2020 in History

2020 in History

As we enter into the new year, let’s take a look at some of 2020’s historical anniversaries, from literature to international legislation.

400 Years : The Mayflower

2020 marks the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s voyage from Plymouth to Massachusetts. Roughly 135 men, women and children made the voyage, some to escape religious persecution, others to seek a better life in the New World. They settled in what would become known as Plymouth Bay and were assisted in establishing a sustainable settlement by the native Wampanoag tribe.  The settlers threw a festival to thank the Wampanoag, establishing the American holiday of Thanksgiving.

The effect of the Mayflower’s voyage, however, was to encourage other settlers from Europe to make the journey, resulting in rapid colonial expansionism that ultimately led to the decimation of the Native American tribes in the region, through a combination of imported diseases and armed conflicts with the expan- sionist European settlers.

Jess Reeve

250 Years : Wordsworth

2020  saw the celebration of 250 years since the birth of Cumbrian poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850). In his youth, Wordsworth was a radical liberal and vocal supporter of the French Revolutionists. In later life, Wordsworth’s politics became increasingly conservative but his youthful energy survived in his poetry which has captivated readers for over two centuries. Today, he is remembered as a fundamental figure in the history of poetry as a founder of English Romanticism. The first major theme in Wordsworth’s poetry is his passion for the human relationship with nature and the sublime. Eco critics have marked the 250th anniversary by praising Wordsworth as the “green poet,” thus scholars have given him a modern relevance in our Thunbergain age of climate strikes and geo-conferences. The second theme of Wordsworth’s poetry is his fierce advocacy for poetry to be written in the rhetoric and speech patterns of the common man. Fittingly, his anniversary has been marked by the general public reading their favourite Wordsworth poems and completing the circle Wordsworth began by advocating poetry as a medium for all to enjoy. The readings have been published online on “Wordsworth 250” a website set up by Wordsworth’s descendants.

Mary Taylor Lewis

25 Years : Beijing Platform for Action

Created in 1995, at the Fourth World Conference on Women and considered the most progressive plan for advancing women’s rights. The Platform for Action covers 12 areas of concern  including the environment, poverty, human rights to armed conflict, and how each area interacts with gender. It layed out strategies to ensure continual advancement of women’s rights in every area to progress towards a future of gender equality. The platform remains a key instrument in international legislation as well as remaining a founda- tion for women’s rights standards and goals globally. 

Holly Palmer

100 Years : Treaty of Versailles

It is over 100 years since the signing of the much-maligned Treaty of Versailles, which concluded WW1. But without intending it, negotiators ended up doing far more than that; they needed to re-establish the collapsed economic structures of the dead Habsburg, German, Russian and Ottoman Empires. They also redesigned the new diplomatic and political World-Order; many seeking to sweep away the dogmatic might-makes-right of the old order, and replace it with liberalism, democracy and reasoned negotiation. But rising nationalism meant there were competing pragmatic concerns and ambitious nations seeking to become great powers. Few left feeling satisfied. The new League of Nations also proved inadequate as an international intermediary, and so humanity ended up on the road to the Second World War.

Joel Hoskins

700 Years : The Divine Comedy

2020 marks 700 years since the completion of The Divine Comedy by Dante Aligheri, which remains a pivotal and extraordinary piece of literature to this day. The poem itself narrates the passage of Dante through the three realms of the dead guided through the Inferno and Purgatory by Virgil, and through Heaven by Beatrice. It explores the ideas and perceptions of the afterlife in the Christian belief and the complexity of Hell and the levels of severity of sin. Not only creating a narrative system that became a signifi- cant influence on literature and religion, but also acting as a commentary on notable figures of his contemporaries and from his history, crossing both figures he himself admired, and those he didn’t. The Divine Comedy remains a masterpiece of Italian literature and imagery to this day.

Holly Palmer