Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
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Artists that Changed the World
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Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
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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.



Africa since the Independence of its Nations

SINCE 1945


see also: United Nations member states -

Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad,
Comoros, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea,
Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali,
Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal,
Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe


The nations of Sub-Saharan Africa that became independent after 1957 have continued to suffer the consequences of their continent's experience of colonialism. The optimism of the early years of independence soon gave way to repeated military coups, violent conflicts, and popular disillusionment with promises to end poverty and improve living conditions. Other problems faced in parts of the region include drought and famines, limited access to drinking water, and the alarming growth of HIV/AIDS since the 1980s. These problems are compounded by authoritarian and frequently corrupt regimes.


Southern Africa

With the exception of Zambia, the anticolonial liberation struggle in southern Africa was both protracted and bloody. An apartheid system was established in Rhodesia.


In the Portuguese colonies of Angola and Mozambique, the struggle for independence took more than a decade. In Angola, three divergent liberation movements led an armed struggle against the colonial rulers beginning in 1961.

In 197s Portugal allowed the Communists under 6 Agostinho Neto to form an independent state.

Neto, supported by the USSR and Cuba, sought to establish a socialist people's republic but was opposed by the US-backed UNITA resistance forces under Jonas Savimbi. After 1987, Neto's successor Jose Eduardo dos Santos abandoned Marxism and began to negotiate with Savimbi. Since 2002 a precarious peace has held.

Mozambique became independent in 1975, and the Communists under 1 Samora Machel attempted to set up a socialist system while fighting against rebel groups backed by the apartheid regimes of Rhodesia and South Africa.

Machel's successor 2 Joaquim Alberto Chissano, president since 1986, won free elections in 1994 and 1999.

Zambia belonged to the British-administered Central African Federation from 1953 to 1963 as Northern Rhodesia, along with Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Nyasaland (now Malawi).

After Zambia's independence in 1964, Premier 8 Kenneth Kaunda became the country's president.

6 Agostinho Neto, communist and poet, 1973

1 The president of Mozambique, Samora Machel, October 10, 1986

2 The President at the ballot box: Joaquim Chissano, December 1, 2004

8 The first president of Zimbabwe,
Kenneth David Kaunda

He nationalized large parts of the economy and in 19-2 established a one-party system. In 1991 multiparty elections were held anc Kaunda lost to 3 Frederick Chiluba, who survived attempted coups in 1997 and 1998.

Levy Mwanawasa succeeded him in 2002.

As a reaction to the independence of Zambia, the radical white settlers' party of Southern Rhodesia declared their nation 7 independent despite the protests of Great Britain.

3 Frederick Chiluba

7 Prime Minister Ian Smith (middle) signs the Southern
Rhodesian Declaration of Independence,
November 11,1965

In 1970 Rhodesia was declared a republic, and Ian Smith installed an apartheid regime similar to that in South Africa.

This was resisted by the African liberation forces îf ZAPU under 4 Joshua Nkomo and ZANU under 5 Robert Mugabe.

As surrounding countries were drawn in, the struggle desta bilized the region. Through British mediation, negotiations took place in 1978-1979 between Smith's government and the liberation movements (who merged in 1976 to become the Patriotic Front). After guarantees for the white settlers, ZANU won elections held in February 1980. Rhodesia became the independent Republic of Zimbabwe on April 18,1980, and since then Mugabe has been president. Subsequently competition occurred between Mugabe and Nkomo.

Since 2000 he has received much international criticism due to his tacit support for the occupation of white-owned farms by black veterans of the liberation movements. All opposition is brutally suppressed and the population is thought to be close to starvation.

4 Joshua Nkomo, 1978

5 The Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe,
April 2, 2005



South Africa

In South Africa, a harsh apartheid regime ruled until 1990. In 1994, after a period of relatively peaceful political upheaval, Nelson Mandela, the formerly imprisoned leader of the opposition movement, became the first black president of South Africa.


The white government of South Africa began implementing comprehensive apartheid laws in 1949 that segregated the black majority from the white minority and sought to reserve power for the latter. The apartheid policy of racial segregation was implemented through the creation of reservations, or "homelands," which were intended to prevent black Africans from entering the white-inhabited areas. In 1950 the African National Congress (ANC) began a campaign of civil disobedience and sought to activate mass resistance.

Faced with violent repression from the security forces, the ANC fell increasingly under the influence of Nelson Mandela as the militant faction increasingly prevailed over the moderate pacifists. In 1960 there were riots and reprisals in the black townships, notably the "Sharpeville Massacre," in which scores of black demonstrators were killed by police. In the aftermath the government outlawed the ANC. From then on the ANC operated as an underground organization using guerrilla tactics. In 1964 several ANC leaders, including Mandela, were sentenced to life in prison.

In 1966 Prime Minister 12 Hendrik Verwoerd (1958-1966) was assassinated.

His successor, Balthazar J. Vorster, enlarged the security apparatus and in 1976 several hundred blacks were killed during the uprising of the Soweto township. Such atrocities brought growing international criticism and isolation on the South African regime.

After 1978, under external pressure, Vorster's successor 11 Pieter Botha abolished many of the apartheid laws while increasing the de facto repression of the black population.

12 Hendrik Verwoerd, who was assassinated in Capetown in 1996

11 Pieter Willem Botha
gives a speech,
February 1989

After bloody 10, 13 uprisings in 1985-1986, he declared a national state of emergency.

10 Police operation using guns, tear gas, and dogs in the poverty-stricken black township of Soweto, near Johannesburg, May 12, 1986

13 Demonstration in Middelburg against the
apartheid regime, March 9, 1986

Not until Botha's successor 14 Willem de Klerk came to power in 1989 was the ban on the ANC lifted. Negotiations began, paving the way for apartheid's abolition. De Klerk organized a peaceful transition to democracy with Mandela, who had by then been released from imprisonment.

In 1993, a new constitution was agreed upon, and in 1994 the first elections with black participation took place. The ANC won with a clear majority and Mandela became president. He pursued a policy of reconciliation. In 1999, he was succeeded by his former comrade-in-arms and vice president, 9 Thabo Mbeki. Mbeki was reelected with a huge majority in elections held in 2004.

14 Frederik Willem de Klerk, April 27, 2004

9 The third free election, ten years
after the end of apartheid:
President Thabo Mbeki casts his
vote in Pretoria on April 14, 2004



Nelson Mandela

A onetime lawyer sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964, Nelson Mandela became the international face of black resistance to apartheid.

In February 1985 he refused release from prison and demanded instead the abolition of racial segregation.

He was finally released after 26 years in prison as the apartheid regime began to crumble.

In negotiations with the government, Mandela secured the nonviolent handover of power, and he was subsequently elected president.

He and former president de Klerk shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

Mandela continues to enjoy worldwide respect as an international mediator.

Nelson Mandela,
a statesman respected
throughout the world,
December 27, 2004




Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

president of South Africa
in full Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, byname Madiba

born July 18, 1918, Umtata, Cape of Good Hope, S.Af.

black nationalist and first black president of South Africa (1994–99). His negotiations in the early 1990s with South African Pres. F.W. de Klerk helped end the country’s apartheid system of racial segregation and ushered in a peaceful transition to majority rule. Mandela and de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1993 for their efforts.

Early life and work
The son of Chief Henry Mandela of the Madiba clan of the Xhosa-speaking Tembu people, Nelson Mandela renounced his claim to the chieftainship to become a lawyer. He attended South African Native College (later the University of Fort Hare) and studied law at the University of the Witwatersrand; he later passed the qualification exam to become a lawyer. In 1944 he joined the African National Congress (ANC), a black-liberation group, and became a leader of its Youth League. That same year he met and married Evelyn Ntoko Mase. Mandela subsequently held other ANC leadership positions, through which he helped revitalize the organization and oppose the apartheid policies of the ruling National Party.

In 1952 in Johannesburg, with fellow ANC leader Oliver Tambo, Mandela established South Africa’s first black law practice, specializing in cases resulting from the post-1948 apartheid legislation. Also that year, Mandela played an important role in launching a campaign of defiance against South Africa’s pass laws, which required nonwhites to carry documents (known as passes, pass books, or reference books) authorizing their presence in areas that the government deemed “restricted” (i.e., generally reserved for the white population). He traveled throughout the country as part of the campaign, trying to build support for nonviolent means of protest against the discriminatory laws. In 1955 he was involved in drafting the Freedom Charter, a document calling for nonracial social democracy in South Africa. His antiapartheid activism made him a frequent target of the authorities; in March 1956 he was banned (severely restricted in travel, association, and speech), and in December he was arrested with more than 100 other people on charges of treason that were designed to harass antiapartheid activists. Mandela went on trial that same year and eventually was acquitted in 1961. During the extended court proceedings, he divorced his first wife and married Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela (Winnie Madikizela-Mandela).

Underground activity and the Rivonia Trial
After the massacre of unarmed black South Africans by police forces at Sharpeville in 1960 and the subsequent banning of the ANC, Mandela abandoned his nonviolent stance and began advocating acts of sabotage against the South African regime. He went underground (during which time he became known as the Black Pimpernel for his ability to evade capture) and was one of the founders of Umkhonto we Sizwe (“Spear of the Nation”), the military wing of the ANC. In 1962 he went to Algeria for training in guerrilla warfare and sabotage, returning to South Africa later that year. On August 5, shortly after his return, Mandela was arrested at a road block in Natal; he was subsequently sentenced to five years in prison.

In October 1963 the imprisoned Mandela and several other men were tried for sabotage, treason, and violent conspiracy in the infamous Rivonia Trial, named after a fashionable suburb of Johannesburg where raiding police had discovered quantities of arms and equipment at the headquarters of the underground Umkhonto we Sizwe. Mandela’s speech from the dock, in which he admitted the truth of some of the charges made against him, was a classic defense of liberty and defiance of tyranny. (His speech garnered international attention and acclaim and was published later that year as I Am Prepared to Die.) On June 12, 1964, he was sentenced to life imprisonment, narrowly escaping the death penalty.

From 1964 to 1982 Mandela was incarcerated at Robben Island Prison, off Cape Town. He was subsequently kept at the maximum-security Pollsmoor Prison until 1988, when, after being treated for tuberculosis, he was transferred to Victor Verster Prison near Paarl. The South African government periodically made conditional offers of freedom to Mandela, most notably in 1976, on the condition that he recognize the newly independent—and highly controversial—status of the Transkei Bantustan and agree to reside there. An offer made in 1985 required that he renounce the use of violence. Mandela refused both offers, the second on the premise that only free men were able to engage in such negotiations and, as a prisoner, he was not a free man.

Throughout his incarceration, Mandela retained wide support among South Africa’s black population, and his imprisonment became a cause célèbre among the international community that condemned apartheid. As South Africa’s political situation deteriorated after 1983, and particularly after 1988, he was engaged by ministers of Pres. P.W. Botha’s government in exploratory negotiations; he met with Botha’s successor, de Klerk, in December 1989.

On Feb. 11, 1990, the South African government under President de Klerk released Mandela from prison. Shortly after his release, Mandela was chosen deputy president of the ANC; he became president of the party in July 1991. Mandela led the ANC in negotiations with de Klerk to end apartheid and bring about a peaceful transition to nonracial democracy in South Africa.

Presidency and retirement
In April 1994 the Mandela-led ANC won South Africa’s first elections by universal suffrage, and on May 10 Mandela was sworn in as president of the country’s first multiethnic government. He established in 1995 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which investigated human rights violations under apartheid, and he introduced housing, education, and economic development initiatives designed to improve the living standards of the country’s black population. In 1996 he oversaw the enactment of a new democratic constitution. Mandela resigned his post with the ANC in December 1997, transferring leadership of the party to his designated successor, Thabo Mbeki. Mandela and Madikizela-Mandela had divorced in 1996, and in 1998 Mandela married Graca Machel, the widow of Samora Machel, the former Mozambican president and leader of Frelimo.

Mandela did not seek a second term as South African president and was succeeded by Mbeki in 1999. After leaving office Mandela retired from active politics but maintained a strong international presence as an advocate of peace, reconciliation, and social justice. He is a founding member of the Elders, a group of international leaders established in 2007 for the promotion of conflict resolution and problem solving throughout the world. In 2008 Mandela was feted with several celebrations in South Africa, Great Britain, and other countries in honour of his 90th birthday.

Mandela’s writings and speeches were collected in I Am Prepared to Die (1964; rev. ed. 1986), No Easy Walk to Freedom (1965; updated ed. 2002), The Struggle Is My Life (1978; rev. ed. 1990), and In His Own Words (2003). His autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, was published in 1994.

Encyclopaedia Britannica


see also: United Nations member states -

Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad,
Comoros, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea,
Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali,
Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal,
Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe



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