Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

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.



Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania

SINCE 1945


see also: United Nations member states -

Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, PalauPapua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu


Australia and New Zealand are wealthy and stable democracies based on the Anglo-Saxon parliamentary model, in which conservatives and social democrats alternate running the government. The original inhabitants in both countries—the Aborigines in Australia and the Maori in New Zealand—demand greater recognition of the centuries-long suppression of their cultural identities. As colonies of settlement in the British Empire, their transition to independence was smooth, and both voluntarily maintain strong links to Great Britain as members of the Commonwealth.



Since 1945, Australia has been a stable democracy, firmly aligned with the West during the Cold War. Its pluralistic society has yet to achieve a full reconciliation with the Aborigines, who remain economically and socially marginalized.


1 Australia, a constitutional monarchy and member of the 4 Commonwealth, was threatened by Japan in 1942 in the Pacific War—an experience that brought the country closer to the US.

This relationship was maintained after the war, and in April 1952 Australia entered into the 5 ANZUS pact with New Zealand and the United States for security in the Pacific region.

1 Symbol of the Australian capital: The Sydney Opera House, 1996

4 Elizabeth II, Australia's official head of state, March 22, 2000

5 Meeting of ANZUS members's
representatives, August 1952

It sent troops during the Korean and Vietnam wars. Since 2001, Australia has been one of America's closest allies.

Over the last two decades, Australia has looked to forge better relations with its Asian neighbors. The Australian government has worked to establish free-trade agreements with China and ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations). It has also tried to prevent conflicts in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
Liberals, conservatives, and social democrats compete in shifting coalitions over the formation of the government. After a long period with Labour in power (1983-1996), the Liberals won the 1996 elections and John Winston Howard became prime minister. The proposal of the constitutional assembly of 1998 to transform Australia into a republic was rejected in a referendum in November 1999, and Queen Elizabeth II remains the head of state.

Economically, Australia is a major exporter, and since 1966 Japan has been the country's largest trading partner. Mineral resources (bauxite, nickel, oil) began to be mined more intensively in the 1950s. Liberal and competitive economic policies have attracted substantial foreign investment, especially from Europe and the United States.

Since the late 1970s there has been a growing recognition of the need to reconcile with the island's native inhabitants, the 2, 3 Aborigines, whose culture has long been suppressed and their living space progressively encroached upon.

They have been granted wide-ranging cultural autonomy and targeted economic assistance, and in 1993 a law was passed opening the way to land restitution.

Environmental issues arouse strong feelings in Australia and massive 6 protests have taken place against nuclear tests carried out in the Pacific.

2 Native of Australia: An Aborigine prepares for a traditional dance

3 Aborigine plays in a Brisbane street, June3, 2004

6 An Australian demonstrates against
nuclear weapon tests, August 2001


Australian Aborigines





New Zealand and the Islands of Oceania

New Zealand is a stable and prosperous democracy. The islands of the Pacific region gradually gained their independence after 1945 but for the most part maintain strong economic and political relationships with the major powers.


New Zealand became a sovereign state within the British Commonwealth on November 25,1947. It has remained close to Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States in its foreign policy, although there was a period of strained relations with the United States after New Zealand declared itself to be a nuclear-free zone in 1987. It joined the United States and Australia in the ANZUS defense pact. Domestically, the National Party and Labour are the two major political parties in the parliamentary system.

The Labour party has led most of the governments since 1945, and since 1999 Labour's 9 Helen Clark has been prime minister, supported by shifting coalitions.

Although New Zealand has diversified significantly since the 1980s, 10 animal husbandry, especially sheep farming, remains a key economic sector.

9 Helen Clark, first female prime minister of New Zealand,
November 28, 1999

10 View over the green mountains of New Zealand,
used for the sheep breeding that is the focus of
the country's agriculture

Most of the islands of Oceania fought for and won their independence after 1945. Relationships with former colonial powers often proved problematic. Today, most of the islands arc ruled by elected governments. Conflict between ethnic groups sometimes erupts into violence, as happened on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands in 1998. Most of the island groups of Oceania formed the South Sea Forum with Australia and New Zealand in 1971 to promote further economic and cultural cooperation in the Pacific region.

The United States took over the administration of 11 Micronesia in 1947.

After proclaiming the Federated States of Micronesia in 1979. the islands joined an association agreement with the United States in 1983. In 1986. the Marshall Islands also voted for a "free association" with the United States but declared independence in 1990.

In 1956-1957, the French-controlled territories of Oceania and Polynesia were given their own constitutions. Many former British territories, including Tonga and Fiji, have declared their independence; in the face of protests from Great Britain, a military regime seized power in 7 Fiji in 1987 and declared a republic.

A June 2001 peace deal put an end to a conflict between the central government of 8 Papua New Guinea and militant separatists on the island of Bougainville that had raged since 1988-1989 and cost more than 10,000 lives.

11 Young women and girls wearing traditional headdresses and dancing costumes, Micronesia

7 Contrasts: Arcades from the colonial era next to a modern multi-story building on the Fiji island of Viti Levu

8 Men in Papua New Guinea wearing necklaces
and headdresses made of plants













Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islander, Fiji, Vanuatu

Beautiful Papua New Guinea young ladies


Solomon Islander; Papua New Guinea Highlander; Papua New Guinea Chief; Solomon Islander


Papua New Guinea


Fiji guys and girls




see also: United Nations member states -
Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, PalauPapua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu



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