Visual History of the World




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Visual History of the World
First Empires
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Dictionary of Art and Artists


The Contemporary World

1945 to the present

After World War II, a new world order came into being in which two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, played the leading roles. Their ideological differences led to the arms race of the Cold War and fears of a global nuclear conflict. The rest of the world was also drawn into the bipolar bloc system, and very few nations were able to remain truly non-aligned. The East-West conflict came to an end in 1990 with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the consequent downfall of the Eastern Bloc. Since that time, the world has been driven by the globalization of worldwide economic and political systems. The world has, however, remained divided: The rich nations of Europe, North America, and East Asia stand in contrast to the developing nations of the Third World.

The first moon landing made science-fiction dreams reality in the year 1969.
Space technology has made considerable progress as the search for new
possibilities of using space continues.



Northwest Africa

SINCE 1945


see also: United Nations member states -
Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria


Between 1956 and 1962, the Maghreb freed itself of its political ties to France, but not always peacefully; the war of liberation in Algeria was prolonged and bloody. Although Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria all have somewhat authoritarian regimes today, they have frequently assumed a mediating role between Europe and Africa or the Islamic world and have made progress in economic modernization. Attempts to modernize along the lines of Western industrial society have often been accompanied by efforts to keep Islamist groups out of political power.


Morocco and Tunisia

After winning independence in 1956-1957, both countries achieved political stability only at the cost of entrenching authoritarian regimes.


Morocco's fight for 3 independence was fought by the Istiqlal (Independence) party.

When Sultan 4 Muhammad V endorsed its demands in 1953, the French exiled him.

3 Grafitti demanding independence for the French protectorate, ca. 1944

4 Muhammad V during
a radio broadcast,
November 14, 1955

Subsequent protests accelerated decolonization, which was completed on March 2,1956. Muhammad V became king and reigned with the support of the nationalists. In 1956, Morocco regained Tangier, which had been internationalized, and raised claims to the Western Sahara.

In 1961 Muhammad died and was succeeded by his son, Hassan II, who faced criticism from the left-wing opposition and the Istiqlal party. He took repressive action against his opponents and in 1965 imposed martial law. An attempted coup by military units in August 1972 resulted in a fresh crackdown. In 1976, the king annexed a section of the Spanish Sahara with the civilian "Green March," later occupying the area militarily. King Hassan eased domestic restrictions after 1977 and carried out cautious modernization. He was highly regarded in Africa and the Arab world as a mediator.

His son, 5 Muhammad VI, has introduced reforms since taking the throne in 1999, pardoning thousands of political prisoners.

Efforts have also been made to improve the 2 legal position of women, while respecting the sentiments of  1 Moroccan Islam.

5 The progressive king Muhammad VI, June 20, 2000

2 Women in Tangiers, Morocco, September 16, 2004

1 Fighting against Islamic fundamentalists,

In Tunisia, the Neo Destour Party under 6 Habib Bourguiba led the nationalists in the fight for independence.

Following the granting of autonomy from France in 1954, Tunisia became an independent republic on July 25, 1957. President Bourguiba pursued his own "path to socialism," introduced improvements in social and medical care, and sought to bring about the secularization of society.

He worked for closer ties to the West and opened up Tunisia to 7 tourism, although he took tough measures against dissidents.

He was forced into retirement in November 1987 by his successor, Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, who remains in office today. After initially lifting restrictions on press freedoms, Ben Ali's rule has been characterized by fraudulent election victories and the repression of dissenters, notably from Islamic political groups.

6 Habib Bourguiba at his residence in Tunis, July 1957

7 Tamerza, a village in one of Tunisia's oases




Following the violent war of independence that lasted until 1962, the country only briefly found peace. A new civil war between government forces and Islamic militia raged from 1991 to 1999.


The war of independence in the 9 French colony of Algeria was waged with increasing brutality by both sides.

The various armed liberation movements joined together as the National Liberation Front (FLN) headed by Ahmed Ben Bellah in November 1954, and the 8 Algerian War began.

9 Charles de Gaulle after being elected French Prime Minister in June 1958, in Algeria

8 French soldier guards the University
of Algiers during the Algerian war,
February 28, 1962

As the violence escalated, the guerrilla warfare of the independence fighters was met by military repression from the French that further alienated the Algerian people. When the French government finally declared itself ready to make concessions to Algeria, the Fourth Republic in France was toppled by an alliance between French Algerians and the French army in May 1958. General de Gaulle used his prestige to resolve the crisis, preserving French democracy and preparing the way for the French withdrawal from Algeria.

On March 18,1962, Algeria was granted independence.

Ahmed Ben Bellah became the country's new leader and let himself be elected president in September.

In October, Algeria was accepted as member of the United Nations and Bellah signalized Algeria's future neutrality concerning international affairs.

His one-sided domestic politics, though, caused an 11 exodus of Europeans, leaving the country without an economic and technical elite.

In June 1965, Ben Bellah was ousted by his defense minister, 13 Houari Boumedienne.

10 The first Minister president of Algeria, Ahmed Ben Bellah (left), and his later adversary Houari Boumedienne (right), September 10, 1962

11 Deifen-Bacher, the prefect of Tlemcen, asks the population to stay

13 Houari Boumedienne (third from right), the former
defense minister and eader of Algeria, gives a press
conference on July 22, 1965 with members of his new
government and participants in the coup against Ben Bellah

He introduced a new socialist agenda, nationalizing French rural estates, industry, and oil companies, while relying on the military to prop up his rule. Extensive industrial projects were initiated, primarily with Soviet aid, and an "agrarian revolution" was carried out by distributing land to poor farmers. General Chadli Ben Dschedid became president after Boumedienne's death in 1979. The radical Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) was established at the same time. In the December 1991 parliamentary elections, the FIS won the first round and looked certain to achieve an overall majority, but the military—with tacit international approval—intervened to prevent the FIS from taking power. Military repression and a state of emergency led to revolts and assassination attempts by Islamists.

In June 1992 President Muhammad Boudiaf was the victim of such an attempt as the country plunged into a 12 civil war that killed ca. 95,000 people.

12 September 23, 1997: A woman cries for the
victims of a massacre by Islamic fundamentalists,
who, according to the official version,
killed about 85 people in Bentalha on
September 22, near Algiers



Algeria Today

Peace did not return until Abdelaziz Bouteflika, president since 1999, began to pursue "national reconciliation." Though this policy has met with some success, relations between Islamist groups and the government remain tense, and sporadic violence continues.

In September 2003, the army killed 150 Islamist fighters in the mountains east of Algiers, and in June 2004 security forces murdered Nabil Sahraoui, leader of the Salafist group. His second-in-command, Amari Saifi, who was captured in 2004, is presumed to be responsible for the 2003 kidnapping of 32 European tourists in the Sahara.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika


see also: United Nations member states -
Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria



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