1900 And Beyond

by Michelle Jean Hoppe

It is hard for us to conjecture what people hoped for or looked forward to when the century turned from 1899 to 1900. And yet, we are living what some of those dreams may have been. We are flying in their imaginary planes, using their computers, and communicating without miles and miles of wires connecting us. They had dreams. But more important, they believed, and thus their dreams became reality.

Here is a look back at the turn of the century from 1899 to1900. Some of these memories will make you smile. Others will make you sit up and take notice. To say we have progressed is an understatement. Yet in reading about life 100 years ago, we have to wonder if we haven't also regressed. For one person's dreams can cause another's sufferings. Perhaps Queen Victoria summed it up best in her journal on December 31, 1899--"[it was a] very eventful, and in many ways sad, year."

Britain began the year 1900 in the midst of the Boer War. On New Year's Day, Queen Victoria telegraphed good wishes to Sir Redvers Buller in Cape Town. Celebrations were much quieter politically for them on Jan 1, 2000, but not quiet in terms of noise. Queen Elizabeth II rang in the new century with 10,000 guests at the Millennium Dome in North Greenwich, an event broadcast worldwide.

The year 1900 continued to be politically unstable for many, with the Boxer Rebellion in China and the murder of King Umberto I of Italy by an anarchist. The United States celebrated the election of William McKinley as President. However, his term would be short-lived. He, too, was assassinated by an anarchist in--1901.

To prove that good can rise out of the ashes, though, the Boer War oddly saw the beginning of the Boy Scouts. Colonel Robert Baden-Powell, in need of resources, mobilized all the young boys of Mafeking and turned them into scouts, spies and liaison officers. These boys proved instrumental in holding the town during a 211-day siege. After the war was over, Colonel Baden-Powell decided to organize the Boy Scout movement, to bring back the idealism of those brave young men. The Boy Scouts continue their good work still today.

Peace and War, Life and Death--a continuous cycle. Queen Victoria, like all, witnessed both in her family in 1900. She lost her son, Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh & Saxe-Coburg Gotha, as well as her grandson, Christian Victor, by daughter Princess Helena. But 1900 also brought the birth of Queen Victoria's great-grandson, Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas, by granddaughter Victoria. It was the last christening the Queen would attend, and she insisted upon holding the baby throughout the entire ceremony. Did she perhaps sense the beginning of the end for herself?

A scientific achievement with us to this day, was the maiden flight of the Zeppelin on July 2, 1900. Who would have guessed during that first flight from Lake Constance near Friedrichshafen in Germany that the zeppelin would become a mainstay of today's sporting events?

The year 1900 also brought many cultural achievements. Joseph Conrad published Lord Jim, Toulouse-Lautrec painted "La Modiste", and Puccini's opera, "Tosca" premiered in Rome, all still with us today. Will we be able to say the same about books published in 2000? But perhaps the most coincidental publication was Sigmund Freud's Interpretation of Dreams. Did he perhaps realize the significance of dreaming back then? Or even the significance of daydreaming?

Dreams have been a part of life from the beginning of time. It is only in dreaming that we believe. It is only in believing in our dreams that we achieve. So my advice to you as we embark on this new century, is:

Dare to daydream. Dare to believe.


Victoria and Her Times by Jean-Loup Chiflet and Alain Beaulet, New York, Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1996.

Victoria: An Intimate Biography by Stanley Weintraub, New York, Penguin Books, 1987.

The Timetables of History by Bernard Grun, New York, Simon & Schuster, 1991.

Some of these books are available for purchase in our on-line bookstore in the non-fiction section.

Also see the Researching the Romance page of Literary Liaisons for more suggestions.

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