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1900–1901 Movies, New Imperialism, and the New Century JEAN-PIERRE SIROIS-TRAHAN The years 1900–1901 were a time of flux in the new “moving picture” industry (see Musser Emergence). The patents war between Edison and the other film companies had cast the industry into a major crisis. At the turn of the twentieth century, the cinema was a relatively modest part of popular attractions and was still no more than an interloper in the world of legitimate art. It responded to current cultural and political events more than it created original stories: historical events are tied up in the development of filmmaking, a fact that receives due recognition in the present chapter. As a mirror of society, this nascent art form was the black-and-white and often ideologically deformed reflection of the horrors of the world. In the world of arts, Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong was born in 1901, while ragtime, like the blues a predecessor to jazz, was popularized by the black musician Scott Joplin and became the syncopated backdrop of the beginning of the century. This didn’t prevent the American Federation of Musicians from issuing a resolution against the music in 1901, calling for the music industry “to make every effort to suppress and discourage the playing, and publishing of such musical trash” (Brooklyn Daily Eagle). In literature , the year 1900 saw the publication of the children’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. Joseph Conrad published Lord Jim, while the great French stage actress Sarah Bernhardt embarked on her second American tour. In 1901, in keeping with the last wishes of the Swedish scientist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, the first Nobel Prizes were awarded. Wilhelm Röntgen won the Nobel Prize for physics for his discovery of electromagnetic X-rays, which were to prove of great importance to medicine. The prize for literature was won by Sully-Prud’homme, an academic poet of the Parnassian school justly forgotten today. Sharing the Nobel Peace Prize (with Frédéric Passy) was Henri Dunant, one of the founders of the International Red Cross, the largest humanitarian relief organization in the 91 world. The Edison film Red Cross Ambulance on Battlefield, a reenactment of the Red Cross’s work in the Boer War, was made by James A. White in 1900. Dunant was also a promoter of the famous Geneva Conventions, which protected hospitals and ambulances from attack during times of war—conventions that would have great importance in the global conflicts that were to rack the nascent century. ■■■■■■■■■■ An Early Form of Globalization At the turn of the new century, the whole world entered into an era of rapid industrialization and the gradual application of industrial and scientific technologies by the military. In the year 1900, the world’s great powers (England, Germany, France, and the United States) were caught up in the horrors of their expansionist policies, leading to the revolt of several peoples against Western imperialism and to guerrilla warfare , insurrections, massacres, terrorist attacks, religious conflict, and wars of pacification. Many figures in the American film industry, without exception of European descent, reflected or helped create the New Imperialist ideology then in effect, whether because the actuality views they produced were a means of conveying official propaganda or because viewers were seeing for the first time images of the colonies and the military might of their own country (and that of other countries—a frightening prospect). However, only the most harmless images (mostly military processions and depictions of the exotic beauty of foreign cities and landscapes) were depicted of an immense and otherwise brutal and merciless strategy game on a global scale. The great European powers, and Japan and the United States in their wake, were involved in an aggressive contest of colonial expansion, constantly outdoing the other, particularly in the Dark Continent, the site of a “scramble for Africa.” This escalating contest was one of the main causes of the First World War. In 1900, the great U.S. intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois convened in London the first Pan-African Conference, aimed at uniting the people of Africa and their descendants outside Africa against European colonialism. The most important international event in 1900 was the Boer War in South Africa. The Boers, or Afrikaaners, were descendants of Dutch settlers. Against their resistance, the British tried to annex the Orange Free State and the Republic of South Africa...


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