This semester I am mostly teaching US 1302 which is American History Since 1877. I make it from 1877 through Vietnam. To go any further than that would require me to take out some other important things that happened earlier in the century.....you know......like World War 2. I have heard of some professors who spend as much time, if not more, talking about post Cold War America than they do about World War 1 and World War 2. That bothers me because that appears to me that they are using their classes as a platform to talk about their own political beliefs rather than history, but I digress.
I've spend the last 15 weeks teaching about the 20th Century and last night as I drove home from my night class (which ironically enough is a 1301 course), I got to thinking about something which is always a dangerous thing. On the surface it seems as though the 20th Century is the bloodiest one in the history of the world. Part of that might be because of media coverage, photographs, and videos. Of course, history is full of stories of massacres and wars going back to the earliest people. However, photography has only existed for about the past 170 years or so. Video less than that. 24 hour news coverage even less.
So is the 20th Century really the bloodiest century in the history of the world or does it just appear that way? I tend to think that it was because of the military technology involved and the scale of World War 1 and 2, plus Stalin's Purges, Mao in China, genocide in the Congo, Rwanda, Armenia, etc. In a way it is kind of disheartening. I fear that at the end of it all, my students are left wondering exactly what kind of creatures we are that can permit things like this to happen. I wish I had an answer to that question.
My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Half A$$ Historian.