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The Edwardian Era (1901-1919)

The Edwardian era corresponds with the reign of King Edward VII, whose short-lived governance (1901-1910) preceded the modern House of Windsor in England. The "Edwardian" style broadly encompasses the years of 1901 through 1919. One author described the Edwardian era in the following vein: "The end of the century brought the dawning of a new age and a new attitude toward life. It was an era when social differences dissipated and the mores, customs, and expectations of the citizenry came together." The Edwardian era was a historical moment of tremendous technological and social change. The wonders of the modern world, which had only sprang into being in the 1880s and 1890's, brought the first rewards of modern industrialization and mass-produced abundance. Americans during the Edwardian age experienced new-found wealth and indulged in cuisine, fashion, entertainment and travel as never before. Perhaps the Edwardian era was best captured in the Titanic, the grand ocean liner which embodied the human progress, opulence, and excesses of the time. The Edwardian era is aptly remembered as the "Gilded Age."

For the United States, the Edwardian era ushered in the nation's dominance in international affairs. After the Spanish-American War of 1898, the United States gained the Phillipines, Puerto Rico and Cuba from Spain. In 1900, Theodore Roosevelt, who had gained a national reputation as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy by raising a volunteer calvary troup of Rough Riders, won the vice presidency. After Presdient William McKinley's assassination, Roosevelt quickly immersed himself in his new duties as President. In 1903, he provided the political initiative to support an uprising in Panama against Colombia, and thereby ensure construction of the Panama Canal. In 1904 and 1905, Roosevelt developed what became known as the Roosevelt corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. The doctrine endowed the United States with international police power, which could be justifiably exercised when other nations defaulted on its debts or mistreated foreign subjects. Roosevelt also negotiated the end of the Russo-Japanese War, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize, and helped to defuse the Morocco crisis of 1906.

Race relations remained difficult in the United States, and ethnic groups won only a limited number of legal and political successes on their continual struggle for equality. Under the Gentleman's Agreement with Japan, the United States agreed not to restrict Japanese immigration in exchange for Japan's promise not to issue passports to Japanese laborers for travel to the continental United States. In the face of ongoing anti-Chinese sentiment, the Supreme Court decided in Wong Kim Ark v. United States that Chinese born in the country could not be stripped of their citizenship. However, the Asiatic Exclusion League was established in 1905, and the state of California enacted a number of discriminatory laws segregating Asian American children from attending schools with whites, and forbidding marriage between whites and "Mongolians." In 1913, California passed an Alien Land Law prohibiting "aliens ineligible to citizenship" from buying land or leasing it for longer than three years; Arizona followed suit in 1917. Immigration of Koreans and Asian Indians were also restricted in California.

Meanwhile, the African continent experienced prolonged domination by British, French and Belgian colonists. The discovery of gold and diamonds in the Transvaal caused tensions in the region to sour, as the Boers' taxation of mining companies and differential treatment of immigrant workers sparked conflict. The First Boer War resulted in England's acquisition of Transvaal and the Orange Free State. The ensuing attempt by British colonists to anglicize the former republics intensified national identity and renewed an Afrikaans Movement. Self-government was restored in 1906, and Britain created the Union of South Africa as a dominion within the empire in 1910.

In China, the quelching of the Boxer Rebellion led to a shift in governance. After limited reforms under the Dowager Empress, Tzu-Hsi, proved unsatisfactory, western-educated Sun Yat-sen led republican revolutionary groups to challenge the Manchus. Although the imperial army should have been able to crush the rebels, General Yuan Shi-Kaiin in an unexpected move offered to defect in return for the presidency of the Chinese republic. Fearing the consequences if they refused, the Manchu Grand Council agreed. On February 12, 1912, the five-year old emperor, Pu-Yi, abdicated his throne, ending the Ching dynasty and ushering in the establishment of the Republic of China.

Tensions and wars abounded in other areas of the world as well. Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece attacked the Ottoman Empire in the First Balkan War. Russia experienced a decade of tumultuous events such as Bloody Sunday and an ensuing revolution, the short-lived governance of a second Russian Duma, the murder of Russian Premier Peter Stolypin, and the empowerment of Grigori Raspute over the Russian royal family.

In 1914, World War I erupted after the assassination of an Austrian archduke. Trench warfare, fighter planes, poison gas, and tanks were introduced for the first time as weapons of war. Following early reverses, the entente powers of France, Britain and Italy gained control on the Western front. American soldiers left their homeland in 1917 to serve alongside their European Allies. In 1918, Russia lost on the eastern front and withdrew from the international feud, resulting in the collapse of its empire and replacement by the Bolsheviks. Meanwhile, the Kaiser of Germany abdicated his throne. The war ended with an armistice and the adoption of the Treaty of Versailles.