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1918: annus horribilis

At the end of a year, you’ll probably be appraising your achievements and your areas of progress. If you end up disappointed, you should think of what happened in the world in 1918.

World War I ends in 1918

It is always a good thing when a war ends, especially one like World War I – one of the most cruel war in the annals of human race: it took some 16 millions lives!
All historians agree that the way World War I ended significantly contributed to the birth of Fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany. This would mark the XX century very profoundly.

The Spanish flu starts in 1918

In 1918, an influenza pandemic spread across the world. It was terrible: it infected five hundreds million people (about one human being every three on Earth!) across the world (including remote Pacific islands and the Arctic)! People would feel fine in the morning and die by nightfall. It has been estimated that more than fifty million people died (about four percent of the world’s population!): three times the victims of World War I! It has been described as the greatest medical holocaust in history.

In France, Germany, United Kingdom and in the United States, governments decide to minimise the 1918 initial reports of illness and mortality. In Spain – which was neutral in World War I – papers were free to report the truth, including the illness of Ming Alfonso XIII. This created a false impression that Spain was particularly hit – hence the name of Spanish flu….

The only positive aspect is that, by 1920, the virus disappeared completely! It is likely that it has mutated into a more bearable and less lethal kind….

The USSR was born in 1918

On July 10th 1918, Russia is declared a Republic of Soviets. This is the final step of the October Revolution, which brought to power the Communists headed by Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, commonly called Lenin. This will influence the World history of XX century.

Prohibition starts in 1918

On January 7th 1918, Mississippi became the first State to ratify the XVIII Amendment to the US constitution on prohibition. The same year, Virginia, Kentucky, North Dakota, South Carolina, Maryland, Montana, Texas, Delaware, South Dakota, Massachusetts, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana and Florida (this is the chronological order) ratified the XVIII Amendment as well. Other States followed in the following year. The last State to ratify was New Jersey on March 9th 1922. The only ones to reject the Amendment were Connecticut and Rhode Island. The subsequent Volstead Act regulated the methods of enforcing the XVIII Amendment and defined what was prohibited and what was excluded from prohibition. It came into effect only October 29th 1919 but stated that prohibition would come into force at midnight on January 17 1920.

The first documented infringement of the Volstead Act occurred in Chicago on January 17 1920 one minute before 1am: less than one hour after the legislation came into effect! Well before the birth of drug cartel, alcohol prohibition has determined the growth and establishment of organised crime in the US….

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