The Hulton Getty Picture Collection has given The Independent exclusive access to its library to mount a photo-history of the 20th century. Today we move on to 1924.

Los Angeles's burgeoning film industry brought to the city an exuberant self-confidence. What better way to celebrate it than by surfing the Pacific at night?

January of this year marked the death of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, the ex-lawyer who had seized his chance "to give history a push" in 1917. The man - who became known to the world at large as Lenin - died with grave misgivings about the future of the Soviet state. The incompetence and corruption he had observed in the Communist party he recorded in his "testament", alongside severe criticism of certain senior Politburo officials.

Stalin - about whom it was believed Lenin had been particularly trenchant - revealed himself a sharper political operator than many had suspected, moving quickly to prevent any formal debate of the testament at the annual party congress, and positioning himself adroitly against Trotsky.

Britain's first Labour government, which limped into power dependent upon Liberal goodwill in January, took just 10 months to expire in the wake of a scandal over its alleged manhandling of the Attorney General.

By November the Tories had been returned to office on the back of a landslide victory and Ramsay MacDonald had vacated No 10 Downing Street for Stanley Baldwin.

Fascism continued to grow unchecked across Europe during the year. The startling efficiency of Mussolini's hugely successful general election campaign was equalled only by the contempt his Fascists subsequently demonstrated for the democracy that had empowered them. In July, a leading socialist opponent of Mussolini was kidnapped and feared murdered following a speech in which he drew attention to the Fascists' heavy-handed and intimidatory manipulation of the electorate, and by October Il Duce himself had declared his party "above parliament".

In Germany, the judiciary succumbed to Adolf Hitler's oratorial charms and handed down the Nazi leader a sentence that was effectively less than a year for his part in the previous November's treasonous beer hall putsch.

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