The beginning of the 20th century is marked by the rise of several more or less "revolutionary" new cultural, scientifical ideas.

E.g. expressionism in painting and dancing, scientific revolution (quantum mechanics., theory of relativity), new pedagogical initiatives etc.

This was a common opinion in the time I was educated.

Is there a special or common name for this historical period?
Do you know any articles/books that studied this turning point period?

  • 1
    I think the 1800's was known as the Age of Discovery whereas the 20th Century became known as "the Age of Modernity" but that's just throwing one out there. Certainly the embrace of technology, cutting edge science, very non traditional art, music and dance, jet setters, the Roaring 20's...and the revulsion against its excesses (the Great Depression, Woodstock, Ronald Reagan) and then this odd kind of "death's embrace" going from the 1990's into the 21st Century (Y2k, Chinese urban planning, the re-rise of Manhattan, etc) very strikingly planted firmly "in the future" still (post modernism.) Oct 30, 2016 at 23:04
  • @Bregalad When I compare Wikipedia, it seems that other languages have adapted the French term. Although the word 'belle' i.m.o. does not cover the idealistic spirit of this turning-point in history. Perhaps "Époque Tournant"?
    – Gerard
    Oct 31, 2016 at 13:16
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    Can you clarify what you mean by "beginning"? Turn of the century? 1900-1910? 00-20? 00-30? Oct 31, 2016 at 14:16
  • @called2voyage Well... I would say Min. 1895 .. Max. 1922.
    – Gerard
    Oct 31, 2016 at 14:35
  • Obviously the answer is "yes", there are terms for this time period. How will you select an authoritative answer from those provided?
    – MCW
    Nov 3, 2016 at 14:29

4 Answers 4


In French we say "Belle Époque", but I don't know if there's an english equivalent. The term refers specifically to the period imediately predecessing the Great War, but there is no clear begining of the eara, it could be as early as 1871 (after the end of the Franco-Prussian war) or later.

When using Wikipedia it seem the foreign language have to some extent adopted the French term, however I do not know how commonly they are used.

  • 1
    First I've heard it, FWIW. Cool to know though. I think it would loosely translate to "Beautiful Era".(?)
    – T.E.D.
    Oct 31, 2016 at 18:20
  • As a matter of fact, I believe we should create a new, somewhat more representative, expression, that stresses how revolutionary this period was.
    – Gerard
    Nov 2, 2016 at 14:41

It looks like it depends on what country's history you are talking about.

The term I usually hear is "Victorian Era" (or "Victorian Age", or sometimes just "Victorian" as an adjective).

Now technically the literal meaning of this would apply to the years 1837 to 1901, and only to UK history, but you often hear it applied to US history too, particularly when the discussion is centered on morals.

The Victorian era is famous for the Victorian standards of personal morality. Historians generally agree that the middle classes held high personal moral standards (and usually followed them), but have debated whether the working classes followed suit.

I also often hear the term used when talking about other trans-national fields of endeavor that the English may have taken part in, even if the specific actors were not English. This particularly includes science and literature.

If the discussion is centered on US politics, the term generally used is "Progressive Era".

The Progressive Era was a period of widespread social activism and political reform across the United States, from the 1890s to the 1920s.

This was preceded by what is commonly called the "Gilded Age".

How these (and the Belle Époque mentioned in a previous answer) are all interrelated is well described in this Wikipedia snippet:

The early half of the Gilded Age roughly coincided with the middle portion of the Victorian era in Britain and the Belle Époque in France. It was preceded by the Reconstruction Era that ended in 1877 and was succeeded by the Progressive Era that began in the 1890s.

  • I must say this answer is not satisfactory for me, because my question is especially on new cultural (esp. art), scientifical ideas.
    – Gerard
    Oct 31, 2016 at 14:44
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    @Gerard For art that period is generally known as Art Nouveau. I'm not sure if there's a name for the period of scientific advancement. Oct 31, 2016 at 15:41
  • @called2voyage I see. Yes that is one more good example. I suppose Belle Époque, which apparantly includes Jugendstil, suits my purposes.
    – Gerard
    Oct 31, 2016 at 15:55
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    I would find it very unusual, even in the UK, for someone to use "Victorian" to describe the early 20th century (say, Boer War to WWI). "Edwardian" might well be used, though. Oct 31, 2016 at 21:55
  • @Andrew I agree that Progressive of Victorian Era is very unusual. Also Edwardian Era would be rather silly for a non-British reader. The revolutionary aspects of this era are not centered on V.S. politics nor British kings or queens. It's about a broad and general human progress.
    – Gerard
    Nov 2, 2016 at 14:46

The Edwardian Era (or Period) is the period between Victoria's death (and Edward VII's ascension) in 1901 and Edward's death in 1910. It is informally often used to refer to the entire period from 1901 to the beginning of the First World War in 1914, according to Samuel Hynes:

a leisurely time when women wore picture hats and did not vote, when the rich were not ashamed to live conspicuously, and the sun really never set on the British flag'

It is often characterized by a relaxation of Victorian Morals, which may have more to do with the nostalgia of looking back at it from the post-war era than of any true distinction from the epoch that preceded it.

  • I suppose, this could be the answer to a completely different question.
    – Gerard
    Nov 3, 2016 at 12:45

According to Eric Hobsbawm classification, he call the time between 1875 and 1914 the "Age of Empire", because that time was marked by the expansion of industrial nations. Before that time he defines the "Age of Capital" (1848 - 1875) and after the "Age of Extremes" (1914 - 1990). Since this is a global definition, maybe you must define the region of the world that interest you, because all names already given are correct for each country that is represented by these names.

  • As I see it, my question illustrates how common it is, to relate history to its own nation, instead of also looking at general human progress, which - for me - is what this period is about (in principle).
    – Gerard
    Nov 2, 2016 at 14:49
  • @Gerard The problem with your theory is that the idea of "general human progress" has been one of the casualties of the time.... which Hobsbawm talks about in his books. Mar 28, 2020 at 13:56

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