Angola was rich in natural resources, had a large petroleum industry, and had the potential to be a major agricultural producer. From 2002 to 2010, Angola experienced astounding economic growth. In 2004 the GDP grew by 12.2%, by 19% in 2005, and by over 20% in 2000. In 2010, Angola surpassed Nigeria as the largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa. As of 2011, Angola was producing about 1.6 million barrels per day, which for technical reasons, was well under its estimated capacity of 1.9 million barrels. Angola was a member of OPEC, but OPEC was not enforcing quotas. Crude oil accounts for 95% of exports, more than 72% of government revenues, and over 50% of the country's GDP.

    On the UN Human Development Index (HDI), Angola ranked 148th of 187 countries worldwide in 2010, falling within the “low development” category. The HDI is a comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy, education, and standards of living for countries worldwide. It is a standard means of measuring well-being, especially child welfare.

    Adapted from: "Angola." Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations, edited by Timothy L. Gall and Derek M. Gleason, 13th ed., vol. 2: Africa, Gale, 2012, pp. 19-34

    "Marching towards riches and democracy?" Economist, 30 Aug. 2008

    "Oil, glorious oil." Economist, 30 Jan. 2010

    "Boom boom." Economist, 30 June 2012


    Apartheid existed in South Africa from 1948 until 1991, allowing institutionalized racism and segregation across many areas of daily life. During this time, many anti-apartheid groups such as the African National Congress (ANC) were banned, and notable anti-apartheid leaders – such as Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) – were imprisoned.

    Following president P.W. Botha’s (1916-2006) stroke and subsequent resignation in 1989, his successor F.W. de Clerk (1936-present) announced in his first address to parliament (February 1991) that the ban on anti-apartheid groups such as the ANC were to be lifted. Alongside this, figures such as Mandela would be released, press freedom was restored, and the death penalty was repealed, among other sweeping changes. 

    During the early 1990s, negotiations were held that gradually deconstructed the legal framework that allowed apartheid to be enforced, and in 1993 de Klerk and Mandela were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Despite violence during these years, in 1994 South Africa had its first election under universal suffrage. The ANC won the election on 27th April, with Nelson Mandela sworn in as South Africa’s first post-apartheid president – April 27th is still celebrated as Freedom Day in South Africa.

    "Free at last, free at last - thank God almighty, but it's just a start." Economist, 21 Oct. 1989

    "Adieu, apartheid, most of it." Economist, 22 June 1991

    "South Africa confronts its past." Economist, 11 June 1994


    From 1952 to 1960, violent conflict took place between parts of the British Army and Mau Mau in British Kenya. “Mau Mau” was used as an overall name for various aligned factions of the Kikuyu, Kenya’s largest ethnic group.

    After some early acts of violence, a State of Emergency was declared, and military activity mobilised. Mau Mau leaders were arrested, including Jomo Kenyatta (c.1890-1978), with various operations launched to detain key figures and gain intelligence on the various Mau Mau groups operating throughout the country. In January 1955, Governor-General of Kenya Evelyn Baring (1903-1973) offered an amnesty to the Mau Mau, revoked in June after receiving no response. The end of the rebellion and British military activity came in 1956 with the capture of Dedan Kimathi (1920-1957), though the conflict is regarded as ending in 1960 when native Kenyan majority rule was established and Kenya began to move toward independence.

    After being released in 1959 and living in exile until 1961, Jomo Kenyatta became leader of the Kenya Africa National Union (KANU), and won the general election in 1963. He became the first Prime Minister of Kenya, overseeing the transition from a British Colony to an independent republic, of which he became President until his death.

    "Emergency in Kenya." Economist, 25 Oct. 1952

    "The Fight Against Mau Mau." Economist, 10 Jan. 1953

    "Mopping-up Mau Mau." Economist, 16 July 1955


    From 1990, Rwanda had been in a state of civil war, fought between the Hutu-led government and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), largely formed of Tutsi refugees. Violence between Hutu and Tutsi factions had been ongoing since Rwandan independence in 1963, until a ceasefire in 1993 after international pressure on Juvénal Habyarimana’s (1937-1944) government.

    The ceasefire ended when Habyarimana was assassinated in April 1994, starting with Tutsis and moderate Hutus being executed by police, soldiers and militia. The genocide occurred between April and July 1994, when nearly 70% of the Tutsi population were killed, with estimates of 500,000 to 1,000,000 people killed over a 100-day period, and another 2,000,000 Rwandans were displaced.

    The RPF gained control of the northern part of Rwanda and eventually the capital, Kigali, by the end of July 1994, beginning the end of the massacre. The depopulation had severe consequences on the economy, and many Hutu’s fled to neighbouring countries, prompting further cross-border military actions. The genocide has had many legacies in the international world, especially as a contributing factor to the establishment of the International Criminal Court to prosecute crimes against humanity and war crimes, and many countries (including the United Kingdom, France and Belgium) were heavily criticized for their inaction during the atrocities.

    "Genocide in Rwanda." Economist, 21 May 1994

    "Tutsis and Hutus: more blood to come." Economist, 22 July 1995

    "Rwanda, remembered." Economist, 27 Mar. 2004


    In 2010, South Africa became the first African nation to hold the football (soccer) FIFA World Cup tournament. The bidding process to host the tournament had only been open to African nations, and in 2004 South Africa were chosen ahead of Morocco and Egypt. The growth in popularity of the sport in the continent, the increase in prominent African players in major international leagues, and the ever improving performances of African nations in tournaments meant that an African nation had become a viable host for the tournament.

    Like many large sporting tournaments, it brought problems. The expectations that construction and infrastructure costs would be offset by increased tourism failed to materialize, and the restrictions on local businesses led to reduced income during the tournament.  Many people were ‘evicted’ as a method to make the cities more aesthetically pleasing, including the controversial N2 Gateway housing project, and the Elimination and Prevention of Re-Emergence of Slums Act that would force many shack-dwellers into temporary transit camps. Despite these issues, FIFA awarded South Africa a nine out of ten rating for organization, meaning that they are considered a ‘plan B’ for future tournaments.

    "South Africa set to score." Economist, 8 May 2004

    "On goal for 2010." Economist, 4 July 2009

    "The price of freedom." Economist, 5 June 2010

  • ASIA


    China realized its Olympic goal on July 13th, 2001, when the International Olympic Committee voted to make Beijing the host city for the 2008 Olympics. Having won the right to host the Olympics, the city of Beijing splurged on preparations for tens of thousands of visitors. Taxi drivers were taught English. The city constructed new subways and light rails, new highways, and a new airport terminal. Construction sites appeared all over the city. The Chinese government contracted with world-famous architects to build a new Olympic stadium, dubbed the Bird’s Nest, for its intricate steel webbing, and a swimming site known as the Water Cube because of its unique exterior.

    The Beijing Olympics opened on August 8, 2008, with a total of 10,500 athletes from every one of the 204 member nations of the International Olympic Committee except Brunei. In the competitions, China led the world in gold medals with fifty-one; the United States was second with thirty-six, followed by Russia with twenty-three and Great Britain with nineteen. Chinese athletes accumulated one hundred medals overall. China did best in gymnastics, earning eleven gold medals, while garnering eight in weightlifting, seven in diving, four in shooting, four in table tennis, and three in badminton.

    Adapted from: "Olympics, 2008 Beijing Olympic Games." Encyclopedia of Modern China, edited by David Pong, vol. 3, Charles Scribner's Sons, 2009, pp. 54-57

    "The Beijing Olympics?" Economist, 21 Aug. 1993

    "Inflated by the Olympic spirit." Economist, 3 Mar. 2007

    "Going for gold." Economist, 16 Aug. 2008


    At roughly 8:15 in the morning of August 6th 1945, the Japanese city of Hiroshima was destroyed by the first atomic bomb, swiftly followed by Nagasaki, in an attack of such magnitude it is widely credited as the event that led to the end of World War II. At least 192,000 people are estimated to have died in the two bombings, with exposure-related medical conditions continuing for years afterwards.

    The aftereffects of the bomb lasted for decades, with hibakusha (roughly translated as ‘victims of the atomic bomb’) being offered free medical treatment into the twenty-first century, and the Radiation Effects Research Foundation (previously the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission from 1947 to 1975) using Hiroshima as a base for research on the long-term effects of radiation exposure.

    The city has recovered in subsequent years: significant reconstruction began in 1950, and Hiroshima is now one of the largest industrial centres in the Chūgoku and Shikoku regions, with significant companies building headquarters in the city, notably the Mazda Motor Corporation. In 1996 the Genbaku dōmu (Atomic Bomb Dome) was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, and a commemorative service is held on August 6 each year in the Peace Memorial Park.

    "Japan in Extremis." Economist, 11 Aug. 1945

    "Japan and the Bomb." Economist, 14 Aug. 1954

    "The legacy of the A-bombs." Economist, 12 Sept. 1987


    After 156 years of British rule, midnight on the 30th June 1997 saw the transition to the Hong Kong special administrative region (HKSAR) of the People’s Republic of China, with Hong Kong officially transferring to Chinese sovereignty.

    The transition process had begun eleven years previously, with the Sino-British Joint Declaration on the Question of Hong Kong being signed by the two governments in December 1984. The relationship had run steadily until the appointment of Chris Patten (1944-present) as Governor of Hong Kong in 1992, who introduced many policies designed to introduce democratic elections to the Legislative Council, that would have given the population of Hong Kong a greater voice in the running of the country – China saw this a going back on earlier agreements, and voted to have the Legislative Council disbanded. There were many concerns in Hong Kong and abroad that China would not stick to the "one country, two systems" plan, fearing that China would reduce and limit the rights of Hong Kong’s residents, imposing a similar method of rule used in Singapore.

    After a lavish ceremony attended by important political figures, the handover went ahead as planned, and – despite the concerns - Hong Kong remained stable for several months after the handover was complete.

    "All eyes on China." Economist, 28 June 1997

    "How Hong Kong can change China." Economist, 28 June 1997

    "Hong Kong diminished." Economist, 3 July 1999


    The Khmer Rouge were a radical movement that ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, during which time an estimated 1.5 to 2 million Cambodians died. The atrocities prompted a joint operation between the United Nations and the government of Cambodia - the Khmer Rouge Tribunal – which began indicting former leaders and key figures in 2007.

    In 1951 the Khmer People’s Revolutionary Party was founded, eventually becoming the Communist Party of Kampuchea. After years of clandestine activity against Prince Norodom Sihanouk (1922-2012), the King of Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge entered into a coalition with Sihanouk, gaining more support from countryside followers due to Sihanouk’s popularity. A civil war ran from 1970 to 1975 while the support grew, culminating in the Khmer Rouge successfully taking Phnom Penh in 1975 and establishing a national government.

    The Khmer’s leader, Pol Pot (1925-1998) became Prime Minister, until invading Vietnamese troops deposed the Khmer Rouge in 1979, though the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (incorporating the remains of the Khmer Rouge) were internationally recognized as the government of Cambodia until 1993. In 1997, after years of continued guerrilla fighting, Pol Pot was arrested, before he died in 1998.

    "Counting the cost." Economist, 26 Feb. 1977

    "Fleeing the guns and the hunger." Economist, 20 Oct. 1979

    "Out of the killing fields." Economist, 5 Dec. 1987



    Haiyan began in an area of low pressure near Micronesia in early November 2013, gradually moving westward it developed into a tropical storm by November 4. It gained typhoon intensity by November 6, and continued to intensify, with winds up to 180 miles per hour (230 km per hour) before hitting the Philippines on November 7. After weakening, the typhoon reduced to a severe storm before it hit Vietnam on November 10.

    The UN estimates that 11 million people were impacted by Typhoon Haiyan, with damage to homes and the environment particularly significantly. Despite this, there were no reported casualties or severe injuries in Micronesia, but the Philippines saw major damage, with cities and town destroyed in Leyte. The Philippines saw over 6,000 casualties, though the true death toll is still unknown. The Philippine Red Cross estimate (as of 2012) that 22,000 people were missing.

    After moving to China and Vietnam, the remnants of Typhoon Haiyan caused flooding, but only two casualties were reported. Over 1.2 million are estimated to have been affected in China, before the tail end of the typhoon hit Vietnam, where there were no casualties after it made landfall.

    "Worse than hell." Economist, 16 Nov. 2013

    "The new normal?" Economist, 16 Nov. 2013

    "The winds of change." Economist, 21 Dec. 2013



    On April 25th-29th 1986, a series of experiments led to a catastrophic accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power station, with the lid being blown off reactor 4 followed by a partial meltdown of the reactor. In the immediate aftermath, the Soviet Union attempted to cover up the accident, but the eventual revelation of the incident led to international condemnation, and raised concerns about the safety and use of nuclear power.

    The radiation released into the atmosphere was greater than that caused by the atom bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and had economic and environmental consequences for several years afterwards, including births of deformed livestock and expectations of significant cancer-related deaths. Aftereffects in vegetation and plant life were forecast to last up to a century after the release of the radiation, and the movement of livestock as far away as the United Kingdom was in effect until 2012.

    Although only just over thirty deaths occurred initially, many more contracted radiation sickness which caused deaths later on. Thousands of people were evacuated from the area, and the remaining reactors were progressively closed over the next fourteen years, with the station fully decommissioned in 2000.

    "Catastrophe at Chernobyl." Economist, 3 May 1986

    "The harm of nuclear power." Economist, 3 May 1986

    "Counting cancers." Economist, 6 Sept. 1986


    The Berlin Wall divided East and West Berlin for twenty-nine years, acting as a physical and intellectual barrier between the two sides of the city, and of Europe. After the East German Volkskammer signed a decree on August 12th 1961, construction began over the following two days, and by the early 1980s the structure extended for 28 miles (45 km) through the city.

    The plan was triggered by socio-economic concerns: between 1949 and 1961, an increasing ‘brain drain’ in East Germany threatened its economic stability. Around 2.5 million East Germans left for the West, including trained professionals and intellectuals. As a result, the East decided to stem the flow by erecting a physical barrier, blocking East German’s access to the West.

    After a series of revolutions in Eastern European countries, in 1989 the leadership of East Germany was forced from power, and on 9th November the borders between East and West were opened. Parts of the Wall were opened, and people could travel freely between the two sides. The physical demolition of the Wall happened between 1990 and 1992.

    "O sweet and lovely wall, Show me thy chink." Economist, 16 Aug. 1986

    "Beyond the Wall." Economist, 18 Nov. 1989

    "The capital-builders." Economist, 9 Nov. 1991


    In 1945 and 1946, several former Nazi leaders were indicted and tried by the International Military Tribunal. The trials were held in Nuremburg, Germany, following the London Agreement in 1945. The defendants were tried against four counts: crimes against peace; crimes against humanity; war crimes; and “a common plan or conspiracy to commit” any of the other three. The tribunal could also find any group or organization to be criminal in character (such as the Gestapo), and therefore any member could be brought to trial.

    Twenty-four defendants were originally tried, with the verdict on twenty-two of them delivered on October 1st 1946 (one had committed suicide, and another was deemed too ill to face trial). Of the twenty-two, three were acquitted, three were sentenced to life imprisonment, and four to sentences of up to twenty years. The remaining twelve were sentenced to death by hanging, and ten were executed on October 16th 1946 (Hermann Göring (1894-1946) committed suicide, and Martin Bormann (1900-c.1945) was sentenced in absentia).

    "The War Crimes Tribunal." Economist, 11 Aug. 1945

    "Can Nuremberg Succeed?" Economist, 13 Oct. 1945

    "Was Hess Mad?" Economist, 13 Sept. 1947


    The Srebrenica massacre occurred in July 1995, with over 20,000 civilians displaced, and estimates of between 7,000-8,000 Bosnian Muslim men killed by Bosnian Serb forces. In 1992, Bosnian Serbs aimed to take control of Srebrenica, culminating in a cordon being established in 1995 under the orders of the president of the Bosnian Serb Republic, Radovan Karadžić (1945-present). The cordon limited important supplies, forcing Bosnian Muslims to leave the area. Later in 1995, operation Krivaja was started, and the offensive began in July with Serb forces marching on Srebrenica.

    Despite a group of Dutch peacekeeprs being present in the nearby town of Potočari (where many from Srebrenica fled), little resistance was made. On July 11th, Bosnian Serb forces promised security if the opposition surrendered: when they did surrender, many were executed. Over the next few days, a wave of executions continued in more towns along the Bosnian-Serbian border.

    In following years, the UN accepted partial blame for failing to protect the Bosnian Muslims, after they had designated it a “safe area” in 1993. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia ruled that the events combined to genocide, the first in Europe since World War II.

    "A Balkan quagmire beckons." Economist, 3 June 1995

    "Victims of Bosnian Realpolitik." Economist, 22 July 1995

    "Getting rid of Karadzic." Economist, 6 July 1996


    During the early twentieth century, social divisions began to intensify in Spain: they roughly divided into the Nationalists (predominantly Roman Catholics, and largely affluent), and the Republicans (largely the labourers and urban workers).

    The increasing division led to a military revolt against the Republican government, with a failed military coup resulting in a civil war that lasted from 1936 to 1939. In October 1936, General Francisco Franco (1892-1975) was named head of state, after becoming a prominent figure among many of the Nationalist forces. Both sides sought help from abroad: the Nationalists received aid from Italy and Germany, and the Republicans from the Soviet Union and volunteer forces from Europe and the United States.

    After gradually taking Madrid and most of northern Spain by early 1939, the Nationalist forces had caused large numbers of Republicans fighters (as well as civilians) to flee over the border to France, followed by the Republican government in March. By the end of March, the Republican armies had begun to disband and surrender.

    "The Week in Spain." Economist, 10 Apr. 1937

    "General Franco's Advance." Economist, 19 Mar. 1938

    "Death of a Republic." Economist, 1 Apr. 1939



    In August 1947, India was granted independence within the British Commonwealth and was divided into the dominions of India and Pakistan. Pakistan was itself divided with West Pakistan comprising the area now known as Pakistan, and East Pakistan, occupying what had been Eastern Bengal. West Pakistan was politically and economically dominant over East Pakistan, giving rise to a secessionist movement in the eastern province. Despite attempts to ease the tensions, these factions gradually grew into open hostility and in 1971 a brief but bloody civil war flared up that lasted for two weeks and ended with the intervention of Indian troops. On 17th December 1971 a new government in Dhaka declared the independence of the new state, Bangladesh.

    Bangladesh experienced a number of military coups after achieving independence in 1971, and several military governments tried to restrict activities of political parties. However, after the return to civil rule in 1990, all political parties may openly function in the country. In 1991, the first free and fair election was held in Bangladesh. Begum Khaleda Zia (1945-present) won the election. The new government brought radical changes to the economic policy, promoting private entrepreneurship, especially among representatives of poor communities, and supporting small- and medium-size businesses and privatization. This program was successful, and Bangladesh experienced economic growth throughout the 1990s.

    Adapted from: Abazov, Rafis. "Bangladesh." Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies, edited by Sara Pendergast and Tom Pendergast, vol. 3: Asia & the Pacific, Gale, 2002, pp. 41-55

    "Eye for eye." Economist, 25 Dec. 1971

    "After the debacle." Economist, 1 Jan. 1972

    "Home may be sweet, but is it safe?" Economist, 8 Jan. 1972


    On November 12th 19670, the deadliest tropical cyclone on record hit the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta in East Pakistan. Estimates of the death toll vary from 300,000 to 500,000, with the Tazumuddin Upazila (the worst affected area) seeing 45% of its population killed.

    The remnants of Tropical Storm Nora had moved from the South China Sea over the Malay Peninsula on November 5th, and contributed to the formation of a new depression in the Bay of Bengal on November 8th. The storm made landfall on the east coast of Pakistan at high tide on November 12th, causing an accompanying storm surge that flooded large areas. Of the casualties, most died from drowning in the floods. The immediate aftermath had a significant effect on the history of the country: the heavily criticized response to the disaster contributed to a change in government a few weeks after the cyclone, and the deteriorating political condition culminated in a war that saw East Pakistan become independent in 1971 under the name it is now known: Bangladesh.

    It was also a decisive factor in improved natural disaster responses: the League of Red Cross Societies drafted a new plan for disaster response in similar areas, and later the UN General Assembly adopted proposals for improved aid provision to avoid similar fallout in the future.

    "After the flood." Economist, 21 Nov. 1970

    "What went wrong?" Economist, 28 Nov. 1970

    "Not as bleak as it seemed." Economist, 5 Dec. 1970


    On December 3rd 1984, thousands of people were killed in Bhopal, India, after 45 tonnes of methyl isocyanate escaped from an insecticide plant. The final death toll is estimated to be between 15,000 and 20,000 people, with several hundred thousand survivors suffering a range of medical complications from blindness to respiratory problems.

    Tens of thousands attempted to flee Bhopal as the gas drifted through densely populated neighbourhoods around the plant: investigators later concluded that substandard operating and safety procedures, coupled with understaffing, caused the leak. In 2010, several former Union Carbide executives (the American owners of the plant at the time of the disaster) were convicted of negligence.

    As late as the early twenty-first century, over 400 tonnes of industrial waste were still present at the Bhopal site, with reports of ongoing health issues and high rates of birth defects attributed to elevated levels of soil and water contamination.

    "The Bhopal post-mortem." Economist, 8 Dec. 1984

    "Gassed in Bhopal." Economist, 15 Dec. 1984

    "The ghosts of Bhopal." Economist, 18 Feb. 1989


    Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) played a pivotal role in India’s move for independence, leading the Indian independence movement. His advocacy and example of nonviolent civil disobedience became inspirational to many subsequent movements worldwide, and has had a lasting cultural impact. He was assassinated on January 30th 1948 by Nathuram Godse (1910-1949), a Hindu nationalist.

    Indira Gandhi (1917-1984) – no relation to Mohandas – served as prime minister from 1966 until 1977, and again from 1980 until her assassination in 1984. She was the first female prime minister of India, and was noted for her strong leadership and centralising policies. She was assassinated in October 1984 by Sikh nationalists working as her bodyguards.

    Rajiv Gandhi (1944-1991) – son of Indira – served as Prime Minister from 1984 until 1991. He was sworn in to office following the assassination of his mother, becoming the youngest prime minister of India. His tenure was marked by many incidents, including the Bhopal gas disaster and the Bofors scandal. He was assassinated by a suicide bomber in May 1991, in an explosion that also killed over twenty other people during election campaigning.

    "The Legacy of Gandhi." Economist, 26 Jan. 1952

    "Death of an Empress." Economist, 3 Nov. 1984

    "Death among the blossoms." Economist, 25 May 1991


    On April 13th, 1919, British troops fired on a peaceful protest in the city of Amritsar in northern India. An estimated one thousand people were killed and another fifteen hundred injured. In the wake of the massacre, many of those who had previously been content to live under British rule began to rally on the side of those supporting independence.  The INC (Indian National Congress party) leader, Mohandas Gandhi (1869–1948), launched a campaign of nonviolent protest and non-cooperation with British rule. In 1929 the INC created a resolution asking Britain to give India full independence and promised a new campaign of civil disobedience if the petition was not granted.

    On August 16th, 1946, the Direct Action Day ended in a week-long violent clash between Muslims and Hindus in Calcutta that left four thousand people dead. The violence spread throughout the country, and was enough to convince the British government that it could no longer maintain order in India. In 1947 the British viceroy, Lord Mountbatten (1900–1979), announced that India would be given independence. On August 14th, 1947, independent Pakistan came into being, led by Mohammad Ali Jinnah (1876–1948) as governor-general. Just after midnight on August 15th, INC leader Jawaharlal Nehru (1889–1964) proclaimed India's independence.

    Adapted from: "India Gains Independence from Great Britain." Global Events: Milestone Events Throughout History, edited by Jennifer Stock, vol. 2: Asia and Oceania, Gale, 2014, pp. 362-365

    "Is It Well with India?" Economist, 19 July 1947

    "English for India." Economist, 24 Sept. 1949

    "Recovery from Disillusionment." Economist, 18 Aug. 1951



    During the 1930s and early 1940s, Liberal governments had run Colombia. During this time, Conservatives felt marginalised and were physically attacked: in 1946, the Conservative Mariano Ospina Pérez (1891-1976) became leader, beating the two liberal candidates --Gabriel Turbay (1901-1947) and Jorge Eliécer Gaitán (1903-1948).

    Reprisals against Liberals marked the beginning of a period called “La Violencia”, largely sparked by the assassination of Gaitán in 1948. The assassination in Bogotá led to the bogotazo riots across the country, and estimates suggest that over 200,000 were killed between 1946 and 1964. The situation worsened under Laureano Gómez (1889-1965), who attempted to turn Colombia into a fascist state, and he was eventually deposed by a military coup, with Gustavo Rojas Pinilla (1900-1975) taking the presidency in 1953, himself ousted by a military junta in 1957. 

    The Declaration of Stiges (1957) meant that the presidency would be alternated between Liberal and Conservative, and remained in place until 1973. Economic strains, increasing unemployment and rising guerrilla groups strained public confidence during these years, leading to the rise of groups such as FARC (the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia), who would have significant impact on late twentieth-century Colombian history.

    "Civil War Threats in Colombia." Economist, 19 Nov. 1949

    "Colombia's Political Plight." Economist, 19 July 1952

    "Growing Tension in Colombia." Economist, 27 Nov. 1954


    Ernesto Guevara de la Serna (1928-1967), better known as “Che” Geuvara, was a prominent figure in the Cuban Revolution, and guerrilla leader in South America.

    During his medical studies, he travelled extensively throughout South America, and his experiences were pivotal in forming his philosophy that revolution was the solution to the various social problems. His experience of a CIA-supported overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz (1913-1971) in Guatemala in 1954 prompted Guevara to bring about socialism by revolution. He left for Mexico and met brothers Fidel (1926-2016) and Raúl Castro (1931-present), and after the successful campaign to overthrow Fulgencio Batista (1901-1973) in Cuba, Guevara served in various notable positions in the new government.

    After becoming disillusioned, he left Cuba: after supporting various efforts in Africa, he travelled to Bolivia, where he was detained and killed by the Bolivian army in 1967. Guevara has served as a strong symbol in both revolutionary politics and popular culture since his death, and debates about his life and legacy continue to this day.

    "Where is Che?" Economist, 28 Aug. 1965

    "Death of Che." Economist, 14 Oct. 1967

    "The Guevara effect." Economist, 19 July 1997


    In 1973, General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte (1915-2006) led the military junta that deposed Salvador Allende (1908-1973) as the president of Chile, and led the military government from 1974 until 1990.

    During his tenure (and beyond), Pinochet’s regime was accused of torturing opposition and condemned for its suppression tactics, but inversely during the late 1970s Chile saw an economic boom due to the policies put in place by the government. Despite a recession in the early 1980s, Chile’s economy stayed largely stable during Pinochet’s rule. Despite losing a referendum in 1988, Pinochet stayed in power until the free elections in 1990, and was succeeded by Patricio Alwyn (1918-2016).

    During a visit to London in 1998, Pinochet was arrested after Spain requested his extradition, on the grounds of accusations of torture of Spanish citizens in Chile during his presidency. The international interest sparked several major investigations, and in 2000 he was stripped of his diplomatic immunity, but charges were dropped in 2002 after he was deemed mentally incapable of defending himself in court. He was ruled capable of standing trial for illegal financial dealing among other charges in 2005, but died in 2006.

    "The end of Allende." Economist, 15 Sept. 1973

    "He let them say no." Economist, 8 Oct. 1988

    "Augusto Pinochet." Economist, 16 Dec. 2006


    Maurice Bishop (1944-1983) was a leader of the New Jewel Movement which proclaimed the independence of Grenada in 1974. After a 1979 coup he served as prime minister of Grenada until his death in a subsequent coup in 1983.

    On November 18th 1973, Bishop and five members of the New Jewel Movement were attacked and brutally beaten by Eric Mathew Gairy's Mongoose Gang (1922-1997). "Bloody Sunday," as the event came to be called, coalesced the opposition to Gairy. On March 13th 1979, Bishop and his followers seized control of the government of Grenada and suspended the constitution. Bishop's government, despite its achievements, failed to hold elections and stifled a free press and the opposition.

    On October 13th 1983, Bishop was placed under house arrest. On October 19th, a crowd of supporters released him and marched to the military compound at Fort Rupert. There troops captured and executed Bishop, three cabinet members, two labour leaders, and nearly a hundred civilians. Within six days the United States invaded Grenada, arrested the leaders of the coup, established an interim government, and terminated the Grenadian experiment.

    Adapted from: "Maurice Bishop." Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed., vol. 2, Gale, 2004, pp. 292-293

    "Islands in a stew." Economist, 8 Dec. 1979

    "Lost Bishop." Economist, 22 Oct. 1983

    "Grenada votes yes, thanks." Economist, 8 Dec. 1984


    The Panama Canal connects the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean through a 40 mile (65km) canal through the Isthmus of Panama, saving ships from 2,000 to 8,000 nautical miles (depending on the journey) by allowing them to avoid sailing round the land mass of South America. 

    The first attempt to construct the canal began in 1881, by the French company Compagnie Universelle du Canal Interocéanique, led by Ferdinand de Lesseps (1805-1984), who had led the building of the Suez Canal. Unfortunately, Lesseps had made many assumptions, leading to slow progress and significant loss of life on the project. The company collapsed in 1889, and after a brief resurgence, ceased to function by 1898.

    Through the Spooner Act of 1902, the United States purchased the assets of the company, and following Panama’s declaration of independence, they negotiated the Hay–Bunau-Varilla Treaty, allowing the creation of the Panama Canal Zone in 1904. Better disease control and better selection of equipment and workforce meant the project was successfully completed, and the Panama Canal opened in 1914. Ownership of the Panama Canal changed during the twentieth century: originally owned by the United States, it was transferred to a joint US-Panamanian commission (the Panama Canal Commission) in 1979, before being transferred fully to Panama in 1999.

    "The Panama Canal." Economist, 26 July 1879

    "Opening of the Panama Canal." Economist, 12 Sept. 1914

    John Bates Clark. "The Remote Effects Of The Panama Canal." Panama Canal Section. Economist, 5 Dec. 1914



    In 1971, seven Gulf emirates formed a federation, creating the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE consists of Abū Ẓaby (Abu Dhabi), Dubayy (Dubai), Al-Shāriqah (Sharjah), ʿAjmān, Umm al-Qaywayn, Raʾs al-Khaimah and Al-Fujayrah, with the city of Abu Dhabi serving as the capital.

    Under a treaty signed in 1892, the United Kingdom promised to protect the Trucial Coast from all aggression by sea and to lend its good offices in case of land attack. In 1955, the United Kingdom effectively intervened on the side of Abu Dhabi in the latter's dispute with Saudi Arabia over the Buraymi oasis, control of which is now shared by Abu Dhabi and Oman.

    When, in 1968, the United Kingdom announced its intention to withdraw its forces from the area, a decision to establish a federation of Arab emirates—embracing the seven Trucial States, Bahrain, and Qatar—was agreed on in principle. However, it proved impossible to reconcile the differences among all the members. Six Trucial States (excluding Ra's al-Khaimah) agreed on the establishment of the United Arab Emirates, which was officially proclaimed a sovereign, independent nation on 2 December 1971, with Ra's al-Khaimah joining in early 1972.

    Adapted from: "United Arab Emirates." Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations, edited by Timothy L. Gall and Jeneen M. Hobby, 12th ed., vol. 4: Asia and Oceania, Gale, 2007, pp. 893-904

    "Shah to the rescue." Economist, 11 Oct. 1969

    "And now there are six." Economist, 24 July 1971

    "The United Arab Emirates." Economist, 7 Dec. 1974


    During the early 1970s, Lebanon saw the rise of many social and political movements, sectarian militias and a growing presence of guerrilla groups. Escalating violence in the country proved too much for the state to control, especially between the Christian Phalangists and their leader Pierre Gemayel (1905-1984), and the LMN (Lebanese National Movement), a predominantly Muslim group led by Kamal Jumblatt (1917-1977). 

    Violence between Phalangists and the LNM escalated after a Phalangist attack on a Palestinian refugee bus in 1975, starting a conflict that saw Beirut split between a Muslim west and Christian East. Stable negotiations were persistently undermined by in-fighting within communities and outside intervention, notably from Syria. 

    In 1982, Bachir Gemayel (1947-1982) became president, having unified various militias into the Lebanese Forces. Three weeks later, he was assassinated, sparking retaliation from Christian militiamen that led to hundreds of deaths. Bashir’s brother Amine Gemayel (1942-present) was elected in 1982, but the violence did not recede. After many more years of violence and Gemayal stepping down in 1988, his successor General Michel Aoun (1933-present) accepted a ceasefire, and remained president until 1989, succeeded by René Moawad (1925-1989) who was assassinated later that year, in turn succeeded by Elias Hrawi (1926-2006). Conflict between Aoun and the LF led to more violence, though the civil war was generally regarded as finishing in 1990 when Syrian forces forced Aoun into exile.

    "Soldiers won't do." Economist, 31 May 1975

    "Lebanon's men with guns dictate the terms." Economist, 13 Dec. 1975

    "Guns speak louder." Economist, 8 May 1976


    Early on the morning of September 5th, 1972, eight members of the Black September Organization (BSO) associated with Yasser Arafat’s (1929-2004) al-Fatah faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), dressed as athletes, gained entrance to the Olympic Village. Carrying their weapons in gym bags, they sought out the apartment building housing the Israeli athletes.

    The terrorists then took nine Israelis hostage. At about 9:30 A.M. the terrorists opened negotiations with German authorities: the hostage takers demanded that Israel free 234 Arab prisoners and that West Germany release two German terrorist leaders imprisoned in Frankfurt. That evening the two sides reached a deal providing for a plane that would take both the terrorists and their hostages to Cairo.

    Certain that the incident would end in the deaths of the hostages, German officials were determined to prevent the departure. At 3:00 A.M. on September 6th, German sharpshooters opened fire on two terrorists who had just inspected the plane. After a bloody shoot-out, the incident had claimed the lives of eleven Israelis, five terrorists, and one German policeman.

    Adapted from: Tucker, Spencer C. "Munich Olympic Games Massacre." Encyclopedia of Terrorism, edited by Peter Chalk, vol. 2, ABC-CLIO, 2013, pp. 515-517

    "The blackest September." Economist, 9 Sept. 1972

    "The silent ones." Economist, 9 Sept. 1972

    Abbad Al Radi. "The Munich killings." Economist, 23 Sept. 1972


    The Egyptian Revolution began in January 2011 and was continuing to unfold more than three years later. It initially began as part of the “Arab Spring,” a series of popular dissident movements that toppled or threatened to topple governments throughout North Africa and the Middle East. The first wave of the Egyptian Revolution successfully ended the decades-long rule of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (1928–).

    The military-led interim government soon gave way to a new democratically elected government led by President Mohamed Morsi (1951–). However, within one year of Morsi's election, massive protests against his government had begun, with responding protests by supporters. On July 3rd, 2013, the military removed Morsi from power and imprisoned several leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic political and social group that supported Morsi. Less than a year into office, the country was divided, and Egypt's military took a stand against Morsi. On July 1st, 2013, after several days of massive protests, the military offered Morsi an ultimatum: the government had 48 hours to arrive at an agreement with the anti-Morsi demonstrators. He refused to comply, and on July 3rd General Abdul Fatah Al-Sisi (1954–) announced the Egyptian military had removed President Morsi from office.

    Adapted from: "Egyptian Revolution." Worldmark Modern Conflict and Diplomacy, edited by Elizabeth P. Manar, vol. 1: 9/11 to Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Gale, 2014

    "Egypt's tragedy." Economist, 6 July 2013

    "Has the Arab spring failed?" Economist, 13 July 2013

    "The generals strengthen their hand." Economist, 27 July 2013


    Owing to the initiatives of Ferdinand de Lesseps (1805-1894), the Compagnie Internationale du canal maritime de Suez (Suez Maritime Canal International Company) was founded in 1857.He succeeded in convincing the Egyptian authorities to concede the location of a future waterway to a company with roots in both France and Egypt. Lesseps persuaded investors of the canal's feasibility and collected the funding to complete the lock-free waterway. 

    The canal was opened in November 1869, The gain in time was substantial: In 1900, the journey from London to Calcutta required 32 to 69 days, covering some 7,260 miles via the Cape, compared to only 22 to 47 days (5,038 miles) passing through the Suez. Similarly, going from Marseille to Saigon via the Cape required 33 to 71 days (7,450 miles), while it took only 20 to 42 days (4,454 miles) through the Suez.

    Great doubts about the canal's success marked the first years of operation. The expected increase in traffic never materialized because the Great Depression of 1880–1890 brought all investment in steamships and sailboats (mainly clippers) to a virtual halt. Moreover, technical glitches surfaced and cast a shadow on the safety of the transit through the canal. 

    Adapted from: Bonin, Hubert. "Suez Canal." Seas and Waterways of the World: An Encyclopedia of History, Uses, and Issues, edited by John Zumerchik and Steven L. Danver, vol. 1, ABC-CLIO, 2010, pp. 257-270

    "The Suez Canal And The Eastern Trade." Economist, 4 Dec. 1869

    "The Suez Canal." Economist, 7 Jan. 1871

    "The Financial Condition Of The Suez Canal." Economist, 29 July 1871



    In January 1963, John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917-1963) was inaugurated as the 35th president of the United States of America, defeating Richard Nixon (1913-1994). He led the United States through a period of high international tensions, with the main feature of his presidency being the management of relationships with Communist states during the height of the Cold War period: whilst dealing with the Soviet Union, he also authorised the Bay of Pigs invasion that attempted to overthrow Fidel Castro (1926-2016) in Cuba, and dramatically increased the number of military advisers on Vietnam. With one of the highest public approval ratings of any US president, he introduced many progressive initiatives, including the creation of the Peace Corps and open support of the Civil Rights Movement. After his assassination, many of his proposals were introduced, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

    On November 22nd 1963, Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald (1939-1963) in Dallas, Texas. Oswald was himself killed by Jack Ruby (1911-1967) two days later, and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) took over the presidency.

    "Who Was to Blame?" Economist, 7 Dec. 1963

    "Let us Continue." Economist, 7 Dec. 1963

    "The End of the Tragedy." Economist, 3 Oct. 1964


    In 1961, president John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) called for more funding to support the United States’ space programme, after the launch and successful introduction into orbit of Sputnik 1 by Russia in 1957 initiated the ‘space race’. Kennedy set the target of landing a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s. After managing to successfully capture public opinion to help overcome the political barriers, president Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) managed to continue the space programme after Kennedy’s assassination in 1963.

    After several successful missions to launch men into space and orbit the moon during the decade, Apollo 11 became the first manned mission to land on the surface of the moon on July 20th 1969. Astronauts Neil Armstrong (1930-2010) and Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin (1930-present) were the first humans to set foot on the lunar surface, the first of twenty-four to have travelled to the moon. Since the first manned moon landing, five more successful landings were made between 1969 and 1972.

    "Message Extraordinary." Economist, 3 June 1961

    "Frontier Moon." Economist, 19 July 1969

    "What they brought back." Economist, 2 Aug. 1969


    In a speech delivered in January 2014, President Barack Obama (1961-present) stated: “Throughout American history, intelligence has helped secure our country and our freedoms.” However, numerous reports about the intelligence-collecting activities of the National Security Agency have created controversies about the extent to which the federal government had infringed upon privacy rights of ordinary Americans. The release of thousands of classified documents by a former NSA contractor in 2013 increased the concerns, especially given that many of the documents referred to the everyday activities of ordinary individuals inside and outside the United States.

    When former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden (1983-present) released a trove of classified information in June 2013, detailing the electronic surveillance programs of the agency, he ignited public debate as to whether one of these programs violated U.S. law. In addition, the information led to the filing of federal lawsuits claiming that the program, which required U.S. telecommunication companies to provide phone metadata about their customers to the NSA, was a violation of the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.

    Adapted from: American Law Yearbook 2014: A Guide to the Year's Major Legal Cases and Developments, Gale, 2015

    "Look who's listening." Economist, 15 June 2013

    "In the secret state." Economist, 3 Aug. 2013

    "Cloaks off." Economist, 2 Nov. 2013


    Separatism in the mostly French-speaking province of Quebec has for almost half a century constituted the single biggest threat to the unity of Canada. The high watermark of the secessionist movement came in 1995 when the francophone Quebeckers, or Quebecois, came within a hair’s breadth of splitting away from Canada in a referendum. 

    The Quebec independence movement gathered steam in the 1970s. A watershed moment for French Canadians came in 1976 when the separatist Parti Quebecois (PQ) won the provincial elections for the first time and entered government. It called a referendum on independence in 1980, but 60 percent of the voters rejected secession. In 1987, to try to persuade Quebec to ratify the constitution, the Canadian government signed the Meech Lake Accord in which Quebec was recognized as a “distinct society,” but the accord was never ratified as some English-speaking provinces opposed it. While many Quebecois are ardent secessionists, others passionately support a continued union with Canada. For example, two of Canada’s longest-serving prime ministers in recent years have been French-speaking Quebeckers who were among the fiercest campaigners against Quebec separatism. These were Pierre Trudeau (1919-2000) and Jean Chrétien (1934-present).

    Adapted from: Beary, Brian. "Quebecois (Canada)." Separatist Movements: A Global Reference, CQ Press, 2011, pp. 129-134

    "Quebec's yes, no, or maybe." Economist, 5 Apr. 1980

    "Will Mulroney crack Quebec?" Economist, 25 Aug. 1984

    "Quebec goes Canadian." Economist, 7 Dec. 1985


    In June 1972, reports began to emerge of an attempted break-in at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters in the Watergate complex, Washington D.C, in the run up to president Richard Nixon’s (1913-1994) re-election campaign. Initially the White House denied any connection to the burglary attempt, but it was later uncovered through the ‘Nixon tapes’ that the president had asked the FBI to pull away from the investigation.

    The White House managed to suppress press revelations about the administration’s involvement by suggesting the press had a vendetta against the government, and in pre-election polls, public trust levels in Nixon were above those for his opponent. Following the trial of the burglars, the Senate voted to start a committee investigating abuses in the 1972 election campaign, while the judge presiding over the burglary trial passed long sentences on the burglars, offering to reduce their sentences if they spoke freely to the Watergate grand jury.

    As a result, revelations and information began to emerge, and despite repeated protests of his own innocence, the recorded conversations from the president’s office—finally released after public protest—revealed the depth of the president’s role in the scandal. To avoid being impeached, Nixon resigned in August 1974, becoming the first president to resign from office.

    "How the Watergate burst open." Economist, 5 May 1973

    "Nixon's answers only raise more questions." Economist, 26 May 1973

    "The unmaking of a President." Economist, 10 Aug. 1974



    Throughout history, gold finds in Australia have triggered gold rushes, bringing in fortune-seekers from across the world. Many gold discoveries prior to the 1850s did not prompt rushes, largely due to the suppression of information designed to prevent impact on workforces. After the California gold rush of 1848 prompted mass relocations, Australian territories reversed the stance to encourage more people to Australia through incentivising the discovery of gold.

    The first discovery that triggered a gold rush came in New South Wales in February 1851: 300 diggers had arrived by May, the month it was officially declared a rush. April 1851 also saw discoveries in Victoria and other parts of New South Wales. By June 1851, incentives for discovery were being offered, including a £200 reward for the first person to find payable gold within 200 miles (320 km) of Melbourne.

    Over the next several decades, many more discoveries were made across the country that resulted in mass movement of people hunting for gold. Between 1851 and 1871, gold rushes are estimated to have tripled Australia’s population, and were a significant contributor to the formation of a multicultural society. 

    "The Gold Diggings In Australia." Economist, 27 Sept. 1851

    "The Diggings In Australia." Economist, 27 Dec. 1851

    "The Latest From The Australian 'Diggings.'." Economist, 16 Oct. 1852


    In 1985 Fiji's national politics changed forever with the formation of the Fiji Labor Party (FLP). Its inaugural president was a Fijian from the west, Dr. Timoci Bavadra (1934-1989), a retired community health specialist. As the 1987 general election approached, the FLP decided to form a coalition with the National Federation Party (NFP). After a successful election, Bavadra was sworn in as Fiji's second prime minister on April 13th, 1987.

    Parliament was in its third day of sitting when the drama that is now called "the first coup" unfolded, but Fijian anti-coalition sentiment arose as soon as the election results were announced. Though the Fijian community was divided along regional, social class, and other lines, it has never been difficult to gather large groups against a perceived threat of Indo-Fijian control. The Taukei (roughly, "ethnic Fijian") Movement articulated and organized this sentiment. Despite the actual and threatened unrest that followed the election, the coalition did not crumble until Sitiveni Rabuka (1948-present) made his move and initiated a coup on May 14th, 1987. Rabuka led a second and more tightly controlled coup on September 25th, 1987. A curfew was imposed, communications with the outside world were restricted, and some 200 individuals who were perceived as unfriendly to the Taukei Movement were detained. Rabuka declared Fiji a republic, with himself as head of an interim government.

    Adapted from: Ogan, Eugen. "Overthrowing Democracy: Fiji's Coup." History Behind the Headlines: The Origins of Conflicts Worldwide, edited by Sonia G. Benson, et al., vol. 3, Gale, 2002, pp. 124-134

    "A Pacific change." Economist, 18 Apr. 1987

    "Colonel's law in Fiji." Economist, 16 May 1987

    "Shameless in Fiji." Economist, 1 Dec. 1990


    Bougainville is one of the 600 islands that, along with the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, make up the independent nation of Papua New Guinea. Unrest stirred in April 1988 when landowners on Bougainville demanded compensation for environmental damages from the Australian-owned Bougainville Copper Limited. The company refused to pay, and in late 1988, a Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) led by Francis Ona, a landowner and former mine worker, appeared and began to carry out acts of sabotage against the mine. The owners then closed down the mine and refused the government's request to resume operations, citing fear of further attack. Because the mine was extremely important to the national economy, Prime Minister Rabbie Namaliu sent Papua New Guinea troops to the island in December, and production began again. After further BRA violence, a curfew was imposed. 

    After years of conflict, negotiations to end the conflict began in July 1997, with a truce signed in October between the government and the rebels. By year's end, the New Zealand-led Truce Monitoring Group had begun to deploy on the island. In April 1998, a permanent cease-fire was signed, and the Australian-led Peace Monitoring Group replaced the New Zealand team. A final agreement was not reached, however, until 2001.

    Adapted from: MacMichael, David. "Papua New Guinea: Bougainville Independence Struggle, 1988–1998." Encyclopedia of Conflicts

    "Turbulent priests." Economist, 5 July 1975

    "The land that time didn't quite forget." Economist, 6 Sept. 1975

    "Turning purple in Bougainville." Economist, 13 May 1989


    Roger Douglas (1937-present) was seen as an innovative thinker early in his career, gaining a reputation for innovation during his role as a junior minister in New Zealand’s government in the early 1970s. He was critical of New Zealand’s economic policies, which had left the country in debt and maintaining and economic approach that rendered New Zealand unable to match the progress of other developed countries. The successes and failures of the philosophy and its reforms—which are commonly referred to as “Rogernomics”—have been debated since their introduction in the 1980s. 

    After Labour victory in the 1984 election, Douglas was made Minister of Finance, and along with his colleagues, brought in large reforms based around a market-first restructuring of the economy, going against the methods commonly adopted by Australasian countries for nearly a century. The main feature was the devaluation of the New Zealand dollar by 20 per cent, deregulation of the financial market, the removal of controls on foreign exchange, increased industry subsidies and tariff protection. To offset costs, a single Goods and Services Tax was introduced, alongside a surtax on superannuation.

    "The kiwi and the koala." Economist, 24 June 1989

    "The Kiwi experiment." Economist, 3 Nov. 1990

    "Return to Rogernomics." Economist, 23 Mar. 1991


    The Sydney Opera House is located on Port Jackson in Sydney Harbour, situated on Bennelong Point, a promontory on the south side of the harbour just east of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The building began with an international competition run by the New South Wales government in 1956, to design a new venue that included a main hall for large productions and a second for smaller, more intimate productions. 233 entries were submitted from over thirty countries, with Danish architect Jørn Utzon (1918-2008) providing the winning entry.

    The building did not go smoothly: construction began in 1959, but the innovative design led to overspending and engineering difficulties, causing many delays that turned public opinion against the project. Disagreements with government authorities saw Utzon resign from the project in 1966, with the remainder of the construction overseen by a structural engineering firm. Utzon did return in 1999 to oversee an improvement project, his last engagement with the building before his death in 2008.

    The building was officially opened in October 1973, and the main hall now holds over 2,500 people for performances across the arts. One of Sydney's—and Australia's—most recognised and iconic buildings, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2007.

    "Change of mood." Gough Whitlam's Australia: A Survey. Economist, 23 June 1973

    "A fright at the opera." Economist, 4 Apr. 1998

    "Jorn Utzon." Economist, 13 Dec. 2008



    The 1997 election was one of the greatest examples of the British press misjudging the course of an election and its result. The Conservative Party, under the leadership of John Major (1943-present), faced a strong challenge from the Labour Party, led by Tony Blair (1953-present). Labour had moved to a more centrist position, moving away from the more traditionally left-wing position, in what came to be known as “New Labour”. 

    In the run up to the election, many of the newspapers were pessimistic about Labour’s chances of a victory, with many actively dismissing the chance of a dominant win: they were proved wrong when the results came in, with Labour gaining a decisive landslide victory. It ended eighteen years of Conservative government, in the last British election—as of 2017—to achieve a voter turnout above 70%. Labour remained in power for three consecutive terms: Blair resigned in 2007 and was succeeded by Gordon Brown (1951-present) as leader until the Conservatives won the 2010 General Election under the leadership of David Cameron (1966-present).

    "The Economist." Economist, 26 Apr. 1997

    "Labour doesn't deserve it." Economist, 26 Apr. 1997

    "After the landslide." Economist, 3 May 1997


    Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 until 1990, an election that marked her as Europe’s first female Prime Minister. At the point of her resignation she had been the longest serving Prime Minister for over 150 years.

    Championing greater individual freedom form the state and greater privatization, she gained a Conservative victory in the 1979 election having changed the image of the party to reflect the more modern, right-leaning stance it was beginning to take. Often divisive, she became known as much for her philosophies as her policies, the combination coming to be labelled ‘Thatcherism’.

    Finishing her tenure as one of the most divisive politicians in British history, she resigned as Prime Minister, though continued as an influential political figure, dedicating more time to public speaking and lecturing around the world. She established the Thatcher Foundation, before retiring fully from public speaking in 2002 after a series of minor strokes. She died in 2013, with her daughter revealing she had been showing signs of progressive dementia since 2000.

    "No ordinary politician." Economist, 13 Apr. 2013

    "A final farewell." Economist, 20 Apr. 2013

    Howell, David, et al. "Margaret Thatcher's society." Economist, 27 Apr. 2013


    The National Health Act was passed in the United Kingdom in 1946, leading to the formation of the National Health Service (NHS) as part of wider social reforms in the formation of the welfare state.

    Cross-party agreement was reached on the formation of a national service after the 1942 Beveridge Report, and the appointment of Aneurin Bevan (1897-1960) as Health Minister in 1945 began the process that ended with the creation of the NHS. The process did not run smoothly, with opposition from doctors and dentists: while agreement was finally reached with the British Medical Council and doctors began working for the service when it launched, dentistry took longer to resolve.

    The National Health Service was launched on 5th July 1948, but three years later Bevan resigned after charges were introduced for dentures and glasses: later additional charges such as prescription charges, were the first of many controversies that many argued contradicted the three core principles of the service: it meets the needs of all, is free at the point of delivery, and treatment is based on clinical need.

    "A National Health Service." Economist, 18 Sept. 1943

    "National Health Service Act." Economist, 9 Nov. 1946

    "July 5, 1948." Economist, 3 July 1948


    After Labour won a landslide victory in the general elections of May 1997, the Labour government of Tony Blair (1953-present) called a referendum for establishing a Scottish Parliament with a broad range of powers, including control over the country’s education and health systems. Supported by the SNP (Scottish National Party) and the Liberal Democrats—but opposed by the Conservatives—the referendum passed with more than 74 percent of voters in favour. At the first elections to the Scottish Parliament in May 1999, Labour won 56 seats, the SNP 35, the Conservatives 18, and the Liberal Democrats 17. Labour and the Liberal Democrats formed a coalition government, with Labour’s Donald Dewar (1937-2000) assuming the title of first minister. Despite being led by three first ministers in the first three years of the Scottish Parliament, the governing coalition endured.

    In the 2007 elections, the SNP staged a historic upset, winning the most seats (47) in the Scottish Parliament to end some 50 years of Labour Party dominance in Scotland. SNP leader Alex Salmond (1954-present) was subsequently elected first minister of Scotland, becoming the first Nationalist to hold the post. Salmond won a second term in 2011, and vowed to put forward a vote on Scottish independence by 2015.

    Adapted from: "Scotland Since the 18th Century." The United Kingdom: Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, edited by Jeff Wallenfeldt, Britannica Educational Publishing, 2014, pp. [113]-125

    "Breaking up is hard to do." Economist, 3 Nov. 2012

    "If at first you don't succeed." Economist, 14 Jan. 2012

    "Salmond sets out his stall." Economist, 30 Nov. 2013


    During its maiden voyage, the Royal Mail Ship (RMS) Titanic sank on April 14th-15th 1912 after colliding with an iceberg in the Atlantic. The Titanic was one of three ships to be built by Belfast firm Harland and Wolff, commissioned by White Star, one of the two main transatlantic passenger ship lines. The Titanic, Olympic and Britannic were the vessels that would be built to rival the two ships planned by White Star’s man Rival Cunard: the Lusitania and the Mauretania. The Titanic and Olympic were built simultaneously, and the Titanic focused on luxury, with the second-class offering a rival to first-class accommodation on many other liners. The Titanic also focused heavily on safety, with confidence so high in the engineering that it was claimed to be unsinkable.

    The Titanic embarked from Southampton on April 10th 1912, sailing for New York, with many prominent figures on board. After stops to pick up more passengers in Cherbourg (France) and Queenstown (Ireland), it set off for New York with roughly 2,200 people on board.  After entering an iceberg zone, the warning message of an upcoming ice field was not relayed to the bridge, and the ship scraped an iceberg that ruptured the hull. More than 1,500 died, despite rescue efforts from nearby ships.

    "Luxury And Safety." Economist, 20 Apr. 1912

    "Thoughts On The 'Titanic' Disaster." Economist, 27 Apr. 1912

    "The Two 'Titanic' Reports." Economist, 3 Aug. 1912


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