Major Turning Points in History

Occurrences and events that shaped people’s standpoints, countries, and the whole world can be called “history.” Some events were insignificant and did not leave a trace important enough to be studied hundreds and thousands years after their occurrence. However, the significance of other events made them truly turning points in history. Those events brought decisive changes into the lives of people, countries, and even the whole world. Some of those changes were economic in their nature while others involved the change in political or social spheres of nations. In some cases, several aspects of human lives were changed by those turning points. It is quite possible that without those turning points, human history would have been rather different from what it is now. The goal of this paper is to find some of the major turning points in history and see how they had changed it.

The Columbian Exchange 1492 AD

Christopher Columbus made his historic discovery of the New World in 1492 AD. Inadvertently, he caused another event that would be considered a major turning point in world history and receive the name of the Columbian Exchange. This name was coined by Alfred W. Crosby who introduced it in 1972 in his book The Columbian Exchange. Crosby used a new approach to tell the history like nobody else before him did. He looked at history from biological and ecological points of view and proved that by bringing two worlds together, namely the Old World (Eurasia and Africa) and the New World, or both Americas, Columbus also caused “the exchange of living organisms between the two worlds” (Gambino n.pag.).

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After the discovery of the New World, the new trade routes appeared and became a part of the Great Circuit that connected Europe, Africa, North America, and South America. Merchants traveled from Europe to the Americas and brought plants, animals, and even microbes that the New World simply did not have. Thus, they introduced plants like wheat, barley, grapes, melons, etc. and animals like pigs, cows, horses, chickens, domestic cats, etc. to the people of the Americas (“UNIT III: 1450 – 1750 C.E.” n.pag.). Unfortunately, they also brought various diseases like measles, typhus, malaria, diphtheria, etc. from the Western hemisphere to the Eastern one. Africa gave the Americas such plants like coconut palms, coffee, sugar cane, bananas, etc. The New World provided the Old World with maize, tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkins, pineapples, beans, cocoa, etc.

The reason why the Columbian exchange is such an important point in world history is that it increased food diversity in the whole world, improving people’s diets and, subsequently, their health. It changed the world’s agriculture and made maize and wheat the staple cultures on which all people depended. Due to the introduction of the Old World domesticated animals such as horses, donkeys, and oxen, people of both Americas were able to use them as driving force in the construction, agriculture, and other spheres of life. Since the original domesticated animals of the New World were the llama and the alpaca, the animals of the Old World contributed to the development of agriculture of the New World.

Hiroshima 1945 AD

A new chapter in human history was opened when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6, 1945. It was the first and only use of a nuclear weapon for purposes other than research, and it became the perfect example of what would happen to a city if an atomic bomb had been dropped on it. That event can be undoubtedly called the major turning point in modern history since it changed the world forever.

The atomic bomb was developed by the scientists of the Manhattan Project in 1942 under the orders from the administration of US President Theodore Roosevelt. The Manhattan Project was inspired by fears that Nazi scientists in Germany worked on the development of an atomic bomb and that they were quite successful in their research. The development of the bomb was not halted with the surrender of Nazi Germany in May 1945. On July 16, 1945, the first nuclear bomb was successfully tested in New Mexico. The decision to drop atomic bombs on Japanese cities was made by President Harry Truman who had hoped to end the war with Japan as soon as possible and avoid further loss of lives. Truman wanted Japan to surrender, so that the bombs would be used to instill fear into the Japanese.

The first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima at 8:15 AM on August 6, 1945, leveling the city to the ground and killing about 90,000 people (Krieger n.pag.). Many more would die later from radiation poisoning and severe burns. Three days later, another bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, immediately resulting in the death of about 40,000 people. The debates regarding the necessity of those bombings aroused immediately after the second bomb had been dropped. Even in America’s highest military circles, there had been negative reaction to the use of nuclear weapons against Japan. General Dwight Eisenhower who had been the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces during World War II said “…the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing” (qtd. in Krieger n.pag.)

Having dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, America showed the world the ultimate weapon of destruction of the human race. Unfortunately, many countries wanted to possess that ultimate weapon and developed their own programs dedicated to its development. A modern nuclear union that includes countries which have nuclear weapons in their arsenal gradually expands and one can only hope that Hiroshima and Nagasaki will remain in history as the only example of nuclear weapon usage.

The Development of the World Wide Web 1978 – 1995

The modern world depends on technology so much that many people cannot imagine their lives without their smartphones, tablets, laptops, and the Internet. For many people, the virtual world has become more interesting than the real one. They cannot live without social networks, microblogs, favorite gossip websites, etc. The invention of the Internet and Internet-related technologies can be undoubtedly named as the major turning points in modern history. However, modern Internet would not be the Internet everybody knows today if the World Wide Web had not been developed.

The Internet was invented long before the World Wide Web. Initially, it was used by the military forces to exchange information. Unfortunately, information could be sent only in a text form, so pictures and sounds were out of the question. The usability of the early Internet left much to be desired. Therefore, steps were undertaken to make it more user friendly. Separate concepts like Hypertext, the Uniform Resource Locator, or URL, Hypertext Markup Language, or HTML had already existed before the invention of the World Wide Web (Peter n. pag.). However, all those concepts were brought together by Tim Berners Lee who became the creator of the World Wide Web or WWW.

The web was first tested and tried in the research laboratories of CERN in Switzerland, in December, 1990 (Peter n. pag.). The development of the World Wide Web continued with the first browser and web sites. The truly turning point in the history of the Internet was the decision of the directors of CERN to make the technology of WWW available for free usage for anyone. The last decade of the twentieth century was a revolutionary time in the development of the Internet and the World Wide Web. The development of the latter made the former to be developed as well.

It was the World Wide Web that changed the development of society as a whole. It gave people tremendous opportunities to express themselves, become writers, journalists, artists, tell the world about themselves, and take part in changing the world. Without the Internet and the World Wide Web, there probably would be no Arab Spring of 2011 or the ability to generate news and deliver it to the audience immediately. The world is indeed different with the invention of the Internet and the World Wide Web.

Conclusion

History of humankind is impossible without turning points that define its development. The turning points can be perceived as something negative like the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 or positive like the development of the World Wide Web. The Columbian Exchange of 1492 that brought both positive and negative consequences to the people of the Old and New Worlds was the humankind’s first step towards the globalization. All the points were revolutionary to some degree. For instance, the World Wide Web started the revolutionary changes on the Internet. The development and use of nuclear weapons showed the whole world the danger of such weapons and became a dire warning against their use in the future. One could only guess about the development of humankind if some of those events had not occurred in the history. Perhaps, modern life would be different if Columbus had not discovered the New World and brought both worlds together or if the atomic bombs had never been used, or the Internet with the World Wide Web had not been invented.

Works Cited

Gambino, Megan. “Alfred W. Crosby on the Columbian Exchange.” Smithsonianmag, 2011. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.

Krieger, David. “Remembering Hiroshima & Nagasaki by David Krieger*, August 1, 2003.” Wagingpeace, 2003. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.

Peter, Ian. “History of the World Wide Web.” Nethistory, 2004. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.

“UNIT III: 1450 – 1750 C.E.” Historyhaven. Historyhaven, n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.