Explain various examples of worldwide anxieties that challenged the idea of progress during the period between 1890 and 1914, and which groups protested the status quo?

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Between 1890 and 1914, people agitated for better rights and more autonomy over their lives. Some people felt oppressed by their governments while others felt oppressed by their workplaces. Before WWI, there were many signs that the world was not perfect and discontent lay just below the surface.

One such...

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Between 1890 and 1914, people agitated for better rights and more autonomy over their lives. Some people felt oppressed by their governments while others felt oppressed by their workplaces. Before WWI, there were many signs that the world was not perfect and discontent lay just below the surface.

One such incident was the 1905 Russian Revolution. Workers and the military rose up in an attempt to force reforms on the czar. There was also discontent due to bread shortages and Russia's humiliating defeat during the Russo-Japanese War. Unlike the one that toppled him in 1917, Czar Nicholas II was able to call upon his loyal police force and Cossacks in St. Petersburg in order to quell the riots. One result of the attempted revolution was the establishment of the Duma. While the czar still retained autocratic power, the Duma served as a symbol of the Russian people in the government.

Another such incident was the Spanish-American War and the ensuing war between the Americans and Filipinos. The United States stated humanitarian goals in invading Spanish holdings but it was really to protect American interests in the Caribbean.

Emilio Aguinaldo helped the Americans in their war in the Philippines, but he was turned down when he wanted to be the president of an independent Philippine state. This led to a costly guerrilla war that drug on for three years, only ending when Aguinaldo was captured. Aguinaldo protested the idea that only white people could govern territories; though he failed, his dream of an independent Philippine state continued.

The United States underwent domestic reforms in order to limit a capitalist system run amok. Under the leadership of Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson, the United States limited the power of trusts, railroads, and employers in general. Workplaces were made somewhat safer after the Triangle Shirtwaist disaster. Roosevelt passed legislation regulating food and medicine after reading Sinclair's The Jungle. Government regulations effectively challenged the status quo in order to provide safety for consumers and leveled the playing field for new businesses who sought to enter the market.

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From 1890-1914, citizens across the world agitated for change; they wanted more security, better opportunities, and less instability in their lives. Much of the collective, worldwide anxiety could be seen in the rise of revolutions and reforms around the globe at this time. Among them were:

The Mexican Revolution in 1910.

The Mexican Revolution was caused by dissatisfaction with the status quo; it  actually started as a revolt by middle class citizens against the regime of Porfirio Diaz.

As a ruler, Diaz presided over a period of great economic growth in Mexico. A new middle class emerged during this time, one that included educated teachers, merchants, lawyers, and businessmen. However, Diaz paid no attention to the concerns of this new class. He did nothing about landed gentry who controlled much of the power in local provinces. Essentially, provincial oligarchies appropriated most of the benefits derived from foreign investment and trade. In government, power was consolidated in the hands of the military.

The middle class agitated for representative government, and they coalesced under the leadership of one Francisco Madero. Madero soon defeated Diaz's military in 1911 and was inaugurated president in 1912. He was elected in one of the freest elections ever held in Mexican history; although his reign was short, his ascent to power inspired the middle class to continue agitating for meaningful change.

Source: The Mexican Revolution

The Boxer Uprising in China (1900).

Dissatisfaction with the presence of foreigners in China during the Qing dynasty led to the Boxer Rebellion. At the time, Western powers such as the British, Americans, French, and Italians held diplomatic and economic ties with China. Yet, foreign presence in China was deeply resented by the native population, and a new group soon consolidated all its efforts into ousting all Western powers from the country.

The Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists (Yihequan) were local Chinese who fought to expel all foreigners from China; interestingly, the group had initially worked to overthrow the corrupt regime of Empress Dowager Tzu’u Hzi. However, the 'Boxers' (as they were called) soon joined forces with the Empress, as they believed themselves to be fighting a common enemy. The Boxers soon carried out attacks against Chinese Christians and foreign subjects. Their actions were inspired by the belief that the poor standard of living endured by the working class in China was due to the presumptuous meddling of foreigners in Chinese internal affairs.

Source: The Boxer Rebellion.

The Anglo-Boer War in Africa (1899-1902).

The Anglo-Boer war was caused by dissatisfaction with British rule in Transvaal; it was also called the Second War of Independence and was fought between Britain and the Boers from Transvaal (South African Republic) and the Orange Free State.

Although historians have cited several causes for the war, the main cause for the Anglo-Boer War appears to be conflict over the control of gold-mining operations in South Africa. At stake was the Witwatersrand gold mining complex in the South African Republic, of which the British was coming to depend on entirely. Additionally, the annexation of Transvaal angered the Boer people. They wanted and demanded independence from Britain. The local people resented the British colonial presence and were ready to fight to achieve independence.

Source: The South African War.


Progressive Reforms in America (1900-1918).

The Progressive Movement in America was a response by American citizens against the evils of industrialization. Reformers also agitated for change in the way government was run; they wanted to root out political corruption at the highest levels of government.

The best known reforms during this era would be the 18th and 19th amendments (Prohibition and Women's Suffrage). The reformers of this period were mostly from the middle class who felt a distinct responsibility towards the working poor. The growth of industrialization had led to widespread abuses in working conditions, and reformers were especially interested in securing the rights of the poor in this matter. Progressive journalists such as Jacob Riis wrote exposes about living conditions in tenements; his book, How the Other Half Lives (1890), inspired meaningful reform in tenement housing.

For more: The Progressive Movement.

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