How Well Do You Know 20th-Century European History?

By: John Miller
Image: Reading Through History

About This Quiz

If 20th-century history were a Hollywood film, then Europe would be the star of the show. During the 1900s, no other place on Earth had such a profound impact on the course of humanity and the evolution – or regression – of our species. What do you know about the events and people of 20th-century Europe?

At the turn of the century, life on the European continent was fairly quiet. But Europe is, and will always be, a tangled mess of borders and political conflicts, and that was never more apparent than when a gunman named Gavrilo Princip murdered a star diplomat in Serbia. From there, a great war gripped all of Europe and then spilled over into the rest of the world. Do you think you know how this conflict played out?

A mangled Europe emerged from that war in an unsteady peace. No one really believed the bloodshed was over, and less than a generation later, war erupted all over again. Do you recall the details of this wide-ranging fighting?

There’s no doubt that warfare defined much of Europe for the 20th century, because tens of millions of people died and entire nations were ruined. But happier times were evident in the second half of the century, as new institutions were born and peaceful alliances gained power.

From Winston Churchill to Adolf Hitler, Margaret Thatcher to Vladimir Putin, great events and great people dominated the 1900s. Take a glimpse into the 20th century in our European quiz now!

The first half of the 20th century in Europe was mostly marked by what events?

The first half of the 20th century was hard on Europe, as two World Wars wracked the continent. Fortunately, the second half of the century was much quieter.

Benito Mussolini was a powerful leader of which European nation?

In 1922, Benito Mussolini became Prime Minister of Italy. He eventually became a hard-hearted dictator who caused his people unbearable suffering.

What event did the July Crisis of 1914 lead to?

A political assassination in Serbia snowballed in the the July Crisis of 1914, and suddenly, age-old European tensions flared anew. World War I was just over the horizon.

During WWI, what other deadly event struck Europe?

As WWI raged, the 1918 influenza pandemic gripped Europe and much of the world. In just a few years, the flu took tens of millions of lives, far more than the war's violence claimed.

In 1936, a civil war began ripping apart which European country?

In 1936, the Republicans and Nationalists clashed in a bloody Spanish Civil War. The war dragged on until 1939, and by then, Spain was in shambles.

The Spanish Civil War was an important testing ground for weapons and tactics of which air force?

The Nazis jumped into the fray of the Spanish Civil War on the side of the Nationalists. Notably, the Germans honed their air attack tactics and weapons, which they'd soon put to use in World War II.

In World War I, Germany led an alliance called ____

Germany was a leader of the Central Powers, which aggressively pursued their agenda throughout Europe in WWI. The Allies countered with their own massive forces.

Which country was NOT part of the Central Powers during WWI?

India was not part of the Central Powers, which consisted of Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, Turkey and Germany. For more than four years, the Central Powers did battle with the Allied Powers.

During WWI, which country WAS a part of the Allied Powers?

In WWI, Japan fought alongside the other Allies, including Britain, France, Russia, Italy and the United States. Of course, that all changed in WWII.

The Gleiwitz incident was a sabotage operation that triggered which event?

In late August 1939, Nazi operatives launched a staged "attack" on a German radio station… and then blamed Poland for its aggression. The incident was a flimsy story meant to justify Hitler's assault on Poland in September.

What does "NATO" stand for?

Following WWII, a number of European and North American countries banded together for NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), a military alliance committed to protecting its members. NATO came of age during the Cold War.

How did a group called the "Black Hand" affect Europe in the 20th century?

The Black Hand was a Serbian military group that plotted and executed the murder of Franz Ferdinand of Austria. The killing sparked WWI.

Between WWI and WWII, which element played a major role in European politics?

The interwar years were rife with political tensions, pitting democracy against fascism and social dictatorships. It was fertile ground for armed conflict.

What's one defining trait of the fascism that emerged in Europe following WWI?

In the brand of fascism that sprouted in Europe following WWI, citizens were expected to essentially give up their free will and follow the whims of fanatical leaders. In Germany, this political system found real power.

The Cold War flared up after which conflict?

After WWII, Europe was the stage for a political conflict between democracy in the West and communism in the East. During the Cold War, opponents of Communism were routinely crushed by violence and political oppression.

After the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, which country did Austria-Hungary attack?

Austria-Hungary would not stand for the murder of their archduke. It gathered its forces and invaded Serbia, officially kicking off the hostilities of the Great War.

All together, how many military personnel were mobilized during World War I?

By today's standards of drone attacks and laser-guided bombs, we simply cannot fathom the numbers of WWI. Roughly 70 million men and women took up arms in the Great War… and many millions never made it home.

What was the "Wehrmacht"?

As Hitler came to power in Germany, his Nazis (illegally) built a powerful military called the Wehrmacht. The Wehrmacht quickly grew in size and strength, and then laid waste to much of Europe.

Antonio Salazar was an oppressive leader in which nation?

Antonio Salazar became prime minister of Portugal in 1932 and ruled with an iron fist for more than 30 years. He was infamous for using his secret police to stamp out dissent.

In which decade was the European Union formed?

After decades of squabbling, numerous nations banded together to form the European Union in the 1990s. The EU provides economic and military advantages to its members.

What was the "Iron Curtain"?

Following WWII, Winston Churchill coined the phrase "Iron Curtain" to describe the political and geographic divide between the West and the communists in Eastern Europe. The Iron Curtain did not dissipate until the end of the Cold War.

The Black and Tan War found ____ fighting against Britain in 1919.

In 1919, the Irish Republic declared its independence from Britain, and the Irish War of Independence -- the Black and Tan War -- was on. In 1921, the Irish forced the British to give up much of its power over Ireland.

Which European country ceased to exist during the 20th century?

Yugoslavia was a short-lived country, formed in 1918 during WWI and then ended late in the 20th century.

The Cold War was defined by which trait?

During the Cold War, the USSR and America battled each other in proxy wars all over the globe, including conflicts in Europe. The Cold War finally ended when the USSR fell apart in 1991.

During the Holocaust, the Nazis murdered roughly what percentage of European Jewish citizens?

The Nazis were horrifyingly efficient in their persecution of Jews during WWII. Their concentration camps and guns killed two-thirds (about 66%) of Europe's Jewish population.

When did the Bosnian War take place?

The Bosian War raged between 1992 and 1995, a result of the political fallout in the dismantling of Yugoslavia. The conflict was noted for its bloody atrocities, and it ended in a stalemate.

Russia is now governed by what sort of political system?

The messy end of Soviet Communism created a nice vacuum for Vladimir Putin, who (in spite of his denials) rules Russia as a dictator. As Putin's empire grows, so too do tensions with the West.

"Shoah" is a Hebrew term that describes which heart-wrenching event of European history?

Since the 1940s, the Hebrew word "Shoah" has been widely used in reference to the Holocaust, the systematic murder of millions of people at the hands of the Nazis. Shoah means "catastrophe."

What was the official name of the Black Hand group that sparked WWI?

Unification or Death was the original name of the group better known as the Black Hand. The members were fighting to reunite Slavic lands under one government.

The European Economic Community was a precursor to which entity?

In 1957, the European Economic Community was founded, providing economic integration and stimulation for several nations. It eventually gave way to the broader EU in the 1990s.

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