One of the most dramatic developments after World War II was the emergence
of the Third World, or the developing nations. In Asia, Africa, and Latin
America, national liberation movements worked to free countries from the imperialism
of the industrialized world. These movements resulted in the independence
of European colonies in Africa and Asia. It also led to the growth of stronger,
more popularly supported governments in places such as China and Latin America.
Despite differences in culture, religion, and heritage, almost all the nations
of Africa, Asia, and Latin America shared a common goal: they hoped to develop
more modern economies that would raise the living standards of their citizens
to match those in the West. Some were successful, such as South Korea and
Taiwan, but most were not. Nevertheless, most of these societies underwent
profound transformations in agriculture, urbanization, environmental development,
and social relations. The following activities will focus on these broad themes
while exploring how developing nations met the challenges of the second half
of the twentieth century and where these efforts are going as the new century
- You may want to begin by printing this page. As you explore different
sites, use the printout to refer back to the instructions and questions
detailed in each activity.
- On many web sites you can increase the size of the images by clicking
on them. Whenever possible, use the larger images to examine fine details
- One problem that plagued the developing world throughout the second half
of the twentieth century was population growth. Go to Total
Midyear World Population 1950-2050. How much did world population grow
between 1950 and 2000? To see the developing world's share in this population
growth, go to U.S.
Census Bureau: Rank Countries by Population and enter the year 1950
in the box provided. Next to rank, mark "top 10." Click "Submit
Query." Of the countries that appear, which were developed nations
and which were developing? Repeat the process for the years 1970 and 2000.
(You might want to print out the results to make it easier to compare and
contrast.) How did population distribution change over these fifty years?
By the year 2000, what percentage of the world population was concentrated
in the highest populated developing countries?
- Analyze why developing countries grow faster than developed countries.
You might want to review "The Medical Revolution and the Population
Explosion" on pages 1139-1141 of McKay, A History of World Societies
- This population explosion in the developing world provoked a variety of
responses from academics and government officials. Go to Paul
Ehrlich. Keeping in mind that this article is critical of Ehrlich's
views, describe Ehrlich's concerns about the growth in world population
after 1945. In particular, what problems did he believe it posed for developing
countries? What solutions did he propose?
- Compare Ehrlich's outlooks with those of Norman Borlaug's at The
Atlantic Monthly: Forgotten Benefactor of Humanity. Describe Borlaug's
approach to the strains of overpopulation in the developing world. Define
the Green Revolution and Borlaug's role in it. In what regions of the world
was it most pronounced? What do critiques of the Green Revolution argue
are the long-range consequences of high-yield agriculture? Debate Borlaug's
claim that Some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are
the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They've never experienced
the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable
office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid
the misery of the developing world, as I have for fifty years, they'd be
crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged
that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things.
- Which approach do you think is more appropriate for the developing world
in the twenty-first century - Erlich's or Borlaug's?
- Most developing countries' governments have also struggled with the legacy
of imperialism since 1945. For many, the problem remains. Read this excerpt
from Kwame Nkrumah's Neocolonialism: The
Last Stage of Imperialism. Define neocolonialism (often referred to
as neoimperialism). What problems did it present for Third World governments
striving to improve the living standards of their people?
- For India's response to this challenge, go to Modern
History Sourcebook: Jawaharlal Nehru: Marxism, Capitalism and Non-Alignment.
In rejecting British domination of the Indian economy, Nehru was attracted
to the Soviet model for development. What about the Soviet Union's recent
history appealed to Nehru? What aspects of the Soviet Union did he dislike?
Analyze how he viewed the Soviet Union as a model for the new Indian nation.
Under Nehru's leadership, India's government instituted five-year plans
to promote the industrialization of the country and to lessen its dependence
on Western nations. India has succeeded in establishing a strong industrial
base as it enters the twenty-first century, yet the average Indian still
lives in poverty.
- The changes in the developing world since 1945 have had a profound impact
on women. For more information, go to Women in
Nigeria Today and A
Woman's View: The Poverty of Women. Analyze how the changes in the developing
world have affected women. Were women affected differently than men by trends
since 1945? Have Third World governments responded to the needs of women?
Why or why not?
- For one analyst's take on the future of the developing world, read Robert Kaplan:
The Coming Anarchy. List and briefly describe the multiple problems
that he claims plague the developing world, such as tribalism and urbanization.
What predictions does he have about the future of the Third World? What
regions does he single out as having brighter prospects than others? Why
does he see more potential in these places than in others? Why does he single
out Africa as the most disturbing region he covers? Debate his claim that
"we ignore this dying region at our own risk."