How Well Do You Know 20th Century History?


By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: Nik TheSaint

About This Quiz

The 20th century was a defining period in the history of humankind. Amazing technologies, like spaceflight, the Internet, and nuclear power all became commonplace during this century. But it was also the most murderous era ever, with millions of people perishing under the bombs and bullets of industrialized warfare. We jumped into the computer age, but the century began with the Model T. What do you really know about the 20th century?

Famous presidents and prime ministers wielded immense power from 1900 to 2000. Can you name any of those ambitious politicians? They used their spheres of influence to avert some disasters, and in other cases, they dove headlong into the maelstrom of World War. In our quiz, we’ll see if you really know the power players of this crucial century.

This 100-year span includes major shifts in culture and economics, but do you understand the interplay of those elements? After all, a booming economy causes countries to roar … while crashes caused depressions on a worldwide scale. Do you recall the booms and busts of this era?

Humans created some of their biggest engineering achievements in this century. They failed spectacularly, too. Take our 20th-century history quiz now and see if you know your Hitlers from your Hindenbergs!

Which American president was assassinated in 1901?

In 1901, an anarchist shot President McKinley, who died about a week later. He was succeeded by a young man named Theodore Roosevelt, who quickly made a name for himself.


In 1962, the Cuban missile crisis almost resulted in ______.

In 1962, the U.S. caught wind of a shipment of nuclear arms from the USSR to Cuba. President Kennedy managed to defuse the situation, which otherwise may have escalated into nuclear war.


The 1920s are often called the "_______ Twenties."

In the Western world, during the 1920s, life was mostly good, with an economic boom and snappy cultural developments. They were called the "Roaring Twenties." But things were just too good to last.


Which world-altering technology launched in 1903?

In 1903, the Wright Brothers became the first to put a heaver-than-air vehicle into the sky. Humankind would never be the same once it got ahold of planes.


In 1903, France held the first-ever _______, which went on to become the world's most famous bicycle race.

The Tour de France is a multi-stage bike race that runs for about three weeks each year. It's been held each year except during the two World Wars.


In what year did the Great War (WWI) begin?

In 1914, a Serbian political extremist murdered an Austrian Archduke … and started an avalanche of crazy events that started WWI. Millions of people perished in what was supposed to be the "last war."


In 1979, humankind eliminated which disease?

In 1979, medical science achieved one of its greatest triumphs -- the eradication of smallpox. For thousands of years, smallpox had ravaged populations all around the world, but modern science finally stamped out the scourge.


In 1929, which event helped trigger the beginning of the Great Depression?

The Wall Street Stock Market crash of 1929 was a spark that blew up the Great Depression. The fun of the Roaring Twenties was over … and the world careened into a terrible economic slump.


The Treaty of Versailles ended which war?

The 1919 Treaty of Versailles ended WWI and inflicted major penalties on Germany for its aggression. The terms were so harsh that it was nearly inevitable that Germany would rise up in anger just a few years later.


Which history-changing drug was discovered in 1928?

In 1928, Alexander Fleming accidentally discovered penicillin. His antibiotic would shortly go on to save millions of lives around the world, for decades to come.


In 1957, which country was the first to put a manmade object into orbit?

In 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik I, the world's first satellite. The Western world went into a tizzy at this development, fearing that the Communists were smarter and more advanced.


Which famous political leader took control of Germany in 1933?

In 1933, Hilter's political machinations came to life as he became chancellor of Germany. He immediately set about building his Third Reich, which he hoped would eventually dominate the world.


Which major world event helped Hitler solidify his power in Germany?

The Great Depression swept around the world in the 1930s, causing mayhem in societies small and large. The turmoil and stress were the perfect incubation conditions for Nazism to rise in Germany.


In 1976 marked the first-ever outbreak of which terrifying disease?

In 1976, a virus called Ebola emerged in Africa for the first time. Ebola has horrifying symptoms and a very high mortality rate, making it one of the world's most feared viruses.


Which major feat of engineering was destroyed in 1912?

There were more than 2,220 people aboard the Titanic, one of the biggest passenger ships of the 20th century, when it struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic. The sinking of the Titanic killed around 1,500 people and became an icon for overconfident engineering.


Which scandal brought down the Nixon Administration in 1974?

In the early '70s, intrepid journalists began investigating misdeeds of President Nixon and his men. The resulting Watergate scandal spun out of control and forced Nixon to become the first and only president to resign from office.


In 1920, the sale of which product was outlawed in America?

In 1920, the Prohibition era began, outlawing the production and sale of alcoholic beverages. Prohibition wasn't repealed until 13 years later.


Which event probably helped to end the Great Depression, particularly in America?

World War II ignited a firestorm of federal spending in America and put millions of people back to work. By the end of the war, the economy was booming again.


Who was elected president of the United States in 1932?

In 1932, Franklin Roosevelt became president … and what a career he had. He helped to end the Depression in America and led the country through WWII. He's the only president to serve more than two terms.


What did Tim Berners-Lee invent in 1990?

In 1990, Tim Berners-Lee concocted the idea of the World Wide Web. The Web, of course, changed the way humans access networked information … and allowed us to buy toothpaste on Amazon.


The Berlin Wall fell in 1989, triggering the downfall of which political philosophy?

The Berlin Wall was a stark symbol of European Communism. When the Wall fell, it triggered a domino effect that gutted many Communist regimes in the region, including the USSR.


In 1993, the Maastricht Treaty created which powerful entity?

In 1993, the Maastricht Treaty created the European Union. The EU brought together many of the strengths of Europe, transforming economies and political policies in the region.


In 1969, NASA accomplished which major feat?

As the self-imposed deadline created by JFK approached, NASA scrambled to send men to the moon. Finally, in 1969, their efforts paid off, and Neil Armstrong became the first human ever to set foot on another celestial object.


Which vicious, bloody war ended in 1939?

After years of bloodcurdling atrocities, the Spanish Civil War ended in 1939. Many historians see this war as a testing ground for many of the tools and tactics that Germany would use in WWII.


In 1990, which amazing technology went into orbit?

In 1990, NASA launched the Hubble Space Telescope, which is still operational. Thanks to Hubble, science has made all sorts of vital observations about the nature of our universe.


Which feat of physical endurance was accomplished for the first time in 1953?

In 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first people ever to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, the highest point on Earth. Both men became international celebrities following their feat.


Which famous act of violence captured the American consciousness in 1999?

In 1999, two students in Colorado shot their way through a Columbine high school. It wasn't the first school shooting, but its scale (and the media attention it seized) undoubtedly inspired other troubled people to copy the atrocities.


In 1941, Operation Reinhard began a murderous process that would eventually be called _____.

Germany planned and executed Operation Reinhard in 1941. During the operation, the Nazis systematically murdered millions of people in what became known as the Holocaust.


In 1975, the fall of Saigon marked the end of which conflict?

In 1975, after years of escalations and recriminations, American and South Vietnamese forces collapsed. The fall of Saigon meant the end of the Vietnam War.


Which amazing company was founded in 1998?

In 1998, Sergey Brin and Larry Page started a little company called Google. Their Web search algorithms changed the way humans find and sort information ... and, you know, cat pictures.


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