  He was able to forcefully lead the fight against the mid-century growth of fascism in Europe and to provide leadership in WW2, where others had failed.

Franklin D Roosvelt on the other hand, was I feel, a statesman who did have tremendous effect on world affairs. Straight away, upon being elected for the first time, he implemented plans to encourage America’s recovery from the great depression and as a result, the USA was in a financially fit state to support Britain and the allies in their fight against Hitler in WW2.  He was instrumental in preparing the American people for war, despite enormous domestic political opposition. Without the financial and eventually, military, support for the allies in Europe and in the far east, world history might well have been considerably different.

The Roosevelt administration strove to avoid Woodrow Wilson’s mistakes in selling the League of Nations to the Senate. It sought bipartisan support and in September 1943 the Republican Party endorsed U.S. participation… [From https://history.state.gov/milestones/1937-1945/un]

FDR-1944-Campaign-Portrait_(cropped)For me, FDR’s main claims to world renown are the eradication of polio and the foundation of the United Nations.

He was not of course, singularly responsible for either, but the way he was able to tenaciously support and endorse the formation of The United Nations (as well as reputedly name it) was remarkable. Then, like now, corporate and political America were not especially keen to be part of a new world order.

The programme spent a fair amount of time discussing FDR’s health problems and how he was able to disguise his polio and keep on working.  It told of his initiating The March of Dimes, which eventually led to the creation of a successful polio vaccine and as a result polio is now pretty much eradicated across the world

My vote therefore would be for FDR.

I may also have considered Mikhail Gorbachev who was responsible for perestroika and glasnost. In turn, those changes to the Soviet Union, led to less world tension, the fall of the Berlin Wall and a reduction in nuclear weapons. But he didn’t make the cut.

Also see:




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