Year 11
Year 11
Girls Working

VCE History Units I & 2

Unit 1 & 2: Twentieth century history 1900–1945

The first half of the twentieth century was marked by significant change. From the late nineteenth century up to World War I there was still a sense of a certain and natural order of society. This order was challenged and overturned. Old certainties were replaced by new uncertainties as new movements and organisations emerged in response to economic, social and political crises and conflicts. Revolution, civil war and international conflict overshadowed the first fifty years of the twentieth century.  Patterns of daily life in the twentieth century were to change as a result of political and social developments. Advances in science and technology also began to transform the world of work and the home. Traditional forms of cultural expression such as art, literature, music and dance, as well as the new mediums of film and radio, were to both reflect and explore these changes. This unit considers the way that societies responded to these changes and how they affected people’s lives.

Area of Study 1: Crisis and conflict

The first half of the twentieth century was a period of political upheaval. In Europe by 1914 the traditional hierarchical world symbolised by the monarchical system had begun to crumble. In the aftermath of the World War I the borders in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East were redrawn, new countries were created and the empires of the defeated powers broken up. In this new order, which was characterised by economic and social unrest, political ideas such as communism, socialism and fascism gained popular support.   This area of study focuses on the circumstances surrounding the collapse of the traditional order, the post-war structures, the different political ideas and movements that emerged, and the conflicts which resulted from competing attempts to establish and legitimise them.

Area of Study 2: Social life

Daily life and social values underwent profound change in the first half of the twentieth century as new economic and social orders were established. The state, including those countries governed by communist or fascist regimes or under colonial control, increasingly influenced the private world of the family and home, and the public sphere of employment, education and politics. Technological developments and practices saw the nature of work and the workplace change in industrialised nations and a powerful consumer culture emerge. Crises such as The Depression, revolution, movements for independence and the World Wars created major disruption and change to the patterns of everyday life, at times challenging traditional social values and behaviours. Factors such as gender, class, age, race, nationality and ethnicity were significant in determining an individual or community’s experience of life in the first half of the twentieth century. Groups emerged from within communities to defend and advance their beliefs and interests. This area of study involves an examination of changes in social life in the first half of the twentieth century, the reasons for such changes and the various outcomes for different groups.

Area of Study 3: Cultural expression

The first half of the twentieth century saw creative forces embrace the new age of the machine and the factory. The world of theories about the emotions and the unconscious resulted from the studies of Freud and Jung, and gained inspiration from the political successes of communism and fascism. Others questioned the notion of progress and civilisation in a world which witnessed trench warfare, economic collapse and the rise of dictators.  The mediums of film and radio were to offer the artist and writer a new means of creative expression. Films were to become one of the most significant forms of global mass entertainment in the first half of the twentieth century. Filmmaking was embraced by the avant-garde, political movements, and business interests. Jazz, whose roots lay in the slave heritage of Afro-Americans, became the new popular music of the century. Creative arts reflected, promoted and resisted the political, economic and social changes of their times, and in some political and social settings they were subject to persecution and censorship.


The award of satisfactory completion for a unit is based on a decision that the student has demonstrated achievement of the set of outcomes specified for the unit. This decision will be based on the teacher’s assessment of the student’s overall performance on assessment tasks designated for the unit.

Assessment tasks for this unit are:

  • Analytical exercises;
  • Annotated maps
  • Short reports;
  • Essays;
  • Oral presentations;
  • Multimedia presentations;
  • Film reviews;
  • Biographical studies;
  • Tests;
  • Responses to literature.

At least one of the assessment tasks must be presented in a written form and one must involve an analysis of visual evidence, preferably a film.

Outcome 1

On completion of this unit the student should be able to analyse and explain the development of a political crisis and conflict in the period 1900 to 1945.

Outcome 2

On completion of this unit the student should be able to analyse and discuss patterns of social life and the factors which influenced changes to social life in the first half of the twentieth century.

Outcome 3

On completion of this unit the student should be able to analyse the relationship between the historical context and a cultural expression of the period from 1900 to 1945.

Unit 2: Twentieth century history 1945–2000

In 1945 the forces of Japanese imperialism and German fascism were defeated, and the US and USSR emerged from the destruction of World War II as the new world superpowers. The relationship between these allies soon dissolved and for the next forty years a Cold War was waged between these opposing ideologies. The debate over the benefits and dangers of nuclear technology was to re-occur throughout the second half of the twentieth century. 1945 was to see the first meetings of the newly formed United Nations (UN), which aimed, among other things, to take an internationalist approach to avoiding warfare, and threats to human life and safety, however mass murders occurred in the form of holocaust and genocide around the world. Exploitation of the environment to unsustainable levels was identified as an additional threat to the long-term health of the planet.  Movements for social, political, and economic change could now reach across the globe through advances in communication such as television, satellite, and multimedia technology. Increasingly, art, sport, entertainment and consumerism, as well as social action, have become a global experience. This unit considers some of the major themes and principal events of post-World War II history, and the ways in which individuals and communities responded to the political, economic, social and technological developments.

Area of Study 1: Ideas and political power

After World War II the United States emerged with the Soviet Union as the global superpowers and remained so for much of the second half of the twentieth century. Conflict and competition between the opposing ideologies of capitalism and communism raised world tension and conflict, and continued until the fall of communism in 1989. Some newly independent nations such as Korea and Vietnam became the battlefields of the Cold War, while other nations fell to dictatorship, genocide and civil war.  Developments in media technology, in particular television, allowed Western audiences to witness these conflicts in a way that had not previously been possible. In this area of study, students examine a conflict(s) of the second half of the twentieth century such as those based on competing ideologies of capitalism and communism or ethnic or religious tensions.

Area of Study 2: Movements of the people

Groups emerged in the second half of the twentieth century to challenge power structures. In Western society, the Women’s Liberation Movement, and Gay Liberation questioned traditional attitudes, towards race, gender and human rights. Groups of concerned citizens came together to question the legitimacy of the states’ authority over issues such as war, the environment, globalisation, and human rights. In communist countries those movements and individuals who resisted or criticised the established authority were subject to arrest and even execution.  Significant developments in mass communication and audiovisual media has meant some of these movements of the people transcended national boundaries and developed a global audience and following. This area of study focuses upon one or more movements which challenged the political, social and/or economic structures in post-war society, the reasons for the challenge and the outcomes.

Area of Study 3: Issues for the millennium

The last decades of the twentieth century were to see the collapse of communism and the creation of new nations, some peacefully and others violently. Civilians increasingly became targets of acts of terrorism in these conflicts. Political upheavals, as well as economic and ecological change, swelled the numbers of refugees worldwide. Despite advances in science, technology and medicine which significantly improved the quality of life for many in the world, diseases such as the AIDS epidemic continued to decimate communities, particularly in Africa and parts of Asia. These and other events have had a profound influence on the everyday lives of communities around the world.  Advances in multimedia and audiovisual technology have played an increasingly important role in presenting the world with immediate and powerful images of the changes communities and groups experienced in the last years of the twentieth century. This study involves the examination of how the interplay between domestic, regional and/or international events influenced the changes in social life for a community or group in the last decades of the twentieth century, and the way these experiences have been represented.


Outcome 1

On completion of this unit the student should be able to analyse and discuss how post-war societies used ideologies to legitimise their worldview and portray competing systems.

Outcome 2

On completion of this unit the student should be able to evaluate the impact of a challenge(s) to established social, political and/or economic power during the second half of the twentieth century.

Outcome 3

On completion of this unit the student should be able to analyse issues faced by communities arising from political, economic and/or technological change.