Wednesday, 4 January 2012

What Was Happening in the World 100 Years Ago in 1912?

Many things that happened in 1912 shaped the lives of generations to come.

Significantly, as in 2012, the end of the world scenario was already there. There were persistent rumours in Novgorod, Russia that the anti-Christ had already been born and the world would soon end.

  • People lived much shorter lives in 1912. Average life expectancy in USA was 51,5 in 1912 (now 78,3)
  • The car began to change the way people live. Ford's Model T was being mass-produced in USA.
  • The first electric self-starter for automobiles introduced – you didn’t need to go out and crank the car to start by turning a heavy handle.
  • In most “developed” countries women were not allowed to vote.

  • Zeppelins were seen as the future of air travel, but airplanes were becoming more common. Women (at least one) were allowed to fly in the UK, but not vote until 1928.
  • The first air force in the world, the Royal Flying Corps (Royal Air Force nowadays) formed in 1912. Dropping bombs from the sky became a common practice from then on.
  • The Radio started becoming a major communication tool. The Titanic would be the first ship to send a radio SOS before it sank on April 14th 1912.
  • Unions and progressive legislation started making the life of the workingman more comfortable and safer. Purer food and safer drug laws began making life healthier for everybody.

Wars going on in 1912:
  • Serbia, Montenegro and Greece declared war on Turkey.
  • Turkey attacked Bulgaria.
  • Italians at war with Turkey and took over Libya.
  • US Marines invaded Nicaragua (leaving finally in 1925) and Honduras
  • US forces land in Cuba to quell anti-discrimination protests by Afro-Cubans

Italian Dirigibles bombing Turkish troops. The first aerial bombing in history! Photo source:

Now let’s take a look at what was happening around the world in 1912:

  • First air crash in Australia, between Mount Druitt and Rooty Hill
  • The Maternity Allowance Act 1912 granted a “Baby Bonus” of five pounds (325 GBP today) to the mother of every child born in Australia. No one even thinks of including indigenous and non-citizens. 

  • Bad things begin to get worse for China. Empress Dowager Longyu endorses the Imperial Edict of the Abdication of the Qing Emperor on 12.2.1912. This ends 2000 years of imperial rule in China.
  • The Republic of China is established on 1st January 1912 on mainland China (now they govern only Taiwan). Sun Yat Sen loses his presidency to Yuan Shikai (General who wanted to have himself crowned as the emperor during his presidency after Sun Yat Sen’s death).
  • Republic of China adopts the Gregorian calendar


  • First non-stop Paris to London flight by aviator Henri Seimet in 3 hour
  • 3 year military service chosen unanimously by the French council of war
  • Morocco becomes a protectorate of France  
  • The Archbishop of Paris decreed that "Christians must not tango." 

  • India’s first Indian Anglican bishop Vedanayakam Samuel Azariah appointed
  • In 1912 India introduced compulsory registration of motor vehicles.
  • Muslim Indian doctors and nurses join the Red Crescent organization established in 1912 to help Turkish troops in the Balkan war of 1912.
  • Decision taken to move capital of India from Calcutta to Delhi
  • Rabindranath Tagore, on his way to England by boat from India translates his poem Gitanjali into English. His son loses the poem in his father’s briefcase on the London Tube. An honest man tracks them down and returns the papers. Tagore’s friend Sir William Rothenstein hears about the poem, contacts W. B. Yeats. Eventually Tagore becomes the first non-Westerner to get the Nobel Prize in 1913.


Familiar? No, not Saddam or Gaddafi but Rasputin of Russia.

  • Bolshevik Conference in Prague ‘expels’ the Mensheviks - the Bolsheviks are formally established as a separate party
  • Lenin engineers Stalin, Zinoviev, and Ordzhonikidze on the Central Committee, to control Malinovsky 
  • Pravda, the Soviet communist party newspaper begins publishing 
  • Rasputin’s enemies publish the Czarinna’s adoring letters to Rasputin. Public outrage causes him to flee St.Petersburg. Rasputin returns at the Czarinna’s request and the young Czarevich’s health improves
  • Strikes begin in the Lena goldfields in Siberia as the company forces workers to eat meat from horses’ penises. Troops fire and kill 200 peaceful marchers.
  • Worker’s health insurance act passed by the Russian parliament, the Duma.
  • The Rothschilds sell all their Russian oil interests to Royal Dutch (Shell)


  • Failed uprising against the absolute monarchy. The new king Vajiravudh, who considered himself an Edwardian gentleman, began his plans to westernize Siam. He spent his time translating Shakespeare into Thai, establishing a Wild Tiger Corps personally answerable to him alone and running up huge state debts. Emboldened by the successful overthrow of the Qing dynasty in China some army officers unsuccessfully plotted to overthrow the absolute monarchy (achieved in 1932).

  • Literacy rate in UK is 40% in 1912 (now 99%)
  • Minimum wages for miners introduced after strike threats
  • Suffragettes smash shop windows in Oxford Street and destroy Pillar boxes. They were often jailed, force-fed when they went on a hunger strike and released so they didn’t die in prison.
  • Harriet Quimby, is the first woman pilot to fly across the English Channel.
  • Piltdown man, posed as the missing link between apes and humans. (It took 40 years to debunk the hoax).
  • A courier driving a horse-drawn delivery truck earned enough to buy 34 pounds of bread on his daily wages - exactly the same as a carpenter or mason in 1450. 

  • U.S. Public Health Service is established
  • New Mexico is the 47th state and Arizona becomes the 48th state
  • First use of zippers in clothing
  • Tokyo mayor Yukio Ozaki gives 3000 cherry blossom trees to Washington, D.C. to symbolise the warm friendship between the countries.
  • A 190 kg meteorite explodes over the town of Holbrook, Arizona. No deaths.
  • Salonkeeper John Schrank shoots President Theodore Roosevelt. With a gaping wound and the bullet still in him, Roosevelt delivers the speech. The 50 page written speech and a steel spectacle case in his breast pocket had stopped the bullet from going too far and saved his life.
  • Average yearly income is $1,033 (for 2011 it is $ 42, 979.61)
  • A gallon of gas is 7 cents (now $ 4.50)
  • A loaf of bread is 5 cents (now $ 5)
  • A medium priced home was $ 2750 (now $ 300 000 - $ 500 000)

The Vatican
  • Pope Pius x (St. Pius) issued his Encyclical letter Lacrimabili Statu and writes 
“When so many abhor the faith or fall away from it, the zeal for spreading the Gospel among the barbarous nations is still strong in the clergy.”

Predictions Made in 1912

The coming of the wireless era will make war impossible, because it will make war ridiculous. - 

Guglielmo Marconi, pioneer of radio, Technical World Magazine, October, 1912, page 145.

This has obviously not materialised. Currently, there are 37 ongoing wars, civil-wars and insurgencies, which demand more than 1000 deaths per year according to the Uppsala Conflict Data Programme.

If you are wondering what in the world happened 100 years ago, you might be tempted to worry if 2012 is really the end of the world as so many are clamouring. 

No, rest assured, one thing is sure - The world is not going to end in 2012!


gwl said...

Hey nice recap.

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Anonymous said...

My mother will be 100 in August.It was fun to look up things that happened the year she was born.....

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Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this write-up on the events of 1912, which is much more "human" and interesting than Wikipedia. My dad turns 100 in August 2012 so I am gathering information about the world he was born into. Of course, I was born in 1952, which seems equally barbaric from the vantage point of 2012.

The Uma Huma said...

Hi Well done with this blog. Gives a good overview of world history. Fascinating about Roosevelt giving a speech with a bullet in him.
Maybe you could add a few more of the scientific innovations during 1912. Keep up the good work.

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