20 From the 20th Century

Highlights from the past hundred years of The Atlantic Monthly, selected by the editors of Atlantic Unbound

December 16, 1999
ounded in 1857, The Atlantic Monthly has been published continuously for almost a century and a half. Yet here at the close of the twentieth century it seems fitting to focus on just the past hundred years of The Atlantic's history. Drawing exclusively from our existing online archive, we have selected articles that, we believe, not only represent their particular moment in time but also capture, perhaps timelessly, some important aspect of the century as a whole, offering a vista across the span of decades, wars, discoveries, and struggles, and providing some insight into the human condition.

The vista is indeed a remarkable one. From W.E.B. DuBois's famous statement, in 1901, that "the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line," to Benjamin Barber's characterization of globalization, in 1992, as "Jihad vs. McWorld"; from John Maynard Keynes's assessment of the world's economy, in 1932, to William Greider's account, in 1981, of the disillusionment of David Stockman, Ronald Reagan's first budget director; from the poems of Robert Frost, in 1915, to the words of Pablo Picasso, in 1957; from Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail," in 1963, to Nicholas Lemann's history of the underclass, in 1986; from William James on the century's prospects for peace, in 1904, to Albert Einstein on the threat of nuclear war, in 1947—we hope that this selection of a mere twenty Atlantic articles will at least suggest the scope of events, ideas, and lives that made the last century of the second millennium what it was.

Readers may wonder how we could fail to include even one article about the Holocaust, or about the First World War, or about women's suffrage, to name just three examples. The magazine has, of course, published many articles on these and other major topics not covered here. We invite you to join us in our discussion forum, Post & Riposte, and to tell us what you think of our selections, which articles you would have included, and what you believe were the most important events, ideas, and lives of the century.

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W.E.B. DuBois, William James, John Muir, Robert Frost...

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