History’s Most Remarkable Years


This year has been unfortunate to many of us. So many calamities turned up in the past twelve months that we experienced fatigue many times over. It was so bad that some people labelled 2020 as an annus horribilis due to its unusual number of misfortunes.

'Annus horribilis' is a latin term that means "horrible year," which precisely defines 2020 in fewest words possible. 

You might be extra curious to know what years in the past may be counted as "anni horribiles." If you have that kind of curiosity, it may also fuel your interest on what the term's antonym is. Well, the latin term for "wonderful year" is annus mirabilis. 

History is replete with many examples of both anni horribiles and anni mirabiles. However, most of them can be considered disastrous or wonderful for singular reasons only. Only very few match 2020's eventfulness. 

This article is meant for light reading only and so it mentions only the most notable years in history. Here, they are arranged in chronological manner, with the ones in red as anni horribiles and the ones in yellow as anni mirabiles...


The Misnomer Flu

Image Source: PittsburghQuarterly.com

Millions of people died in 1918 due to the First World War, but the bigger calamity then was the Spanish Flu, which killed many more millions of people.

The war, which preceded the flu, was the reason the Spanish Flu is a misnomer. It was in Spain where it was first reported but it actually originated from the United States. As Spain was neutral, reports of the flu were freely published there as opposed to other countries where it was censored. People named it the Spanish flu due to the mistaken belief that it originated there.

1918 was an especially difficult year for Germany. They lost the war, which caught them by surprise because they thought they were winning. They apparently didn't take it easily as, two decades later, they initiated a much deadlier war.


Hollywood's Most Memorable Year

The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Image Source: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

In the year Germans blitzkrieged Poland to start World War II, Hollywood ironically experienced zenith --- 1939 was its most memorable year to date. So many remarkable and critically-acclaimed films were released that year.

It had the most films landing on American Film Institute's Top 100 Movies of all time, two of which made it to Top 10. It was also the year with the most films selected by the Library of Congress to be preserved in the National Film Registry.

Gone With the Wind (1939)
Image Source: Selznick/MGM/Kobal/REX/Stutterst

The highest-earning film of all time, Gone With the Wind, was released in 1939, as well as The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Stagecoach, and Wuthering Heights.

The world was at a political whirlwind then but the great war didn't stop Hollywood from producing some of the greatest films ever.

1939 also ended a decade-long drought, and the Great Depression finally came to a conclusion.


 A Good Year for both Science & Art

An astronaut from Apollo 11 made history in 1969.
Image Source: The Atlantic

Science and Art are two unrelated fields of interest, but both made momentous events in the year 1969. Man landed on the moon for the first time on July 11th, and just a month later, the Woodstock Music Festival was held.

The year must be very iconic and memorable that a documentary about it five decades later was made. Not a lot of years make such kind of distinction, and with these nice events taking place in 1969, it was certainly an annus mirabilis.


Economic & Weather Disturbances

Image Source: Reuters

The Philippines didn't have a good 1998. The economy stagnated due to the Asian Financial Crisis, which began the previous year and lingered on well into this year.

Agriculture has had bad harvest as well because a strong El Nino phenomenon caused severe drought during the first five months. As we thought that that was all we had to worry back then, La Nina came over later on, bringing strong rains and typhoons for the rest of the year.


The Peak of the 1990s

1999 ended in euphoric economic heights,
coinciding with the anticipation of the new millennium.
Image Source: wotif.co.nz

The 1990s were a decade of economic prosperity and political stability for the United States. From 1991 to 2001, the US experienced one of the longest periods of economic expansion ever recorded. 

In this prosperous decade, it was 1999 that had the highest economic growth rate. Since the US also experienced prosperity in the 1980s, the average American enjoyed a very high standard of living and a very comfortable way of life in 1999.

The prosperity was reflected in stock markets as Dow Jones surged by 25.2 percent that year, with many record-breaking trading days. The other stock markets, Nasdaq and S & P, also posted double-digit growth rates.

Not only was the economy phenomenal in 1999, political dissensions were likewise nil. The Cold War had ended in '91 and the world did not have to contend with terrorism until two years later.

The Matrix was the biggest film of 1999.
Image Source: Quartz.Com

Economy and politics were not the only winners of 1999. Many authors and movie buffs regard it as the greatest year in movie history. It had several blockbusters and watch-worthy flicks such as The Matrix, Magnolia, Being John Malkovich, Fight Club, Election, The Green Mile, Angela's Ashes, Tarzan, American Pie, and so many more.

This year was so good, many people want to party like it's 1999 all over again. Indeed, it ended in euphoric economic heights as the entire world anticipated the new millennium.


A Tale of Two Crashes

Some say that the WTC Attack of September 11th, 2001
was the end of the '90s.
Image Source: Reuters/Stringer

Like all things, good times had to end somehow. That is exactly how 2001 felt. This was the year when the long-running economic prosperity and political stability of the '90s ended.

We all know what happened that year --- the World Trade Center came crashing down, which began our decades-long struggle with terrorism.

That was not the only 'crash' of 2001 however. Nasdaq tumbled down from its heights of the past few years to previous levels, almost nullifying the gains it had recently made. So much speculation was made on dot-com technologies in the late 1990s that the prices turned out to be farce.

The dot-com bubble burst in 2000 and the downfall continued until 2002, covering the entirety of 2001.


Few Worries

Pia Wurtzbach brought back the crown after forty-two years.
Image Source: The Miss Universe Organization, via Cosmopolitan.

Not many people regard 2015 as an annus mirabilis, but it actually was, especially if you're in the Philippines.

2015 was the middle of a decade of strong economic growth, which at that time averaged about 6% every year. The Philippine stock market has been breaking records since 2013, and by 2015, it surpassed the 8,000 levels.

The domestic economy was further blessed by external factors. Worldwide petroleum prices went down because of newly-found supply of oil. As a result, inflation rates were kept to a minimum, or as low as 1%.

Given the many predictions that oil supply would peak and go down, causing price increases, nobody thought this was possible. 

Towards the end of the year, yet another blessing came our way. Pia Wurtzback snagged the Miss Universe crown for the third time with her "confidently beautiful with a heart" answer.

Nobody remembers 2015 as an annus mirabilis but someone quipped that all we worried about back then were the floods of Manila.


Our short trip in History ends here. 2020 may not be a good year at all but the good news is that we survived it and all its travails. As this article showed us that miracle years take place after horrible years, we can reasonably hope that things may get better soon...


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