Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Chronology of Recent Historical Periods

We like our history neat. The western Roman empire ended on September 4, 476, when Odoacer deposed Romulus Augustus and declared himself king, with direct allegiance to the emperor at Constantinople.  The Dark Ages ended on Christmas Day 800 AD when Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor.  But life is not like that.  To the people of the time, not much had changed.

 The philosophes and encyclop├ędistes of the Enlightenment created a new understanding of how history was made – and could be made.   They decided that the Renaissance ended the Middle Ages.  The founders of the American republic were acutely aware that they were making history. The Great Seal of the United States announced a new order for the ages.  The French revolution brought a new calendar and a new system of “rational” weights and measures to complement their new social order. 

About New Year’s Day 1960, I heard a radio commentator speak of the Fabulous Fifites and Fortified Forties; and he wondered what we would call the Sixties.  As I completed 37 hours of undergraduate and graduate classes in history over the course of 40 years at half a dozen schools, the question stayed with me.  My answers may be arguable, but they are not arbitrary.

Age of Reason 1648 to 1775 (End of 30 Years War to Adam Smith and American Revolution)
Enlightenment 1726-1803  (Third Edition of Newton’s Principia to Napoleon’s Empire)

The Industrial Revolution: 
  • Long Industrial Revolution: 1750-1950 (Watt improved the Newcomen Engine 1759; first computers during World War II).
  • Short Industrial Revoltions 1759-1775  (Watt's improved engine; Watt and Boulton)
  • Modal Industrial Revolution: 1775 -1837 (Watt went into business with Boulton making his engines commercially successful; the first practical electric telegraphs cap the era and announce the conception of the information age.)

19th Century 1815 to 1914 (Fall of Napoleon to World War I)

These periods are imprecise because they affected painting, music, and literature differently. Even chess has classic, romantic, and neoclassic trends. Prokofiev's Symphony No. 1 (1917) was self-consciously neoclassical.  Post-modernism was perceived as a historical trend by art critics about the same time as it was declared mandatory by philosophy professors.
Baroque  17th to early or mid 18th centuries
Rococo  Mid to late 17th century
Neo-Classical  1750-1803 (Goes with the Enlightenment)
Romantic 1820 to 1890 (The French Restoration and English Regency to the Gilded Age)
Impressionist  1880 to 1940
Expressionist  1920 to 1940
Modernist (1900 to 1960)
Post-Modernist (1970 to present)
Roaring Twenties – 1919 to 1933 (The Prohibition Era, with its easy prosperity and dramatic Depression)
Thifty Thirties – 1929 to 1940/41  (The Black Tuesday and Black Thursday of the stock market only suggested events to come, but the collapse was dramatic and well-perceived at the time.)
Fortified Forties – 1939 to 1952 (The shooting did not stop until the Korean War.)

The Cold War (1949-1989; from the Berlin Airlift to the Fall of the Berlin Wall.)

The Space Age: It is easy to see when it started.  We might still be in it, with the ISS in orbit, universal GPS, and a probe landing on a comet.  But I believe that something was lost, if not in the disasters, then perhaps in the successes. )
·       Space Age 1957 to 2011 (Sputnik to last Atlantis Flight)
·       Space Age 1957 to 2003 (Sputnik to Columbia disaster)
·       Space Age 1957 to 1986 (Sputnik to Challenger disaster)
·       Space Age 1957 to 1972 (Sputnik to last Apollo mission)

Fabulous Fifties – 1952 to 1963  (Eisenhower to Kennedy)

Psychedelic Sixties 1964 to 1972 (Beatles to Watergate) [Jimi Hendrix died Sept. 18, 1970; Janis Joplin died October 4, 1970; Jim Morrison died July 3, 1971]

Spaced Out Seventies 1972 to 1980 (Watergate to Reagan)
Spaced Out Seventies 1972 to 1984 (Watergate to Macintosh)

Yuppies 1984 to 1998 (Success of Reagan Revolution to Clinton Impeachment)

Computer Revolution 1974 to 1984 (Altair 8800 to Macintosh)
Information Age 1984 to Present

The New World Order 1989 to Present (Fall of Communism to Present)
Globalism Ascendant 1989 to 2001 (Fall of Communism to 9/11; "The End of History" prematurely announced.)

Islamic Reaction 2001 to Present (9/11/2001 to Present)


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