With civilizations flourishing, ancient history
," including the Classical Age
up to about 500 CE
) saw the rise and fall of empires. Post-classical history
(the "Middle Ages
," c. 500–1500 CE,
) witnessed the rise of Christianity
, the Islamic Golden Age
(c. 750 CE – c. 1258 CE), and the Timurid
and Italian Renaissances
(from around 1300 CE). The mid-15th-century introduction of movable-type printing
and facilitated ever wider dissemination of information
, hastening the end of the Middle Ages and ushering in the Scientific Revolution
The Early Modern Period
, sometimes referred to as the "European Age and Age of the Islamic Gunpowders
from about 1500 to 1800,
included the Age of Enlightenment
and the Age of Exploration
. By the 18th century, the accumulation of knowledge
had reached a critical mass
that brought about the Industrial Revolution
and began the Late Modern Period
, which started around 1800 and has continued through the present.
This scheme of historical periodization
(dividing history into Antiquity, Post-Classical, Early Modern, and Late Modern periods) was developed for, and applies best to, the history of the Old World
, particularly Europe and the Mediterranean. Outside this region, including ancient China
and ancient India
, historical timelines unfolded differently. However, by the 18th century, due to extensive world trade
, the histories of most civilizations had become substantially intertwined, a process known as globalization
. In the last quarter-millennium, the rates of growth of population
, knowledge, technology, communications, commerce, weapons destructiveness, and environmental degradation have greatly accelerated, creating unprecedented opportunities and perils that now confront the planet's human communities.
Modern humans spread
rapidly from Africa into the frost-free zones of Europe and Asia around 60,000 years ago.
The rapid expansion of humankind to North America and Oceania took place at the climax of the most recent ice age
, when temperate regions of today were extremely inhospitable. Yet, humans had colonized nearly all the ice-free parts of the globe by the end of the Ice Age, some 12,000 years ago.
such as Homo erectus
had been using simple wood and stone tools for millennia
, but as time progressed, tools became far more refined and complex.
Perhaps as early as 1.8 million years ago, but certainly by 500,000 years ago, humans began using fire
for heat and cooking.
They also developed language
in the Paleolithic
and a conceptual repertoire that included systematic burial of the dead and adornment of the living. Early artistic expression can be found in the form of cave paintings
made from ivory, stone, and bone, showing a spirituality generally interpreted as animism
, or even shamanism
During this period, all humans lived as hunter-gatherers
, and were generally nomadic
Archaeological and genetic data suggest that the source populations of Paleolithic hunter-gatherers survived in sparsely wooded areas and dispersed through areas of high primary productivity
while avoiding dense forest cover.
Rise of civilization
The Neolithic Revolution
, beginning around 10,000 BCE, saw the development of agriculture, which fundamentally changed the human lifestyle. Farming developed around 10,000 BCE in the Middle East, around 7000 BCE in what is now China, around 6000 BCE in the Indus Valley
and Europe, and around 4000 BCE in the Americas.
Cultivation of cereal crops
and the domestication of animals
occurred around 8500 BCE in the Middle East, where wheat
were the first crops and sheep
In the Indus Valley, crops were cultivated by 6000 BCE, along with domesticated cattle. The Yellow River
valley in China cultivated millet
and other cereal crops by about 7000 BCE, but the Yangtze
valley domesticated rice
earlier, by at least 8000 BCE. In the Americas, sunflowers
were cultivated by about 4000 BCE, and maize
were domesticated in Central America by 3500 BCE. Potatoes
were first cultivated in the Andes Mountains of South America, where the llama
was also domesticated. Metal-working
, starting with copper
around 6000 BCE, was first used for tools and ornaments. Gold
soon followed, with its main use being for ornaments. The need for metal ores stimulated trade, as many of the areas of early human settlement were lacking in ores. Bronze
, an alloy of copper and tin
, was first known from around 2500 BCE, but did not become widely used until much later.
Though early proto-cities
appeared at Jericho
and Catal Huyuk
around 6000 BCE,
the first civilizations did not emerge until around 3000 BCE in Egypt
These cultures gave birth to the invention of the wheel
boats, the pottery wheel
, woven cloth, construction of monumental buildings,
Scholars now recognize that writing may have independently developed in at least four ancient civilizations: Mesopotamia (between 3400 and 3100 BC), Egypt (around 3250 BC),
China (2000 BC),
and lowland Mesoamerica (by 650 BC).
Farming permitted far denser populations, which in time organized into states
. Agriculture also created food surpluses that could support people not directly engaged in food production.
The development of agriculture permitted the creation of the first cities
. These were centres of trade
and political power
Cities established a symbiosis
with their surrounding countrysides
, absorbing agricultural products and providing, in return, manufactured goods and varying degrees of military control and protection.
Entities such as the Sun, Moon, Earth, sky, and sea were often deified. Shrines
developed, which evolved into temple
establishments, complete with a complex hierarchy of priests and priestesses
and other functionaries. Typical of the Neolithic was a tendency to worship anthropomorphic deities
. Among the earliest surviving written religious scriptures are the Egyptian Pyramid Texts
, the oldest of which date to between 2400 and 2300 BCE.
Cradles of civilization
, located in Mesopotamia
, is the first known complex civilization, developing the first city-states
in the 4th millennium BCE.
It was in these cities that the earliest known form of writing, cuneiform script
, appeared around 3000 BCE.
Cuneiform writing began as a system of pictographs
. These pictorial representations eventually became simplified and more abstract.
Cuneiform texts were written on clay tablets
, on which symbols
were drawn with a blunt reed
used as a stylus
Writing made the administration of a large state far easier.
Transport was facilitated by waterways—by rivers and seas. The Mediterranean Sea
, at the juncture of three continents, fostered the projection of military power and the exchange of goods, ideas, and inventions. This era also saw new land technologies, such as horse-based cavalry and chariots, that allowed armies to move faster.
These developments led to the rise of territorial states and empires
. In Mesopotamia there prevailed a pattern of independent warring city-states and of a loose hegemony shifting from one city to another.
In Egypt, by contrast, first there was a dual division into Upper and Lower Egypt
which was shortly followed by unification of all the valley around 3100 BCE, followed by permanent pacification.
In Crete the Minoan civilization
had entered the Bronze Age by 2700 BCE and is regarded as the first civilization in Europe.
Over the next millennia, other river valleys saw monarchical empires rise to power.
In the 25th – 21st centuries BCE, the empires of Akkad
arose in Mesopotamia
Over the following millennia, civilizations developed across the world. Trade
increasingly became a source of power as states with access to important resources or controlling important trade routes rose to dominance.
By 1400 BCE,[contradictory] Mycenaean Greece
began to develop,
and ended with the Late Bronze Age collapse
that started to affect many Mediterranean civilizations between 1200 and 1150 BCE. In India, this era was the Vedic period
, which laid the foundations of Hinduism
and other cultural aspects of early Indian society, and ended in the 6th century BCE.
From around 550 BCE, many independent kingdoms and republics known as the Mahajanapadas
were established across the subcontinent.
As complex civilizations arose in the Eastern Hemisphere, the indigenous societies in the Americas
remained relatively simple and fragmented into diverse regional cultures. During the formative stage
(about 1500 BCE to 500 CE), more complex and centralized civilizations began to develop, mostly in what is now Mexico, Central America, and Peru. They included civilizations such as the Olmec
, and Nazca
. They developed agriculture, growing maize
, chili peppers
, and potatoes
, crops unique to the Americas, and creating distinct cultures and religions. These ancient indigenous societies would be greatly affected, for good and ill, by European contact during the early modern period.
In the East, three schools of thought would dominate Chinese thinking well into the 20th century. These were Taoism
, and Confucianism
. The Confucian tradition, which would become particularly dominant, looked for political morality
not to the force of law but to the power and example of tradition
. Confucianism would later spread to the Korean Peninsula
and toward Japan
In the West, the Greek
philosophical tradition, represented by Socrates
, and other philosophers,
along with accumulated science, technology, and culture, diffused throughout Europe
, Egypt, the Middle East
, and Northwest India, starting in the 4th century BCE after the conquests of Alexander III of Macedon
(Alexander the Great
The millennium from 500 BCE to 500 CE saw a series of empires of unprecedented size develop. Well-trained professional armies, unifying ideologies, and advanced bureaucracies created the possibility for emperors to rule over large domains whose populations could attain numbers upwards of tens of millions of subjects. The great empires
depended on military annexation
of territory and on the formation of defended settlements to become agricultural centres. The relative peace that the empires brought encouraged international trade
, most notably the massive trade routes in the Mediterranean
, the maritime trade web in the Indian Ocean, and the Silk Road
. In southern Europe, the Greeks
(and later the Romans
), in an era known as "classical antiquity
," established cultures whose practices, laws, and customs are considered the foundation of contemporary Western culture
In Europe, the Roman Empire
, centered in present-day Italy
, began in the 7th century BCE.
In the 3rd century BCE the Roman Republic
began expanding its territory through conquest and alliances.
By the time of Augustus
(63 BCE – 14 CE), the first Roman Emperor, Rome had already established dominion over most of the Mediterranean. The empire would continue to grow, controlling much of the land from England
, reaching its greatest extent under the emperor Trajan
(died 117 CE). In the 3rd century CE, the empire split into western and eastern regions, with (usually) separate emperors. The Western empire would fall
, in 476 CE, to German influence under Odoacer
. The eastern empire, now known as the Byzantine Empire
, with its capital at Constantinople
, would continue for another thousand years, until Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Empire
In China, the Qin dynasty
(221–206 BCE), the first imperial dynasty of China, was followed by the Han Empire
(206 BCE – 220 CE). The Han Dynasty was comparable in power and influence to the Roman Empire that lay at the other end of the Silk Road
. Han China developed advanced cartography, shipbuilding, and navigation. The Chinese invented blast furnaces
, and created finely tuned copper instruments. As with other empires during the Classical Period, Han China advanced significantly in the areas of government, education, mathematics, astronomy, technology, and many others.
In Africa, the Kingdom of Aksum
, centred in present-day Ethiopia, established itself by the 1st century CE as a major trading empire, dominating its neighbours in South Arabia
and controlling the Red Sea
trade. It minted its own currency and carved enormous monolithic steles
such as the Obelisk of Axum
to mark their emperors' graves.
Successful regional empires were also established in the Americas
, arising from cultures established as early as 2500 BCE.
, vast pre-Columbian societies were built, the most notable being the Zapotec Empire
(700 BCE – 1521 CE),
and the Maya civilization
, which reached its highest state of development during the Mesoamerican Classic period (c. 250–900 CE),
but continued throughout the Post-Classic period until the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century CE. Maya civilization arose as the Olmec mother culture
gradually declined. The great Mayan city-states
slowly rose in number and prominence, and Maya culture spread throughout the Yucatán
and surrounding areas. The later empire of the Aztecs
was built on neighbouring cultures and was influenced by conquered peoples such as the Toltecs
Some areas experienced slow but steady technological advances, with important developments such as the stirrup
and moldboard plough
arriving every few centuries. There were, however, in some regions, periods of rapid technological progress. Most important, perhaps, was the Hellenistic period
in the region of the Mediterranean
, during which hundreds of technologies were invented.
Such periods were followed by periods of technological decay, as during the Roman Empire
's decline and fall
and the ensuing early medieval
Declines, falls, and resurgence
The ancient empires faced common problems associated with maintaining huge armies and supporting a central bureaucracy. These costs fell most heavily on the peasantry
, while land-owning magnates
increasingly evaded centralized control and its costs. Barbarian
pressure on the frontiers hastened internal dissolution. China
's Han dynasty
fell into civil war
in 220 CE, beginning the Three Kingdoms
period, while its Roman
counterpart became increasingly decentralized and divided about the same time in what is known as the Crisis of the Third Century
. The great empires of Eurasia were all located on temperate and subtropical coastal plains. From the Central Asian
steppes, horse-based nomads, mainly Mongols and Turks, dominated a large part of the continent. The development of the stirrup
and the breeding of horses strong enough to carry a fully armed archer made the nomads a constant threat to the more settled civilizations.
The gradual break-up of the Roman Empire
, spanning several centuries after the 2nd century CE, coincided with the spread of Christianity
outward from the Middle East.
The Western Roman Empire fell under the domination of Germanic tribes
in the 5th century,
and these polities
gradually developed into a number of warring states, all associated in one way or another with the Catholic Church
The remaining part of the Roman Empire, in the eastern Mediterranean, continued as what came to be called the Byzantine Empire
Centuries later, a limited unity would be restored to western Europe through the establishment in 962 of a revived "Roman Empire",
later called the Holy Roman Empire
comprising a number of states in what is now Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Belgium, Italy, and parts of France.
In China, dynasties would rise and fall, but, by sharp contrast to the Mediterranean-European world, dynastic unity would be restored. After the fall of the Eastern Han Dynasty
and the demise of the Three Kingdoms, nomadic
tribes from the north began to invade in the 4th century, eventually conquering areas of northern China and setting up many small kingdoms.
The Sui Dynasty
successfully reunified the whole of China
and laid the foundations for a Chinese golden age under the Tang dynasty
The term "Post-classical Era", though derived from the Eurocentric name of the era of "Classical antiquity
", takes in a broader geographic sweep. The era is commonly dated from the 5th-century fall of the Western Roman Empire
, which fragmented into many separate kingdoms, some of which would later be confederated under the Holy Roman Empire
The Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire
survived until late in the Post-classical, or Medieval, period.
In western Africa, the Mali Empire
and the Songhai Empire
developed. On the southeast coast of Africa, Arabic ports were established where gold
, and other commodities were traded. This allowed Africa to join the Southeast Asia
trading system, bringing it contact with Asia; this, along with Muslim culture, resulted in the Swahili culture
experienced the successive Sui
, and early Ming
dynasties. Middle Eastern trade routes along the Indian Ocean, and the Silk Road
through the Gobi Desert, provided limited economic and cultural contact between Asian and European civilizations.
Greater Middle East
From their centre on the Arabian Peninsula, Muslims began their expansion during the early Postclassical Era. By 750 CE, they came to conquer most of the Near East, North Africa, and parts of Europe, ushering in an era of learning, science, and invention known as the Islamic Golden Age
. The knowledge and skills of the ancient Near East, Greece, and Persia were preserved in the Postclassical Era by Muslims, who also added new and important innovations from outside, such as the manufacture of paper from China and decimal positional numbering from India.
Much of this learning and development can be linked to geography. Even prior to Islam's presence, the city of Mecca
had served as a centre of trade in Arabia, and the Islamic prophet Muhammad
himself was a merchant. With the new Islamic tradition of the Hajj
, the pilgrimage to Mecca, the city became even more a centre for exchanging goods and ideas. The influence held by Muslim merchants over African-Arabian and Arabian-Asian trade routes was tremendous. As a result, Islamic civilization grew and expanded on the basis of its merchant economy, in contrast to the Europeans, Indians, and Chinese, who based their societies on an agricultural landholding nobility. Merchants brought goods and their Islamic faith to China
, Southeast Asia
, and the kingdoms of western Africa
, and returned with new discoveries and inventions.
Motivated by religion and dreams of conquest, European leaders launched a number of Crusades
to try to roll back Muslim power and retake the Holy Land
. The Crusades were ultimately unsuccessful and served more to weaken the Byzantine Empire
, especially with the 1204 sack of Constantinople
. The Byzantine Empire began to lose increasing amounts of territory to the Ottoman Turks. Arab domination of the region ended in the mid-11th century with the arrival of the Seljuq Turks
, migrating south from the Turkic homelands in Central Asia. In the early 13th century, a new wave of invaders, the Mongol Empire
, swept through the region but were eventually eclipsed by the Turks
and the founding of the Ottoman Empire
in modern-day Turkey
Starting with the Sui dynasty
(581–618), the Chinese began expanding into eastern Central Asia
, and confronted Turkic
nomads, who were becoming the most dominant ethnic group in Central Asia.
Originally the relationship was largely cooperative, but in 630 the Tang dynasty
began an offensive against the Turks,
capturing areas of the Mongolian Ordos Desert. In the 8th century, Islam began to penetrate the region and soon became the sole faith of most of the population, though Buddhism remained strong in the east.[weasel words]
The desert nomads of Arabia
could militarily match the nomads of the steppe, and the early Arab Empire
gained control over parts of Central Asia.
were the most powerful of the nomad groups in the 6th and 7th centuries, and controlled much of the region. In the 9th through 13th centuries the region was divided among several powerful states, including the Samanid Empire
the Seljuk Empire
and the Khwarezmid Empire
. The largest empire to rise out of Central Asia developed when Genghis Khan
united the tribes of Mongolia. The Mongol Empire
spread to comprise all of Central Asia and China as well as large parts of Russia and the Middle East.
After Genghis Khan died in 1227,
most of Central Asia continued to be dominated by a successor state, Chagatai Khanate
. In 1369, Timur
, a Turkic leader in the Mongol military tradition, conquered most of the region and founded the Timurid Empire
. Timur's large empire collapsed soon after his death, however. The region then became divided into a series of smaller khanates that were created by the Uzbeks
. These included the Khanate of Khiva
, the Khanate of Bukhara
, and the Khanate of Kokand
, all of whose capitals are located in present-day Uzbekistan
In the aftermath of the Byzantine–Sasanian wars
, the Caucasus
saw Armenia and Georgia flourish as independent realms free from foreign suzerainty. However, with the Byzantine and Sasanian empires exhausted from war, the Arabs were given the opportunity to proceed to the Caucasus during the early Muslim conquests
. By the 13th century, the arrival of the Mongols saw the region invaded and subjugated once again.
during the Early Middle Ages
was characterized by depopulation, deurbanization, and barbarian
invasion, all of which had begun in Late Antiquity
. The barbarian invaders formed their own new kingdoms in the remains of the Western Roman Empire
. In the 7th century, North Africa and the Middle East, once part of the Eastern Roman Empire
, became part of the Caliphate
after conquest by Muhammad
's successors. Although there were substantial changes in society and political structures, most of the new kingdoms incorporated as many of the existing Roman institutions as they could. Christianity expanded in western Europe, and monasteries were founded. In the 7th and 8th centuries the Franks
, under the Carolingian dynasty
, established an empire covering much of western Europe;
it lasted until the 9th century, when it succumbed to pressure from new invaders—the Vikings
, and Saracens
During the High Middle Ages
, which began after 1000, the population of Europe increased greatly as technological and agricultural innovations allowed trade to flourish and crop yields to increase. Manorialism
—the organization of peasants into villages that owed rents and labour service to nobles—and feudalism
—a political structure whereby knights
and lower-status nobles owed military service to their overlords in return for the right to rents from lands and manors
—were two of the ways of organizing medieval society that developed during the High Middle Ages. Kingdoms became more centralized after the decentralizing effects of the break-up of the Carolingian Empire
. The Crusades
, first preached in 1095, were an attempt by western Christians from nations such as the Kingdom of England
, the Kingdom of France
and the Holy Roman Empire
to regain control of the Holy Land
from the Muslims
and succeeded for long enough to establish some Christian states in the Near East. Italian merchants imported slaves to work in households or in sugar
Intellectual life was marked by scholasticism
and the founding of universities, while the building of Gothic cathedrals
was one of the outstanding artistic achievements of the age.
The Late Middle Ages
were marked by difficulties and calamities. Famine, plague, and war devastated the population of western Europe.
The Black Death
alone killed approximately 75 to 200 million people between 1347 and 1350.
It was one of the deadliest pandemics in human history. Starting in Asia, the disease reached Mediterranean and western Europe during the late 1340s,
and killed tens of millions of Europeans in six years; between a third and a half of the population perished.
and Eastern Europe
, in 1386, the Kingdom of Poland
and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania
(the latter including territories of modern Belarus
), facing depredations by the Teutonic Knights
and later also threats from Muscovy
, the Crimean Tatars
, and the Ottoman Empire
, formed a personal union
through the marriage of Poland's Queen Jadwiga
to Lithuanian Grand Duke
Jogaila, who became King Władysław II Jagiełło
of Poland. For the next four centuries, until the 18th-century Partitions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
, and Austria
, the two polities conducted a federated condominium
, long Europe's largest state, which welcomed diverse ethnicities and religions, including most of the world's Jews
, furthered scientific thought (e.g., Copernicus
's heliocentric theory
), and—in a last-ditch effort to preserve their sovereignty
—adopted the Constitution of 3 May 1791
, the world's second modern written constitution after the U.S. Constitution
that went into effect in 1789.
saw the birth of several states, including the Kingdom of Kongo
. In what is now modern Southern Africa
, native Africans created various kingdoms such as the Kingdom of Mutapa
. They flourished through trade with the Swahili people
on the East African coast. They built large defensive stone structures without mortar such as Great Zimbabwe
, capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe
, capital of Kingdom of Butua
, and Danangombe
(Dhlo-Dhlo), capital of the Rozwi Empire
. The Swahili people themselves were the inhabitants of the East African coast from Kenya to Mozambique who traded extensively with Asians and Arabs, who introduced them to Islam. They built many port cities such as Mombasa
, which were known to Chinese sailors under Zheng He
and Islamic geographers.
In northern India
, after the fall (550 CE) of the Gupta Empire
, the region was divided into a complex and fluid network of smaller kingly states.
Early Muslim incursions began in the west in 712 CE, when the Arab Umayyad Caliphate
annexed much of present-day Pakistan
. Arab military advance was largely halted at that point, but Islam still spread in India, largely due to the influence of Arab merchants along the western coast.
Post-classical dynasties in South India included those of the Chalukyas
, the Hoysalas
, the Cholas
, the Islamic Mughals
, the Marathas
, and the Mysores
. Science, engineering, art, literature, astronomy, and philosophy flourished under the patronage of these kings.
After a period of relative disunity, China
was reunified by the Sui dynasty
in 581
and under the succeeding Tang dynasty
(618–907) China entered a Golden Age
The Tang Empire competed with the Tibetan Empire
(618–842) for control of areas in Inner and Central Asia.
The Tang dynasty eventually splintered, however, and after half a century of turmoil
the Song dynasty
reunified China,
when it was, according to William McNeill
, the "richest, most skilled, and most populous country on earth".
Pressure from nomadic empires to the north became increasingly urgent. By 1142, North China had been lost to the Jurchens
in the Jin–Song Wars
, and the Mongol Empireconquered all of China
in 1279, along with almost half of Eurasia's landmass. After about a century of Mongol Yuan dynasty
rule, the ethnic Chinese reasserted control with the founding of the Ming dynasty
, the imperial lineage had been established by this time, and during the Asuka period
(538–710) the Yamato Province
developed into a clearly centralized state. Buddhism
was introduced, and there was an emphasis on the adoption of elements of Chinese culture and Confucianism
. The Nara period
of the 8th century
marked the emergence of a strong Japanese state and is often portrayed as a golden age.
During this period, the imperial government undertook great public works, including government offices, temples, roads, and irrigation systems.
The Heian period
(794 to 1185) saw the peak of imperial power, followed by the rise of militarized clans, and the beginning of Japanese feudalism
. The feudal period of Japanese history, dominated by powerful regional lords (daimyōs
) and the military rule of warlords (shōguns
) such as the Ashikaga shogunate
and Tokugawa shogunate
, stretched from 1185 to 1868. The emperor remained, but mostly as a figurehead, and the power of merchants was weak.
saw the end of the Three Kingdoms
era, the three kingdoms being Goguryeo
. Silla conquered Baekje in 660, and Goguryeo in 668,
marking the beginning of the North–South States Period
(남북국시대), with Unified Silla
in the south and Balhae
, a successor state to Goguryeo, in the north.
In 892 CE, this arrangement reverted to the Later Three Kingdoms
, with Goguryeo (then called Taebong
and eventually named Goryeo
) emerging as dominant, unifying the entire peninsula by 936.
The founding Goryeo dynasty ruled until 1392, succeeded by the Joseon
dynasty, which ruled for approximately 500 years.
Starting in the 9th century, the Pagan Kingdom
rose to prominence in modern Myanmar
. Its collapse brought about political fragmention that ended with the rise of the Toungoo Empire
in the 16th century.
In the region of Oceania
, the Tuʻi Tonga Empire
was founded in the 10th century CE and expanded between 1200 and 1500. Tongan culture, language, and hegemony spread widely throughout Eastern Melanesia
, and Central Polynesia
during this period,
influencing East 'Uvea, Rotuma, Futuna, Samoa, and Niue, as well as specific islands and parts of Micronesia (Kiribati, Pohnpei, and miscellaneous outliers), Vanuatu, and New Caledonia (specifically, the Loyalty Islands
, with the main island being predominantly populated by the Melanesian Kanak people
and their cultures).
At around the same time, a powerful thalassocracy
appeared in Eastern Polynesia, centered around the Society Islands
, specifically on the sacred Taputapuatea marae
, which drew in Eastern Polynesian colonists from places as far away as Hawaii, New Zealand (Aotearoa
), and the Tuamotu Islands for political, spiritual and economic reasons, until the unexplained collapse of regular long-distance voyaging in the Eastern Pacific a few centuries before Europeans began exploring the area.
Indigenous written records from this period are virtually nonexistent, as it seems that all Pacific Islanders, with the possible exception of the enigmatic Rapa Nui
and their currently undecipherable Rongorongo
script, had no writing systems of any kind until after their introduction by European colonists. However, some indigenous prehistories can be estimated and academically reconstructed through careful, judicious analysis of native oral traditions, colonial ethnography, archeology, physical anthropology, and linguistics research.
In North America
, this period saw the rise of the Mississippian culture
in the modern-day United States
c. 800 CE, marked by the extensive 12th-century urban complex at Cahokia
. The Ancestral Puebloans
and their predecessors (9th – 13th centuries) built extensive permanent settlements, including stone structures that would remain the largest buildings in North America until the 19th century.
"Modern Era" redirects here. For the geological and paleontological sense, see Holocene
In the linear, global, historiographical
approach, modern history
(the "modern period," the "modern era," "modern times") is the history of the period following post-classical history
(in Europe known as the "Middle Ages
"), spanning from about 1500 to the present. "Contemporary history
" includes events from around 1945 to the present. (The definitions of both terms, "modern history" and "contemporary history", have changed over time, as more history has occurred, and so have their start dates.)
Modern history can be further broken down into periods:
- The early modern period began around 1500 and ended around 1815. Notable historical milestones included the continued European Renaissance (whose start is dated variously between 1200 and 1401), the Age of Exploration, the Islamic gunpowder empires, the Protestant Reformation, and the American Revolution. With the Scientific Revolution, new information about the world was discovered via empirical observation and the scientific method, by contrast with the earlier emphasis on reason and "innate knowledge". The Scientific Revolution received impetus from Johannes Gutenberg's introduction to Europe of printing, using movable type, and from the invention of the telescope and microscope. Globalization was fuelled by international trade and colonization.
- The late modern period began sometime around 1750–1815, as Europe experienced the Industrial Revolution and the military-political turbulence of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, which were followed by the Pax Britannica. The late modern period continues either to the end of World War II, in 1945, or to the present. Other notable historical milestones included the Great Divergence and the Russian Revolution.
- Contemporary history (a period also dubbed Pax Americana in geopolitics) includes historic events from approximately 1945 that are closely relevant to the present time. Major developments include the Cold War, continual hot wars and proxy wars, the Jet Age, the DNA revolution, the Green Revolution,[b] artificial satellites and global positioning systems (GPS), development of the supranational European Union, the Information Age, rapid economic development in India and China, increasing terrorism, and a daunting array of global ecological crises headed by the imminent existential threat of runaway global warming.
The defining features of the modern era developed predominantly in Europe, and so different periodizations are sometimes applied to other parts of the world. When the European periods are used globally, this is often in the context of contact with European culture in the Age of Discovery.
Early modern period
The "Early Modern period
was the period between the Middle Ages and the Industrial Revolution
—roughly 1500 to 1800.
The Early Modern period was characterized by the rise of science, and by increasingly rapid technological progress
, and the nation state
. Capitalist economies
began their rise, initially in northern Italian republics
such as Genoa
. The Early Modern period saw the rise and dominance of mercantilist
economic theory, and the decline and eventual disappearance, in much of the European sphere, of feudalism
, serfdom, and the power of the Catholic Church
. The period included the Protestant Reformation
, the disastrous Thirty Years' War
, the Age of Exploration
, European colonial expansion
, the peak of European witch-hunting
, the Scientific Revolution
, and the Age of Enlightenment
– the "rebirth" of classical culture, beginning in the 14th century and extending into the 16th – comprised the rediscovery of the classical
world's cultural, scientific, and technological achievements, and the economic
and social rise of Europe.
During this period, European powers came to dominate most of the world. Although the most developed regions of European classical civilization were more urbanized than any other region of the world, European civilization had undergone a lengthy period of gradual decline and collapse. During the Early Modern Period, Europe was able to regain its dominance; historians still debate the causes.
Europe's success in this period stands in contrast to other regions. For example, one of the most advanced civilizations of the Middle Ages was China. It had developed an advanced monetary economy
by 1000 CE. China had a free peasantry
who were no longer subsistence farmers, and could sell their produce and actively participate in the market. According to Adam Smith
, writing in the 18th century, China had long been one of the richest, most fertile, best cultivated, most industrious, most urbanized, and most prosperous countries in the world. It enjoyed a technological advantage and had a monopoly in cast iron
production, piston bellows, suspension bridge
, and the compass
. However, it seemed to have long since stopped progressing. Marco Polo
, who visited China in the 13th century, describes its cultivation, industry, and populousness almost in the same terms as travellers would in the 18th century.
One theory of Europe's rise holds that Europe's geography
played an important role in its success. The Middle East, India and China are all ringed by mountains and oceans but, once past these outer barriers, are nearly flat. By contrast, the Pyrenees
and other mountain ranges run through Europe, and the continent is also divided by several seas. This gave Europe some degree of protection from the peril of Central Asian invaders. Before the era of firearms, these nomads were militarily superior to the agricultural states on the periphery of the Eurasian continent and, as they broke out into the plains of northern India or the valleys of China, were all but unstoppable. These invasions were often devastating. The Golden Age of Islam
was ended by the Mongol sack of Baghdad
in 1258. India and China were subject to periodic invasions
, and Russia spent a couple of centuries under the Mongol-Tatar
yoke. Central and western Europe, logistically more distant from the Central Asian heartland, proved less vulnerable to these threats.
Geography contributed to important geopolitical
differences. For most of their histories, China, India, and the Middle East were each unified under a single dominant power that expanded until it reached the surrounding mountains and deserts.
In 1600 the Ottoman Empire
controlled almost all the Middle East,
the Ming dynasty
and the Mughal Empire
held sway over India. By contrast, Europe was almost always divided into a number of warring states. Pan-European empires, with the notable exception of the Roman Empire
, tended to collapse soon after they arose. Another doubtless important geographic factor in the rise of Europe was the Mediterranean Sea, which, for millennia, had functioned as a maritime superhighway fostering the exchange of goods, people, ideas and inventions.
Nearly all the agricultural civilizations have been heavily constrained by their environments
. Productivity remained low, and climatic
changes easily instigated boom-and-bust cycles
that brought about civilizations' rise and fall. By about 1500, however, there was a qualitative change in world history. Technological
advance and the wealth
generated by trade
gradually brought about a widening of possibilities.
Many have also argued that Europe's institutions allowed it to expand, that property rights
economics were stronger than elsewhere due to an ideal of freedom
peculiar to Europe. In recent years, however, scholars such as Kenneth Pomeranz
have challenged this view. Europe's maritime expansion unsurprisingly—given the continent's geography—was largely the work of its Atlantic states: Portugal, Spain, England, France, and the Netherlands. Initially the Portuguese
and Spanish Empires
were the predominant conquerors and sources of influence, and their union resulted in the Iberian Union
, the first global empire on which the "sun never set
". Soon the more northern English, French and Dutch began to dominate the Atlantic. In a series of wars fought in the 17th and 18th centuries, culminating with the Napoleonic Wars
, Britain emerged as the new world power.
, this period saw a decline in many civilizations and an advancement in others. The Swahili Coast
declined after coming under the Portuguese Empire
and later the Omani Empire
. In West Africa
, the Songhai Empire
fell to the Moroccans in 1591 when they invaded with guns. The Bono State
which gave birth to numerous Akan
states in search of gold such as Akwamu
The South African Kingdom of Zimbabwe
gave way to smaller kingdoms such as Mutapa
, and Rozvi
suffered from the 1531 invasion from neighbouring Muslim Adal Sultanate
, and in 1769 entered the Zemene Mesafint
(Age of Princes) during which the Emperor became a figurehead and the country was ruled by warlords, though the royal line later would recover under Emperor Tewodros II
. The Ajuran Sultanate
, in the Horn of Africa
, began to decline in the 17th century, succeeded by the Geledi Sultanate
. Other civilizations in Africa advanced during this period. The Oyo Empire
experienced its golden age, as did the Kingdom of Benin
. The Ashanti Empire
rose to power in what is modern day Ghana
in 1670. The Kingdom of Kongo
also thrived during this period.
, the Ming
gave way in 1644 to the Qing
, the last Chinese imperial dynasty, which would rule until 1912. Japan
experienced its Azuchi–Momoyama period
(1568–1603), followed by the Edo period
(1603–1868). The Korean Joseon dynasty
(1392–1910) ruled throughout this period, successfully repelling 16th- and 17th-century invasions from Japan and China. Japan and China were significantly affected during this period by expanded maritime trade with Europe, particularly the Portuguese in Japan. During the Edo period, Japan would pursue isolationist policies, to eliminate foreign influences.
On the Indian subcontinent
, the Delhi Sultanate
and the Deccan sultanates
would give way, beginning in the 16th century, to the Mughal Empire
Starting in the northwest, the Mughal Empire would by the late 17th century come to rule the entire subcontinent,
except for the southernmost Indian provinces, which would remain independent. Against the Muslim Mughal Empire, the Hindu Maratha Empire
was founded on the west coast in 1674, gradually gaining territory—a majority of present-day India—from the Mughals over several decades, particularly in the Mughal–Maratha Wars
(1681–1701). The Maratha Empire would in 1818 fall under the control of the British East India Company
, with all former Maratha and Mughal authority devolving in 1858 to the British Raj
In 1511 the Portuguese overthrew the Malacca Sultanate
in present-day Malaysia and Indonesian Sumatra
. The Portuguese held this important trading territory (and the valuable associated navigational strait) until overthrown by the Dutch in 1641. The Johor Sultanate
, centred on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, became the dominant trading power in the region. European colonization
expanded with the Dutch in the Netherlands East Indies
, the Portuguese in East Timor
, and the Spanish in the Philippines
. Into the 19th century, European expansion would affect the whole of Southeast Asia, with the British in Myanmar
and the French in Indochina
. Only Thailand
would successfully resist colonization.
The Pacific islands of Oceania
would also be affected by European contact, starting with the circumnavigational voyage of Ferdinand Magellan
, who landed on the Marianas
and other islands in 1521. Also notable were the voyages (1642–44) of Abel Tasman
to present-day Australia
, New Zealand
and nearby islands, and the voyages (1768–1779) of Captain James Cook
, who made the first recorded European contact with Hawaii
. Britain would found its first colony on Australia in 1788.
In the Americas
, the western European powers
vigorously colonized the newly discovered continents, largely displacing the indigenous populations
, and destroying the advanced civilizations of the Aztecs
and the Incas
. Spain, Portugal, Britain, and France all made extensive territorial claims, and undertook large-scale settlement, including the importation of large numbers of African slaves
. Portugal claimed Brazil
. Spain claimed the rest of South America
, and southern North America
. Britain colonized the east coast of North America, and France colonized the central region of North America. Russia made incursions onto the northwest coast of North America, with a first colony in present-day Alaska
in 1784, and the outpost of Fort Ross
in present-day California
In 1762, in the midst of the Seven Years' War
, France secretly ceded most of its North American claims to Spain in the Treaty of Fontainebleau
. Thirteen of the British colonies declared independence as the United States of America
in 1776, ratified by the Treaty of Paris
in 1783, ending the American Revolutionary War
. Napoleon Bonaparte
won France's claims back from Spain in the Napoleonic Wars
in 1800, but sold them to the United States in 1803 as the Louisiana Purchase
, Ivan the Terrible
was crowned in 1547 as the first Tsar
of Russia, and by annexing the Turkic khanates in the east, transformed Russia into a regional power. The countries of western Europe, while expanding prodigiously through technological advancement and colonial conquest, competed with each other economically and militarily in a state of almost constant war
. Often the wars had a religious dimension
, either Catholic versus Protestant, or (primarily in eastern Europe) Christian versus Muslim. Wars of particular note include the Thirty Years' War
, the War of the Spanish Succession
, the Seven Years' War
, and the French Revolutionary Wars
. Napoleon came to power in France in 1799, an event foreshadowing the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century.
Late modern period
After Europeans had achieved influence and control over the Americas, imperial
activities turned to the lands of Asia and Oceania. In the 19th century the European states had social and technological advantage over Eastern lands.
Britain gained control of the Indian subcontinent, Egypt and the Malay Peninsula
; the French took Indochina
; while the Dutch cemented their control over the Dutch East Indies
. The British also colonized Australia, New Zealand and South Africa with large numbers of British colonists emigrating to these colonies. Russia colonized large pre-agricultural areas of Siberia. In the late 19th century, the European powers divided the remaining areas of Africa
. Within Europe, economic and military challenges created a system of nation states
, and ethno-linguistic groupings began to identify themselves as distinctive nations with aspirations for cultural and political autonomy. This nationalism
would become important to peoples across the world in the 20th century.
The 20th century opened with Europe at an apex of wealth and power, and with much of the world under its direct colonial
control or its indirect domination. Much of the rest of the world was influenced by heavily Europeanized nations: the United States and Japan.
As the century unfolded, however, the global system dominated by rival powers was subjected to severe strains, and ultimately yielded to a more fluid structure of independent nations organized on Western models.
In the war's aftermath, powerful ideologies rose to prominence. The Russian Revolution
of 1917 created the first communist
state, while the 1920s and 1930s saw militaristic fascist
dictatorships gain control in Italy, Germany, Spain, and elsewhere.
Civilians (here, Mỹ Lai
, Việt Nam
, 1968) suffered greatly in 20th-century wars.
When World War II
ended in 1945, the United Nations
was founded in the hope of preventing future wars,
as the League of Nations
had been formed following World War I
The war had left two countries, the United States and the Soviet Union, with principal power to influence international affairs.
Each was suspicious of the other and feared a global spread of the other's, respectively capitalist
, political-economic model. This led to the Cold War
, a forty-five-year stand-off and arms race
between the United States and its allies, on one hand, and the Soviet Union and its allies on the other.
The Cold War ended in 1991, when the Soviet Union disintegrated
, in part due to inability to compete economically with the United States and western Europe. However, the United States likewise began to show signs of slippage in its geopolitical influence,[f]
even as its private sector
, now less inhibited by the claims of the public sector
, increasingly sought private advantage to the prejudice of the public weal
In the early postwar decades, the colonies in Asia and Africa of the Belgian, British, Dutch, French, and other west European empires won their formal independence.
However, these newly independent countries often faced challenges in the form of neocolonialism
, sociopolitical disarray, poverty, illiteracy, and endemic tropical diseases
Most Western European and Central European countries gradually formed a political and economic community, the European Union
, which expanded eastward to include former Soviet-satellite countries
The European Union's effectiveness was handicapped by the immaturity of its common economic and political institutions,[l]
somewhat comparable to the inadequacy of United States institutions under the Articles of Confederation
prior to the adoption of the U.S. Constitution
that came into force in 1789. Asian, African, and South American countries followed suit and began taking tentative steps toward forming their own respective continental associations
Cold War preparations to deter or to fight a third world war accelerated advances in technologies
that, though conceptualized before World War II, had been implemented for that war's exigencies, such as jet aircraft
, and electronic computers
. In the decades after World War II, these advances led to jet travel, artificial satellites
with innumerable applications including global positioning systems
(GPS), and the Internet
—inventions that have revolutionized the movement of people, ideas, and information.
The 21st century has been marked by growing economic globalization
and integration, with consequent increased risk to interlinked economies, as exemplified by the Great Recession
of the late 2000s and early 2010s.
This period has also seen the expansion of communications with mobile phones
and the Internet
, which have caused fundamental societal
changes in business, politics, and individuals' personal lives.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic
became the first pandemic in the 21st century to substantially disrupt global trading and cause recessions in the global economy.
- ^ The very word "civilization" comes from the Latin civilis, meaning "civil," related to civis ("citizen") and civitas ("city" or "city-state").
- ^ However, the Green Revolution has brought unintended consequences: "India originally possessed some 110,000 landraces of rice with diverse and valuable properties. These include enrichment in vital nutrients and the ability to withstand flood, drought, salinity or pest infestations. The Green Revolution covered fields with a few high-yielding varieties, so that roughly 90 percent of the landraces vanished from farmers' collections. High-yielding varieties require expensive inputs. They perform abysmally on marginal farms or in adverse environmental conditions, forcing poor farmers into debt."
- ^ "Early Modern," historically speaking, refers to Western European history from 1501 (after the widely accepted end of the Late Middle Ages; the transition period was the 15th century) to either 1750 or c. 1790–1800, by whichever epoch is favoured by a school of scholars defining the period—which, in many cases of periodization, differs as well within a discipline such as art, philosophy or history.
- ^ The Age of Enlightenment has also been referred to as the Age of Reason. Historians also include the late 17th century, which is typically known as the Age of Reason or Age of Rationalism, as part of the Enlightenment; however, contemporary historians have considered the Age of Reason distinct to the ideas developed in the Enlightenment. The use of the term here includes both Ages under a single all-inclusive time-frame.
- ^ James Gleick writes in The New York Review of Books: "'If we can put a man on the moon, why can's we...?' became a cliché even before [the] Apollo [program] succeeded.... Now... the missing predicate is the urgent one: why can't we stop destroying the climate of our own planet?... I say leave it [the moon] alone for a while."
- ^ "In the aftermath of the disintegration of the Soviet Union..." writes Graham Allison, "Americans were... caught up in a surge of triumphalism." Francis Fukuyama, in a 1992 best-selling book, proclaimed The End of History, the victory of free-market economics, and the permanent ascendancy of Western liberal democracy. But it soon became evident, writes Allison, that "the end of the Cold War [had] produced a unipolar moment, not a unipolar era. [T]he U.S. economy, which [had] accounted for half of the world's GDP after World War II, had fallen to less than a quarter of global GDP by the end of the Cold War and stands at just one-seventh today. For a nation whose core strategy has been to overwhelm challenges with resources, this decline calls into question the terms of U.S. leadership.
- ^ "In the advanced economies of the West, from 1945 to around 1975," writes Robin Varghese in Foreign Affairs, "voters showed how politics could tame markets, putting officials in power who pursued a range of social democratic policies without damaging the economy. This period... saw a historically unique combination of high growth, increasing productivity, rising real wages, technological innovation, and expanding systems of social insurance in Western Europe, North America, and Japan.... Since the 1970s, businesses across the developed world have been cutting their wage bills not only through labor-saving technological innovations but also by pushing for regulatory changes and developing new forms of employment. These include just-in-time contracts, which shift risks to workers; noncompete clauses, which reduce bargaining power; and freelance arrangements, which exempt businesses from providing employees with benefits such as health insurance. The result has been that since the beginning of the twenty-first century, labor's share of GDP has fallen steadily in many developed economies.... The challenge today is to identify... a mixed economy that can successfully deliver what the [1945–75] golden age did, this time with greater gender and racial equality to boot."
- ^ Historian Christopher R. Browning writes: "In the first three postwar decades, workers and management effectively shared the increased wealth produced by the growth in productivity. Since the 1970s that social contract has collapsed, union membership and influence have declined, wage growth has stagnated, and inequality in wealth has grown sharply."
- ^ Economics Nobel laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz writes in Scientific American, in part: "[T]he U.S. has the highest level of economic inequality among developed countries.... Since the mid-1970s the rules of the economic game have been rewritten... globally and nationally [to] advantage the rich... in a political system that is itself rigged through gerrymandering, voter suppression and the influence of money.... [Enforcement of] antitrust laws, first enacted [in 1890] in the U.S. to prevent the agglomeration of market power, has weakened... Technological changes have concentrated market power in the hands of a few global players... part[ly] because of "network effects"... [E]stablished firms with deep war chests have enormous power to crush competitors and ultimately raise prices.... A concerted attack on unions has almost halved the fraction of unionized workers in the [U.S.], to about 11 percent.... U.S. investment treaties such as NAFTA protect investors against a tightening of environmental and health regulations abroad. [Such] provisions... enhance the credibility of a company's threat to move abroad if workers do not temper their demands.... [I]t is hard to imagine meaningful change without a concerted effort to take money out of politics..."
- ^ The president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, urges the governments of both developed and developing countries to invest more in human capital, "which is the sum total of a population's health, skills, knowledge, experience, and habits." Increased levels of quality education increase a person's income. "Socioemotional skills, such as grit and conscientiousness, often have equally large economic returns.... Health also matters. [I]n Kenya, [administration of inexpensive] deworming drugs in childhood [has] reduced school absences and raised wages in adulthood by... 20 percent... Proper nutrition and stimulation in utero and during early childhood improve physical and mental well-being later in life. [F]ocusing on human capital during the first 1,000 days of a child's life is one of the most cost-effective investments governments can make.... Human capital doesn't materialize on its own; it must be nurtured by the state."
- ^ William Hardy McNeill, in his 1963 book The Rise of the West, appears to have interpreted the decline of the European empires as paradoxically being due to Westernization itself, writing that "Although European empires have decayed since 1945, and the separate nation-states of Europe have been eclipsed as centers of political power by the melding of peoples and nations occurring under the aegis of both the American and Russian governments, it remains true that, since the end of World War II, the scramble to imitate and appropriate science, technology, and other aspects of Western culture has accelerated enormously all round the world. Thus the dethronement of western Europe from its brief mastery of the globe coincided with (and was caused by) an unprecedented, rapid Westernization of all the peoples of the earth.":566 McNeill further writes that "The rise of the West, as intended by the title and meaning of this book, is only accelerated when one or another Asian or African people throws off European administration by making Western techniques, attitudes, and ideas sufficiently their own to permit them to do so".:807
- ^ James McAuley writes in The New York Review of Books, 15 August 2019, pp. 47–48: "There was never a single moment that marked the definitive establishment of the European Union, which... has continued to define itself since World War II. [T]he major turning points have all been quiet steps on the way to further economic integration while preserving national sovereignty. Today there is only an incomplete monetary union without a real political contract to manage it... [Nevertheless, the Union's] various peoples have grown remarkably closer... The European Union now has open borders, a single market from Portugal to the Baltics, and more or less monthly meetings of member state leaders [the European Council]. What's more, those member states are now closer to each other than they are to the United States... [T]his transformation has occurred informally and organically... [R]obust supranational politics are taking root in Europe... Luuk van Middelaar writes: '[W]hat unites us as Europeans on this continent is bigger and stronger than anything that divides us.'"
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