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Risk and Reward in History: Going Back to 1850
we are so back
My favourite time period in history is from 1850s to 1950s. That seems to encompass so much of history that impacts us today. The world changed a lot from 1850 to 1950.
This time period encompassed so many new technologies, ideologies, political systems and conflicts that continue to shape the world today. Here’s what ChatGPT has to say about this time period.
1850 to 1870:
The continuation of European colonialism and the "Scramble for Africa": European powers partitioned and colonized Africa during this period, leading to the suppression of indigenous cultures, the forced labor of millions, and the exploitation of Africa's resources for the benefit of the colonizing countries.
The American Civil War (1861-1865): A conflict that was fought primarily in the United States between the Northern states (Union) and the Southern states (Confederacy) that had seceded from the Union. The main issue that led to the war was the disagreement over the abolition of slavery. The Union emerged victorious, resulting in the abolition of slavery and the re-unification of the country.
The Meiji Restoration in Japan: The Meiji Restoration was a period of political, economic, and social reform in Japan that began in 1868. The restoration led to the modernization of Japan and the end of the Shogunate system. The Meiji government opened Japan to the rest of the world, adopted a new legal system, and embarked on industrialization and modernization.
1870 to 1914:
The "Belle Époque" or "Beautiful Era" marked by significant technological, economic, and social advancements in Europe and North America: This period is known for the rapid industrialization and urbanization, the growth of consumer culture and mass entertainment, and the emergence of new forms of art and culture.
The Gilded Age (1870s to 1890s) in the United States: The period of rapid economic growth and industrialization in the United States was characterized by the rise of large corporations and the concentration of wealth among a small elite.
The growth of the railroads during the Gilded Age, which had a significant impact on the economy and society: the railroads allowed for the rapid movement of goods, people and ideas, connecting far-flung regions of the country and spurring economic growth.
The formation of trusts in America, which allowed a small group of individuals to control a large portion of a particular industry: trusts were a form of business organization that emerged in the late 19th century. They led to the concentration of wealth and power among a small elite and government attempted to break up these trusts through legislation such as the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890.
Tensions between European powers that ultimately led to the outbreak of World War I in 1914: The war was sparked by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian-Serb nationalist. The assassination led to a series of events that ultimately pulled the major European powers into a devastating global conflict.
The Boxer Rebellion in China: The Boxer Rebellion was an anti-imperialist and anti-foreign uprising in China that aimed to drive foreign powers out of China. The rebellion was ultimately put down by an international coalition of forces, but it had a significant impact on China's relations with other countries.
1914 to 1918:
World War I: The war was fought primarily in Europe and involved most of the world's nations, including all of the great powers, organized into two opposing alliances: the Allies and the Central Powers. The war ended with the defeat of the Central Powers and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires.
1918 to 1939:
The "Interwar Period" marked by economic instability and the rise of totalitarian regimes in several countries, particularly in Germany, Italy, and Japan: The period following World War I was marked by economic instability and the rise of totalitarian regimes in several countries. The Treaty of Versailles, which officially ended the war, imposed heavy penalties on Germany and contributed to the country's economic and political instability. This ultimately led to the rise of the Nazi party and the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler in Germany. Similarly, in Italy, the rise of fascist leader Benito Mussolini and his National Fascist Party brought about a dictatorship in Italy. In Japan, the rise of militarism and ultranationalism led to the rise of totalitarian regime.
The Irish War of Independence (1919-1921) and the Irish Civil War (1922-1923): The Irish War of Independence was a guerrilla war fought between the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the British government. The war led to the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which established the Irish Free State, a self-governing entity within the British Empire. The treaty was opposed by many Republicans and led to the Irish Civil War, a conflict that lasted from 1922 to 1923 between pro-treaty and anti-treaty forces.
The Chinese Civil War: The Chinese Civil War was a conflict between the Chinese Nationalists (Kuomintang) and the Chinese Communists for control of China. The war lasted from 1927 to 1949 and ended with the victory of the Communists and the establishment of the People's Republic of China.
1929 to 1939:
The Great Depression: The Great Depression was a severe economic downturn that began in 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s. It was caused by a combination of factors, including the stock market crash of 1929, overproduction, and the failure of banks and businesses. The depression led to widespread unemployment, poverty, and social unrest. Governments around the world implemented a variety of policies to try to combat the depression, including protectionist trade policies, government spending, and monetary policies. In the United States, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal policies were implemented to try to revive the economy and help those affected by the depression.
1939 to 1945:
World War II: World War II was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It was the deadliest conflict in human history and resulted in the deaths of an estimated 50-85 million people. The war was fought between the Axis powers (led by Germany, Japan, and Italy) and the Allied powers (led by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union). The war began with the invasion of Poland by Germany in September 1939 and quickly spread to other parts of Europe. In 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union and Japan launched a surprise attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor, which led the US to enter the war. The war in Europe ended with the defeat of Germany in May 1945 and the war in Asia ended with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Soviet invasion of Japan in August 1945.
The Indian Independence Movement: The Indian Independence Movement was a political and social movement that aimed to end British colonial rule in India. The movement was led by leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Sardar Patel. The movement used a variety of tactics including non-violent protests, civil disobedience, and strikes to demand independence from British rule. The movement was successful in gaining independence for India in 1947 and led to the formation of the Dominion of India and Pakistan.
1945 to 1950:
The period following World War II saw the start of the Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union: The Cold War was a state of political and military tension between the two superpowers that lasted from the end of World War II until the early 1990s. The two sides never engaged in direct warfare but instead engaged in political and economic competition, proxy wars, and an arms race. The Cold War was marked by a bipolar world order, with the United States and its Western allies on one side, and the Soviet Union and its Eastern European allies on the other.
The emergence of new nations in the aftermath of decolonization: The end of World War II saw a wave of decolonization and the emergence of new nations in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. This process was driven by a combination of factors, including nationalism movements, changes in the balance of power, and the changing attitudes of colonial powers towards their empires.
The formation of the United Nations: The United Nations is an intergovernmental organization established on October 24, 1945, to promote international cooperation and prevent future conflicts. The UN was formed in the aftermath of World War II and was designed to replace the ineffective League of Nations.
The establishment of the State of Israel and the start of the Arab-Israeli conflict: The State of Israel was established on May 14, 1948, following the United Nations' partition of Palestine. This decision led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, and the start of ongoing conflict between Israel and the Arab states.
The rise of the United States and Soviet Union as superpowers: The end of World War II saw the United States and Soviet Union emerge as the world's dominant superpowers, each with significant economic and military power. This led to the bipolar world order and the start of the Cold War.
That was just a brief summary of what went happened during this era. In fact the featured images on all my blog posts from 2022 onwards were made using OpenAI’s DALLE-2 and the prompt is always "gilded age painting of (insert descriptive words)”. For example the prompt for this blog post is “gilded age painting of history map projected on skyline of New York City”.
I remember seeing some artwork from that time period in my history notes 3 years ago and thinking that it was the best art I have ever seen. I wanted to even get some person on Fiverr to replicate that style for all my blog posts but luckily DALLE-2 launched so I don’t have to pay for that style of artwork.
In the American gilded age, the main economic doctrine was the laissez-faire system which is interesting. Although proponents were known as Liberals at the time, it is more similar to Libertarianism today.
“Laissez-faire was a political as well as an economic doctrine. The pervading theory of the 19th century was that individuals, pursuing their own desired ends, would thereby achieve the best results for the society of which they were part”
Yeah this just supports my bias for decentralisation and crypto which is why I am sharing it but it’s still cool. Limited government intervention, free markets and unprecedented growth were the positives of that time period
Of course, there was an unfavourable side caused by that time period as well. Various titans of industry like John D Rockefeller, John Pierpont Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, Cornelius Vanderbilt and corrupt politicians weren’t really well liked by the public. They enjoyed extraordinary wealth and opulence at the expense of the working class. Turns out that’s bad for a society when it goes too far in one direction.
In his twitter thread, Balaji says that the mid 20th Century was a period of centralisation where power and talent was concentrated in the state and now its going back to the market through the rise of entrepreneurship and decentralisation.
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