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World, History of the. People have probably lived on the earth about 2 million years. But the story of world history begins only about 5,500 years ago with the invention of writing. The period before people began to write is usually called prehistory.

Archaeologists have pieced together the story of prehistory by studying what the people left behind, including artwork, tools, ruins of buildings, fossils, and even their own skeletons. Such objects provide the main evidence of what prehistoric people were like and how they lived. For a description of life in prehistoric times.

The first traces of writing date from about 3500 B.C. From then on, people could record their own history. By writing down their experiences, they could tell future generations what they were like and how they lived. From these documents, we can learn firsthand about the rise and fall of civilizations and the course of other important events. The history of the world--from the first civilizations to the present--is based largely on what has been written down by peoples through the ages.

The development of agriculture about 9,000 B.C. brought about a great revolution in human life. Prehistoric people who learned to farm no longer had to roam in search of food. Instead, they could settle in one place. Some of their settlements grew to become the world's first cities. People in the cities learned new skills and developed specialized occupations. Some became builders and craftworkers. Others became merchants and priests. Eventually, systems of writing were invented. These developments gave rise to the first civilizations.

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For hundreds of years, the earliest civilizations had little contact with one another and so developed independently. The progress each civilization made depended on the natural resources available to it and on the inventiveness of its people. As time passed, civilizations advanced and spread, and the world's population rose steadily. The peoples of various civilizations began to exchange ideas and skills. Within each civilization, groups of people with distinctive customs and languages emerged. In time, some peoples, such as the Romans, gained power over others and built huge empires. Some of these empires flourished for centuries before collapsing. Great religions and later science and scholarship developed as people wondered about the meaning of human life and the mysteries of nature.

About 500 years ago, one civilization--that of western Europe--started to exert a powerful influence throughout the world. The Europeans began to make great advances in learning and the arts, and they came to surpass the rest of the world in scientific and technological achievements. The nations of Europe sent explorers and military forces to distant lands. They set up overseas colonies, first in the Americas and then on other continents, and conquered other regions. As a result, Western customs, skills, political ideas, and religious beliefs spread across much of the world.

Today, the many peoples of the world continue to be separated by different cultural traditions. But they also have more in common than ever before. Worldwide systems of communications and transportation have broken down barriers of time and distance and rapidly increased the exchange of ideas and information between peoples. However far apart people may live from one another, they are affected more and more by the same political and economic changes. In some way, almost everyone can now be affected by a war or a political crisis in a faraway land or by a rise in petroleum prices in distant oil-producing countries. The separate cultures of the world seem to be blending into a common world culture. Much of world history is the story of the way different civilizations have come closer together.

Early centers of civilization

For hundreds of thousands of years, prehistoric people lived by hunting, fishing, and gathering wild plants. Even small groups of people had to roam over large areas of land to find enough food. A group usually stayed in one place only a few days. The discovery of agriculture gradually ended the nomadic way of life for many people. After prehistoric men and women learned to raise crops and domesticate animals, they no longer had to wander about in search of food. They could thus begin to settle in villages.

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Agriculture was developed at different times in different regions of the world. People in the Middle East began to grow cereal grasses and other plants about 9000 B.C. They also domesticated goats and sheep at about that time, and they later tamed cattle. In southeastern Asia, people had begun raising crops by about 7000 B.C. People who lived in what is now Mexico probably learned to grow crops about 7000 B.C.

The invention of farming paved the way for the development of civilization. As prehistoric people became better farmers, they began to produce enough food to support larger villages. In time, some farming villages developed into the first cities. The plentiful food supplies enabled more and more people to give up farming for other jobs. These people began to develop the arts, crafts, trades, and other activities of civilized life.

Agriculture also stimulated technological and social changes. Farmers invented the hoe, sickle, and other tools to make their work easier. The hair of domestic animals and fibers from such plants as cotton and flax were used to make the first textiles. People built ovens to bake the bread they made from cultivated grain and learned to use hotter ovens to harden pottery. The practice of agriculture required many people to work together to prepare the fields for planting and to harvest the crops. New systems of government were developed to direct such group activities.

The changes brought about by agriculture took thousands of years to spread widely across the earth. By about 3500 B.C., civilization began. It started first in Southwest Asia. Three other early civilizations developed in Africa and in south and east Asia. All these early civilizations arose in river valleys, where fertile soil and a readily available water supply made agriculture easier than elsewhere. The valleys were (1) the Tigris-Euphrates Valley in the Middle East, (2) the Nile Valley in Egypt, (3) the Indus Valley in what is now Pakistan, and (4) the Huang He Valley in northern China.

While civilization was developing in the four valleys, people in most other parts of the world were still following their old ways of life. Little cultural progress was being made in such regions as northern and central Europe, central and southern Africa, northern and southeastern Asia, and most of North America. In parts of Central and South America, the people were developing some new ways of life. But advanced civilizations did not appear there until hundreds of years later.

The Tigris-Euphrates Valley. One of the most fertile regions of the ancient world lay between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in southern Mesopotamia (now Iraq). Silt deposited by the rivers formed a rich topsoil ideal for growing crops. By the 5000's B.C., many people had settled in villages in the lower part of the Tigris-Euphrates Valley, an area later called Sumer.

The Sumerians lived by farming, fishing, and hunting the wild fowl of the river marshes. They built dikes to control the flooding of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and irrigation canals to carry water to their fields. By about 3500 B.C., some Sumerian farm villages had grown into small cities, which marked the beginning of the world's first civilization. A number of these cities developed into powerful city-states by about 3200 B.C.

The Sumerians produced one of the greatest achievements in world history. By about 3500 B.C., they had invented the first form of writing. It consisted of picturelike symbols scratched into clay. The symbols were later simplified to produce cuneiform, a system of writing that used wedge-shaped characters (see CUNEIFORM). Archaeologists have found thousands of clay tablets with Sumerian writings. These tablets show the high level of development of the Sumerian culture. They include historical and legal documents; letters; economic records; literary and religious texts; and studies in mathematics, astronomy, and medicine.

The Sumerians used baked bricks to build great palaces and towering temples called ziggurats in their cities. They believed that their gods lived on the tops of the ziggurats. Sumerian craftworkers produced board games, beautifully designed jewelry, metalware, musical instruments, decorative pottery, and stone seals engraved with pictures and inscriptions. The Sumerians invented the potter's wheel and were among the first people to brew beer and make glass. Their system of counting in units of 60 is the basis of the 360-degree circle and the 60-minute hour. For more information on the Sumerian civilization, see SUMER.

The Sumerian city-states had no central government or unified army and continually struggled among themselves for power. As time passed, they were increasingly threatened by neighboring Semitic peoples, who were attracted by the growing wealth of the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. During the 2300's B.C., a Semitic king, Sargon of Akkad, conquered Sumer. Sargon united all Mesopotamia under his rule, creating the world's first empire. The Akkadians combined Sumerian civilization with their own culture. Their rule lasted more than 60 years. Then invaders from the northeast overran the empire. These invaders soon left Mesopotamia, and Sumer was once again divided into separate city-states. One city-state, Ur, briefly controlled all the others.

By about 2000 B.C., the Sumerians had completely lost all political power to invading Semites. Mesopotamia then broke up into a number of small kingdoms under various Semitic rulers. The city of Babylon became the center of one kingdom. The Babylonian rulers gradually extended their authority over all Mesopotamian peoples. The greatest Babylonian king was Hammurabi, who ruled from about 1792 to 1750 B.C. Hammurabi developed one of the first law codes in history. The famous Code of Hammurabi contained nearly 300 legal provisions, including many Sumerian and Akkadian laws. It covered such matters as divorce, false accusation, land and business regulations, and military service. See BABYLONIA; HAMMURABI.

The Nile Valley. The civilization of ancient Egypt began to develop in the valley of the Nile River about 3100 B.C. Agriculture flourished in the valley, where the floodwaters of the Nile deposited rich soil year after year. Beyond the Nile Valley lay an uninhabited region of desert and rock. Egyptian culture thus developed with little threat of invasions by neighboring peoples.

During the 3000's B.C., Egypt consisted of two large kingdoms. Lower Egypt covered the Nile Delta. Upper Egypt lay south of the delta on the two banks of the river. About 3100 B.C., according to legend, King Menes of Upper Egypt conquered Lower Egypt and united the two kingdoms. Menes also founded the first Egyptian dynasty (series of rulers in the same family). The rulers of ancient Egypt were believed to be divine.

The ancient Egyptians borrowed little from other cultures. They invented their own form of writing--an elaborate system of symbols known as hieroglyphics (see HIEROGLYPHICS). They also invented papyrus, a paperlike material made from the stems of reeds. The Egyptians developed one of the first religions to emphasize life after death. They tried to make sure their dead enjoyed a good life in the next world. The Egyptians built great tombs and mummified (embalmed and dried) corpses to preserve them. They filled the tombs with clothing, food, furnishings, and jewelry for use in the next world. The most famous Egyptian tombs are gigantic pyramids in which the kings were buried. The pyramids display the outstanding engineering and surveying skills of the Egyptians. The government organized thousands of workers to construct the pyramids, as well as temples and palaces, in the Egyptian cities. The cities served chiefly as religious and governmental centers for the surrounding countryside. Most of the people lived in villages near the cities.

Over the years, huge armies of conquering Egyptians expanded the kingdom's boundaries far beyond the Nile Valley. At its height in the 1400's B.C., Egypt ruled Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and part of the Sudan. As a powerful state at the junction of Asia and Africa, Egypt played an important role in the growth of long-distance trade. Egyptian caravans carried goods throughout the vast desert regions surrounding the kingdom. Egyptian ships sailed to all the major ports of the ancient world. From other lands, the Egyptians acquired gems, gold, ivory, leopard skins, fine woods, and other rich materials, which they used to create some of the most magnificent art of ancient times.

Although the ancient Egyptians had contacts with other cultures, their way of life changed little over thousands of years. Their civilization gradually declined, and the Egyptians found it harder and harder to resist invaders who had greater vigor and better weapons.

Egyptian records from the 1200's and 1100's B.C. describe constant attacks by "sea peoples." These peoples may have come from islands in the Aegean Sea or from lands along the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea. After 1000 B.C., power struggles between rival Egyptian dynasties further weakened the kingdom.

The Indus Valley. Historians have only partly translated the writings left behind by the ancient civilization that arose in the valley of the Indus River and its tributaries. As a result, they have had to rely almost entirely on archaeological findings for information about the Indus culture. The ruins of two large cities--Mohenjo-Daro (also spelled Moen jo Daro) and Harappa--tell much about the Indus Valley civilization. In addition, the remains of hundreds of small settlements have been discovered in the valley. Some of these settlements were farming villages, and others were seaports and trading posts.

Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa probably had more than 35,000 inhabitants each by about 2500 B.C. The people of the Indus Valley had a well-developed system of agriculture that provided food for the large population. They dug ditches and canals to irrigate their farms. The Indus cities had brick buildings and well-planned streets laid out in rectangular patterns. Elaborate brick-lined drainage systems provided sanitation for the towns. Craftworkers made decorated furniture, fine jewelry, metal utensils, toys, and stone seals engraved with animal and human forms. Inscriptions on these seals, as well as on some pottery and a few other objects, provide the only traces of Indus writing known at present.

Archaeologists have discovered that standardized sizes of bricks and uniform weights and measures were used throughout the Indus Valley. The Indus settlements traded with one another and with foreign cultures. Traces of seals used on goods from the Indus Valley have been found as far away as Mesopotamia. The Indus people probably also traded with people of central Asia, southern India, and Persia.

Between 2000 and 1750 B.C., the Indus Valley civilization began to decay. Scholars do not know why this process of decay took place. Changing river patterns may have disrupted the agriculture and economy of the region. Overuse of the land along the riverbanks also may have damaged the territory. By about 1700 B.C., the Indus civilization had disappeared.

For more information on what archaeologists have discovered about the ancient Indus Valley culture.

The Huang He Valley. The earliest written records of Chinese history date from the Shang dynasty, which arose in the valley of the Huang He during the 1700's B.C. The records consist largely of writings scratched on animal bones and turtle shells. The bones and shells, known as oracle bones, were used in religious ceremonies to answer questions about the future. After a question was written on an oracle bone, a small groove or hole was made in the bone. The bone was then heated so that cracks ran outward from the groove or hole. By studying the pattern of the cracks, a priest worked out the answer to the question.

Thousands of oracle bones have been found. They provide much information about the ancient Chinese. Many of the bones record astronomical events, such as eclipses of the sun and moon, and the names and dates of rulers. The system of writing used by the Shang people had more than 3,000 characters. Some characters on the oracle bones closely resemble those of the present-day Chinese language.

Little remains of the cities of the Shang period. Most of the buildings were made of mud or wood and have long since crumbled away. However, the foundations of pounded earth survive and indicate that some of the cities were fairly large and surrounded by high walls. The people of the Shang period cast beautiful bronze vessels. They also carved marble and jade and wove silk. The Shang people had many gods. They attached great importance to ties of kinship and worshiped the spirits of their ancestors. They believed that their ancestors could plead with the gods on their behalf.

The Shang people were governed by a king and a hereditary class of aristocrats. The king and the nobility carried out religious as well as political duties. However, only the king could perform the most important religious ceremonies. The Shang leaders organized armies of as many as 5,000 men and equipped them with bronze weapons and horse-drawn war chariots. They used their armies to control the other peoples of the Huang He Valley. The Shang ruled much of the valley for about 600 years. For more information on the culture of the Shang.

The advance of civilization

From about 1200 B.C. to A.D. 500, Mesopotamia and Egypt were increasingly affected by the gradual growth of a new civilization on the islands and shores of the Aegean Sea. The most magnificent civilization of ancient times--that of the Greeks--eventually developed in the Aegean region. For a time, the Greeks dominated much of the ancient world. Later, the lands of the Greeks, as well as Mesopotamia and Egypt, became part of the Roman Empire. The combined arts, philosophies, and sciences of ancient Greece and Rome provided much of the foundation of later European culture.

As the civilizations of ancient times grew and spread, they began to have certain features in common. By about A.D. 500, for example, all the major civilizations had learned how to make iron. The spread of such knowledge was helped by trade, conquest, and migration. Traders carried the products of one culture to other cultures. The soldiers of invading armies often settled in the conquered lands, where they introduced new ways of life. Groups of people migrated from one region to another, bringing the customs, ideas, and skills of their homelands with them.

The most important migrations in ancient times were made by peoples belonging to the Indo-European language groups. The Indo-European peoples once lived in the area north of the Black Sea, in southeastern Europe. Sometime before 2000 B.C., large numbers of them began moving into other parts of Europe, into the Middle East, and across the highlands of Persia to India. Many of the migrations resulted in the destruction of old states and the creation of new ones.

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Middle Eastern civilizations. For several hundred years following 1200 B.C., various Indo-European and Semitic peoples struggled for power in the Middle East. One of the Semitic peoples, the Israelites, founded a kingdom in what is now Israel about 1029 B.C. The Israelites, later called Jews, established the first religion based on the belief in one God. Their faith, called Judaism, had a lasting influence on human history. Both Christianity, the most widespread religion of modern times, and Islam, the religion of the Muslims, developed from Judaism.

During the 700's B.C., much of the Middle East was conquered by the Assyrians, a northern Mesopotamian people. The cities of Nineveh and Assur on the upper Tigris River were the chief centers of their empire. The Assyrians were a rough, warlike people who often treated their subject peoples cruelly. Conquered rulers were replaced by brutal Assyrian governors who acted on orders from the central government in Nineveh. For more information.

In 612 B.C., the Babylonians and an Indo-European people called the Medes joined forces and destroyed Nineveh. The Assyrian Empire thus ended. The Medes then established the Median Empire, which included the area north of Mesopotamia (see MEDIA). In Mesopotamia and to the west, the New Babylonian Empire, sometimes called the Chaldean Empire, came into being. Under its most famous ruler, Nebuchadnezzar II, Babylon became one of the most magnificent cities of the ancient world. Nebuchadnezzar probably built the Hanging Gardens, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

About 550 B.C., the Persians, led by Cyrus the Great, overthrew the Medes and established the Persian Empire. Cyrus went on to conquer Babylonia, Palestine, Syria, and all Asia Minor. Cyrus' son Cambyses added Egypt to the empire in 525 B.C. The Persians built excellent roads throughout their vast empire. They divided the empire into provinces, each governed by a Persian official. Unlike the Assyrians, the Persians allowed the conquered peoples to keep their own religions and traditions..

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The Persian Empire lasted more than 200 years. Under Persian rule, Medes, Babylonians, Jews, and Egyptians were united for the first time. Although they still had different traditions and customs, they could no longer be thought of as belonging to separate civilizations. Another people who came under Persian control were the Phoenicians, who lived along the coasts of what are now Syria, Lebanon, and Israel. The Phoenicians were great explorers and traders who helped spread civilization among the peoples living in coastal areas along the Aegean Sea and in what is now Turkey. The Phoenicians invented an alphabet that became the basis of the Greek alphabet. All other Western alphabets, in turn, have been taken from the Greek. See PHOENICIA.

The Greeks. The first major civilization in the region of Greece began to develop on Crete, an island in the Aegean Sea, about 3000 B.C. Scholars call this civilization the Minoan culture after Minos, the legendary king of the island (see MINOS). The Minoans were skilled artists and architects and active traders. By about 2000 B.C., they had begun to build a series of magnificent palaces, the most elaborate of which was the Palace of Minos in the town of Knossos.

The Minoans traded with peoples in the Middle East, Sicily, and Greece. Their trade routes provided an important link between Middle Eastern civilizations and mainland Europe. Minoan culture flourished for about 500 years. It began to decline after 1450 B.C., when fire destroyed nearly all the towns on Crete. By about 1100 B.C., the culture had disappeared.

The most important early culture on the mainland of Greece centered on the southern city of Mycenae. The people of Mycenae were probably descendants of Indo-European peoples who had been migrating to Greece since about 2000 B.C. By the 1500's B.C., the Mycenaean culture had become rich and powerful. Mycenae was the leading political and cultural center on the Greek mainland until it collapsed in the early 1100's B.C. About this time, barbarian peoples from the north began moving into Greece. Later Greeks called these people the Dorians. Historians are not sure what part the Dorians played in the fall of Mycenae.

Greek civilization developed between about 800 and 500 B.C. The first recorded Olympic Games were held for Greek athletes in 776 B.C., and the first surviving Greek inscriptions date from about 50 years later. The ancient Greeks settled in independent communities called city-states. Between 750 and 338 B.C., the chief city-states were Athens, Corinth, Sparta, and Thebes. The city-states were never united politically, and the people were divided into various groups. However, the Greeks were tied together by a common culture and language, and they thought of themselves as distinct from other peoples. The first democratic governments were established in the Greek city-states. Neither slaves nor women could vote, but more people took part in government in Greece than in any earlier civilization.

Greek culture gradually spread to other lands. The Greeks established many towns and trading posts in Sicily and in what are now southern Italy and Turkey. Greek colonists also founded settlements as far away as present-day Portugal, France, Libya, and India. Many Greeks served as craftworkers, teachers, and soldiers in the courts of foreign rulers.

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In 479 B.C., the Greeks defeated the Persians after a long war. Greek civilization then entered its Golden Age. Architects constructed masterpieces of classical beauty. Lasting works of art, literature, drama, history, and philosophy were produced. Greek scientists made great advances in mathematics, medicine, physics, botany, and zoology. During this period, Athens became the cultural center of the Greek world.

The achievements and growing power of Athens were the envy of the other Greek city-states. Hostility between the Athenians and their fellow Greeks led to the bitter Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.). Athens lost the war. The victorious city-states soon started to quarrel among themselves, and Greece began to decline in power.

In 338 B.C., Philip II of Macedonia conquered the Greek city-states. His son, Alexander the Great, succeeded him in 336 B.C. Until his death in 323 B.C., Alexander expanded his empire through conquests of much of the civilized world from Egypt to the Indus River. Alexander helped spread Greek ideas and the Greek way of life into all the lands he conquered.

After Alexander died, his empire was divided among his generals. They continued to preserve Greek culture. The period after Alexander's death became known as the Hellenistic Age in Greece and the Near East. It lasted until the Romans took control, ending in Greece in 146 B.C. Egypt, the last major stronghold of the Hellenistic world, fell to the Romans in 30 B.C.

The Romans. By the 500's B.C., Greek traders and colonists had established many settlements in Italy and Sicily. They carried Greek civilization directly to the mixed group of peoples living there, most of whom were descendants of Indo-European immigrants. These peoples included the Etruscans, who had settled in west-central Italy during the 800's B.C. In 509 B.C., the people of Rome, one of the cities under Etruscan control, revolted. The Romans gained their independence and declared Rome a republic.

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For hundreds of years, Roman conquerors expanded the republic. By 290 B.C., Rome controlled most of Italy. It soon became one of the most powerful states of the western Mediterranean. During the 200's and 100's B.C., Rome defeated its only major rival, the former Phoenician colony of Carthage, in a series of struggles called the Punic Wars (see PUNIC WARS). As a result of the wars, Sicily and Spain became Roman provinces. Rome also expanded into the eastern Mediterranean. In 148 B.C., the Romans made Macedonia their first eastern province. Two years later, they conquered Greece. In 55 and 54 B.C., the Roman general Julius Caesar invaded Britain. Other conquests followed until the original city of Rome had grown into an enormous empire. At its height, in A.D. 117, the empire covered about half of Europe, much of the Middle East, and the entire north coast of Africa.

Roman territory included all the Greek lands of the Hellenistic Age. The Romans imitated Greek art and literature, made use of Greek scientific knowledge, and based their architecture on Greek models. Educated people throughout the Roman Empire spoke Greek. By imitating Greek accomplishments, the Romans preserved and passed on much Greek culture that otherwise might have been lost.

The Romans also contributed their own achievements to the civilization they developed. They were superb engineers who constructed massive aqueducts and bridges, vast systems of roads, and monumental arches. The Romans developed an excellent legal system. Their legal code forms the basis of civil law in numerous European and Latin American countries, and many of its principles and terms are part of English and American common law. Latin, the language of the Romans, was the official language of the empire. It became the basis of French, Italian, Spanish, and other Romance languages of today.

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The Romans excelled in the art of government. One of their most important achievements was the empire itself, which provided a stable framework of government for many peoples with widely different customs. The Romans showed great respect for these customs and won the good will of many of the peoples they governed. Rome was a republic until 27 B.C., when Augustus took supreme power. Augustus and his successors retained republican titles and forms of government, but Rome actually became a monarchy ruled by emperors.

During the A.D. 100's and 200's, Rome was increasingly threatened by barbarian invaders in both the east and the west. As a result, the army became more and more powerful and began to play a major role in choosing Rome's emperors. One of the most important emperors the army helped bring to power was Constantine the Great, who came to the throne in 306. In 313, Constantine granted Christians of the Roman Empire freedom of worship. Christ had been born during the reign of the Emperor Augustus and was crucified by the Roman authorities in about A.D. 30, during the rule of Tiberius. The Romans had at times persecuted the Christians. However, after Constantine granted Christians legal recognition, a strong link was formed between the Christian church and the Roman Empire. Emperor Theodosius I proclaimed Christianity the official religion of the empire in the late 300's.

A period of great disorder followed Constantine's death in 337. In 395, the Roman Empire split into two parts--the West Roman Empire and the East Roman, or Byzantine, Empire. The West Roman Empire soon fell to Germanic tribes, but the Byzantine Empire was to thrive for many years.

Achievements in India. About 1500 B.C., bands of Aryans, an Indo-European people, began migrating to India. The Aryans came from the plains of central Asia through the mountain passes of the Hindu Kush. By 1000 B.C., they had taken over most of the valley of the upper Ganges River in northern India.

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The Aryans never invaded southern India, but their influence gradually extended over the entire country and greatly affected Indian culture. Sanskrit, the language developed by the Aryans, is the basis of languages still spoken in India. Hinduism, the religion of most Indians today, is rooted in Indo-European beliefs. The Aryans divided their society into four main social classes that remain part of the caste system of present-day Indian society. These four classes were priests and scholars; rulers and warriors; merchants and professionals; and laborers and servants.

At various times in its history, the Aryan territory was divided into many states. In one state, a prince named Siddhartha Gautama was born about 563 B.C. Gautama abandoned a life of luxury to seek religious enlightenment. He became a great religious teacher known to his followers as Buddha (Enlightened One). Gautama's teachings are the foundation of Buddhism, one of the world's major religions.
By about 300 B.C., much of India was united for the first time under one dynasty, the Mauryan. The Mauryan Empire reached its peak under Emperor Ashoka, who ruled during the 200's B.C. From his capital at Pataliputra (now Patna) in northern India, Ashoka controlled almost all India and part of central Asia. Ashoka supported Buddhism, which spread and prospered during his reign. He sent Buddhist missionaries to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and other countries.

The Mauryan dynasty ended with the assassination of its last emperor in 185 B.C. For most of the next 500 years, India was divided into small political units under no one ruler. In A.D. 320, a new dynasty, the Gupta, came to power in northern India. The Gupta dynasty lasted about 200 years. During the Gupta period, Indian civilization enjoyed a golden age of peace, good government, and cultural development. Beautiful cities arose, and universities were founded. Sanskrit literature, particularly drama, flourished during the Gupta era. The Gupta emperors were Hindus, but Buddhism also thrived under their rule.

Achievements in China. About 1122 B.C., the Zhou people of western China overthrew the Shang and established their own dynasty. The Zhou ruled until 256 B.C. The Zhou kings introduced the idea that they had been appointed to rule by Heaven. All later Chinese dynasties adopted that idea. From its beginning, the Zhou dynasty directly controlled only part of northern China. The rest of the kingdom consisted of semi-independent states. As time passed, the lords of these states grew increasingly powerful and so weakened the dynasty. In 771 B.C., the Zhou were forced to abandon their capital, near what is now Xi'an, and move eastward to Luoyang.

For hundreds of years after the Zhou moved their capital, fighting raged among the states for control of all China. Efforts to restore order to Chinese society led to the birth of Chinese philosophy during this period. The great philosopher Confucius stressed the importance of moral standards and tradition and of a well-ordered society in which people performed the duties of their stations in life.

In 221 B.C., the Qin (also spelled Ch'in) state in northwestern China defeated all its rivals. The Qin created the first unified Chinese empire controlled by a strong central government. The name China came from the name of their dynasty. The first Qin emperor, Shi Huangdi, standardized weights and measures and the Chinese writing system. He also built extensive irrigation projects. To keep out barbarian invaders, he ordered major construction on the Great Wall of China.

The Qin dynasty lasted only until 206 B.C. The Han dynasty gained control of China in 202 B.C. Under the Han emperors, Confucianism became the philosophical basis of government. Candidates for government jobs had to take a civil service examination based on Confucian ideals. Art, education, and science thrived during the Han period. By A.D. 1, the Chinese had invented paper. Sometime before A.D. 100, Buddhism was introduced into China from India.

Han China expanded southwest to what is now Tibet. Han warriors also conquered parts of Indochina and Korea and overcame nomadic tribes in the north and west. Political struggles among the Han leaders led to the dynasty's collapse in A.D. 220. For the next 400 years, China was again divided into warring states.

The world from 500 to 1500

Various parts of the world gradually came more closely into contact with one another during the period from 500 to 1500. In fact, some regions came into contact with other regions for the first time. However, the various regions still remained largely independent of one another during most of that time, and their histories continued to progress along separate lines.

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Great changes occurred in the old areas of civilization during the 1,000-year period. In western Europe, a number of separate states eventually arose from the disorder that followed the fall of the West Roman Empire. The East Roman, or Byzantine, Empire continued to survive and flourish. A new world religion, Islam, sprang up in Arabia and spread to many other parts of the world. Meanwhile, China continued to preserve its special way of life under a series of dynasties. Partly under influence from China, another Oriental civilization appeared, that of Japan. In the Americas, civilizations developed without any outside influences.

In European history, the period between about 500 and 1500 is often referred to as the Middle Ages or the medieval period. The word medieval comes from the Latin words medium, meaning middle, and aevum, meaning age. The terms Middle Ages and medieval period made sense to later Europeans who looked back on those years as a distinct period in the middle of their history between the civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome and the start of modern times. But the terms cannot be applied to world history as a whole because the histories of many parts of the world have no connection with ancient Greece and Rome.

Medieval Europe. By A.D. 400, many barbarian invaders and immigrants from the east had settled within the West Roman Empire. In 476, a Germanic chieftain named Odoacer overthrew the last emperor, Romulus Augustulus. By that time, Germanic conquerors had carved kingdoms out of all the West Roman provinces. The framework of government created by the Romans had disappeared.

Roman culture was not completely destroyed, however. Many Germanic rulers adopted some Roman customs and converted to Christianity. The Christian church became the most important civilizing force among the Germanic peoples. Its missionaries introduced the barbarians to Roman ideas of government and justice. Cathedrals and monasteries provided the main centers of learning and philosophy. The monks and the clergy helped continue the reading and writing of Latin and preserved many ancient manuscripts.

For hundreds of years after the fall of the West Roman Empire, the Germanic kings had great difficulty defending themselves against invaders. The invaders included Arabs from the south, Vikings from the north, and Magyars and Avars from the east. During these troubled times, a new military and political system known as feudalism developed in western Europe. Under this system, powerful lords--who owned most of the land--gave some of their holdings to less wealthy noblemen in return for pledges of allegiance. These lesser nobles, called vassals, swore to fight for the lord when he needed their help. Peasants worked the fields of the lords and their vassals. By the 900's, most of western Europe was divided into feudal states. The feudal lords completely controlled their estates. Kings ruled only their own lands and vassals.

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During the 1000's, many lords established strong governments and achieved periods of peace under the feudal system. Trade revived along the old land routes and waterways used by the Romans. Towns sprang up and prospered along the trade routes. The peasants learned better farming methods and gained new farmland by clearing forests and draining swamps. The population rose. Learning and the arts thrived as trade brought increasing contact with the advanced Byzantine and Islamic civilizations. During the 1100's and 1200's, the first European universities were established.

The people of the medieval towns often supported the kings against the feudal lords. The townspeople agreed to pay taxes to the kings in return for protection and freedom. During the 1300's and 1400's, some kings became increasingly powerful and began to extend their authority over the feudal lords. By 1500, France, England, Spain, and Portugal had become unified nationstates ruled by monarchs.

The Byzantine Empire was a continuation of the East Roman Empire. Its capital and military stronghold was Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey). The Byzantine rulers kept Roman governmental and legal traditions. However, the East Roman provinces had always been more influenced by Greek culture than by Latin culture. As a result, the Byzantines helped preserve ancient Greek language, literature, and philosophy.

Christianity flourished in the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantine church was the chief civilizing force among the Slavic peoples of southeastern Europe and Russia. Byzantine missionaries converted the Slavs to Christianity and invented a script in which the Slavic languages were written down. The church in Constantinople was united with the church in Rome for many years. But rivalries developed between the churches, and they drifted apart. The Western church eventually became known as the Roman Catholic Church. The Eastern Orthodox Churches developed out of Byzantine Christianity.

The Byzantine Empire reached its greatest extent under Emperor Justinian, who came to the throne in 527. His empire included Italy, much of southeastern Europe, part of Spain, much of the Middle East, and lands along the north coast of Africa. At the command of Justinian, Byzantine scholars collected and organized the many laws of the ancient Romans. The resulting code of laws, called the Justinian Code, clarified the laws of the times and is today the basis of the legal systems of many countries (see JUSTINIAN CODE). Art and architecture flourished during Justinian's reign. The Byzantines constructed domed cathedrals with ornately decorated interiors. One of these cathedrals is the magnificent Hagia Sophia built by Justinian in Constantinople.

For hundreds of years, the Byzantine Empire protected western Europe from attacks from the east by barbarians, Persians, and such Muslim invaders as the Arabs and Ottoman Turks. Beginning in the 1000's, however, the Byzantine emperors fought a losing battle against the Muslims. By 1400, the Ottoman Turks had taken much of southeastern Europe and all the Asian territories of the Byzantines. In 1453, the Ottomans captured Constantinople. This conquest brought to an end the last remnants of the old Roman Empire.

The Islamic world. In the 600's, Islam, a new religion based on the teachings of Muhammad, began in Arabia. Muhammad was born about 570 and grew up in Mecca, a major trading center on the Arabian Peninsula. At that time, most Arabs believed in nature gods and prayed to idols and spirits. But Muhammad urged the Arabs to worship one God. The Meccans rejected Muhammad's teachings and persecuted him and his followers. In 622, Muhammad and his disciples fled to the city of Medina (then called Yathrib). Muhammad's flight, called the Hegira, marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar. The people of Medina accepted Muhammad as God's messenger. By 630, Muhammad and his followers had captured Mecca.

After Muhammad's death in 632, authority to head the Islamic community passed to religious leaders later called caliphs. The first caliphs were members of Muhammad's family. Under their leadership, Islam became a great conquering force. The Muslim armies defeated the tribes of southern Arabia and then spread north to Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Persia. In 661, the caliphate passed to another family, the Umayyads, who established their capital at Damascus. The Umayyad caliphs led the Muslim Arabs to new victories. By the early 700's, the Arabs had conquered Cyprus, Rhodes, Sicily, northern Africa, and Afghanistan. Muslim forces had also pushed into Spain and India and reached the borders of China.

In 750, the Abbasids became the caliphs of the expanding Islamic world. They moved the capital to Baghdad. Under the Abbasids, Islamic civilization reached its greatest heights. Baghdad became a huge city, rivaling Constantinople in wealth and population. Islamic art and architecture flourished, and many Islamic academies and universities were founded.

As a result of their conquests, the Muslims had come into contact with Persian astronomy, history, and medicine; Indian mathematics; and Greek science and philosophy. The Arabs became learned in these fields and made significant contributions of their own in mathematics, medicine, astronomy, and other sciences. They also developed literature of their own in Arabic. Many ancient Greek texts were translated into Arabic and eventually introduced into western Europe.

The Abbasid caliphate declined during the 900's as peoples from central Asia began invading the Middle East. Some of these peoples were Turks who had been converted to Islam. During the early 1300's, the Ottoman Turks, who had settled in Anatolia (now Turkey), became the military leaders of the Islamic world. After the Ottomans seized Constantinople in 1453, they made the city the capital of their empire. By 1700, the Ottoman Empire covered southeastern Europe, southern Russia, part of northern Africa, and much of the Middle East.

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China. From 500 to 1500, Chinese civilization still owed little to the outside world. Land travelers found it hard to reach China, and few travelers came by sea. Isolation helped make Chinese society extremely stable and self-sufficient. During the Tang dynasty (618-907) and the Song dynasty (960-1279), China enjoyed great prosperity and cultural accomplishment.

The Tang and Song rulers continued to use the system of civil service examinations based on Confucianism that had begun hundreds of years earlier during Han times. Successful candidates for government office thus shared a common body of beliefs and a respect for traditional ways. Cities and towns grew rapidly during the Tang and Song periods. The Tang capital at Chang'an (now Xi'an) had a population of more than a million people. The Tang and Song emperors continued to extend the Grand Canal system, which had already linked the rice-growing lower Yangtze Valley with the north by the early 600's. Literature, history, and philosophy flourished under the Tang and Song dynasties. During the Tang period, the Chinese invented block printing. Chinese inventions during the Song period included gunpowder and movable type for printing.

During the 1200's, Mongol warriors swept into China from the north. The Mongol leader Kublai Khan established the Yuan dynasty, which lasted from 1279 to 1368. The Mongol period marked the first time that all China had come under foreign rule. Kublai Khan encouraged commerce and cultural exchange with other civilized peoples. During Yuan times, Europeans became increasingly interested in China as a result of the reports of travelers and traders. Rebellions drove the Mongols from China during the mid-1300's. In 1368, Chinese rule was reestablished under the Ming dynasty, which held power until 1644.

The rise of Japanese civilization. The development of Japanese civilization was greatly influenced by the neighboring Chinese culture. During the 500's, Confucianism, Buddhism, and knowledge of ironmaking reached Japan from China. The Japanese borrowed the Chinese system of writing and adopted some Chinese ideas of government and administration. Japanese government, like Chinese government, centered on an emperor. Beneath the emperor, Japanese society was divided into various clans (related families).

During the late 700's and early 800's, the Fujiwaras, an aristocratic clan, rose to power in Japan. The Fujiwaras gained control over the emperor and his court by intermarrying with the imperial family. Under the Fujiwaras, the court nobility enjoyed a life of splendor and luxury. The people of Japan began to cast off Chinese cultural influences. Some of the first masterpieces of Japanese literature were written during the Fujiwara era. The Japanese also produced fine ceramics and lacquerware and developed such arts as flower arranging, landscape gardening, and silk weaving. Japanese exports gradually began to appear in the markets of China and southeastern Asia. The Fujiwara clan ruled Japan about 300 years. During that time, the emperors lost all real power, though they still officially reigned.

During the 1000's, civil wars between rival nobles brought an end to Fujiwara rule. Another powerful clan, the Minamoto, seized control of the imperial court in 1185. The Minamoto leaders established a form of military government called the shogunate. The emperor remained in retirement, and a Minamoto shogun (military commander) ruled in his name (see SHOGUN). The Minamoto shogunate collapsed in the early 1300's, when Japan was again torn by violent civil wars. The wars slowed the growth of cities and towns and weakened the nation. But Japan remained safe from attack by foreign powers because of its isolated island position. The Mongols tried to invade Japan in 1274 and 1281, but both attempts failed because of typhoons in the Sea of Japan.

The age of invasions of India. After the Gupta Empire fell in about 500, India broke up into many small kingdoms. From then until the early 1500's, India suffered repeated invasions from the northwest. In the early 700's, Muslim invaders from Arabia swept across northwestern India but were eventually overcome by Indian forces. During the late 1100's, Muslim Turks from central Asia conquered the Indus Valley. By 1206, they had established a sultanate (government by a sultan) in Delhi. The Delhi Sultanate soon controlled all northern India. During the sultanate, many Muslims came to India to serve as soldiers, government officials, merchants, and priests. Muslim holy men converted many Indians to Islam.

In 1398, a Mongol army raided India and captured Delhi. The Mongols soon withdrew, however. The sultanate regained Delhi, but the rest of the sultanate territory was split into kingdoms. In 1526, Babur, a Muslim prince from central Asia, invaded India and defeated the forces of the last sultan of Delhi. Babur founded the Mughal Empire and made himself emperor. By the time Babur died in 1530, the Mughal Empire stretched from Kabul in Afghanistan to the mouth of the Ganges River in what is now Bangladesh.

African civilizations. The Muslim Arabs completed their conquest of northern Africa by 710. For hundreds of years, the Islamic faith and culture spread to other parts of Africa. Camel caravans that crossed the Sahara brought northern Muslims into contact with western Africa. Muslim traders who sailed the Indian Ocean converted the peoples living along the east coasts of what are now Somalia, Kenya, and Tanzania. Black African empires developed and prospered along some of the major trade routes.

Islamic records provide information about the Ghana Empire, the first great black empire in western Africa. The empire existed from the 300's to the mid-1000's. The Arabs called Ghana the "land of gold" because Ghanaian traders supplied them with gold from regions south of the empire. During the 1200's, an even bigger empire, the Islamic Mali Empire, arose as the most powerful state in western Africa. One of Mali's cities, Timbuktu, became an important center of trade and Muslim culture. The Mali Empire began to break up during the 1400's. By 1500, most of it had come under the control of the Songhai Empire. This empire, which was also Islamic, became powerful mainly by controlling trade across the Sahara. Songhai lasted until 1591.

Islamic influence did not extend into southern Africa. Much of the south was originally settled by black peoples who spoke Bantu languages. About the time of Christ, these peoples began migrating southward from what is now the border region between Nigeria and Cameroon. Their migrations lasted over 1,000 years.

On the east coast of Africa, the Bantu peoples came into contact with traders from the Persian Gulf region who wanted to buy gold, copper, iron, ivory, and slaves. Several large trading empires developed in southeastern Africa, but little is known about them. One empire, the Mwanamutapa Empire, arose during the 1400's in what are now Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The city of Zimbabwe served as the empire's capital. During the late 1400's, the Changamire Empire conquered the Mwanamutapa and took over the capital. Massive towers and walls from a royal residence and burial place built during Changamire times still stand on the site of the city. See ZIMBABWE (History).

Civilizations in the Americas. The first civilizations in the Americas arose in Central America and in what are now Mexico and Peru. The Maya Indians of Central America and Mexico developed one of the most advanced early cultures. Between about 250 and 900, the Maya built large cities that included religious centers consisting of palaces, pyramids, temples, and terraces. The Maya studied astronomy, invented an accurate yearly calendar, and developed an advanced form of writing. For reasons still unknown, Maya civilization began to decline during the 900's. Many Maya sites were abandoned.

From about 900 to 1200, the Toltec Indians were the dominant people in the central Mexican highlands. By the early 1400's, the Aztec replaced the Toltec as the most powerful people in central Mexico. The Aztec built a magnificent capital city, Tenochtitlan, on the site of present-day Mexico City and established a mighty empire. The Aztec devoted much of their time to religious practices. Human sacrifice was the central feature of their religion. The Aztec waged war on neighboring peoples mainly to obtain prisoners to sacrifice to their gods.

By the 1200's, civilization had made great advances in Peru. Peruvian farmers were using bronze tools, and Peruvian stonemasons had become master builders. The people used quipu, a cord with knotted strings of various lengths and colors, to keep records and send messages. During the 1300's and 1400's, the Inca Indians gained control of the Peruvian civilization. By the early 1500's, the Inca ruled an empire that stretched between what are now southern Colombia and central Chile. A vast network of roads linked the distant provinces of the empire. Conquered peoples were forced to help build and maintain the roads, to raise crops for the Inca, and to serve in the Inca army.

The spread of Western civilization

Great changes occurred in the course of world history between 1500 and 1900. The world's population rose dramatically, from about 450 million in 1500 to more than 1 1/2 billion by 1900. Cities and towns grew steadily. Western, or European, civilization began to lead the world in cultural, economic, and technological progress. A world in which civilizations developed largely independently of one another gradually gave way to the dominance of Western civilization.

A number of factors contributed to the wide expansion of Western influence. A great age of European exploration during the 1400's and 1500's led to the founding of European colonies in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Thousands of Europeans migrated to these colonies. Industrialization began in Europe during the 1700's, and the continent soon became the manufacturing center of the world. The European nations established more and more colonies overseas to serve as markets for their manufactured products and as sources of raw materials for industry. Growing trade with these colonies brought increasing wealth and power to the continent. Political rivalries among the European states also encouraged them to expand their empires abroad. Advances in technology, such as better ships and weapons, helped the Europeans conquer new territories.

The Europeans often introduced their arts and technology and their systems of law, government, and education into the areas where they settled. Thus, the ideas and skills of Western civilization became more widespread than those of any other civilization in history.

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The Renaissance. European culture during the Middle Ages largely reflected the powerful influence of Christianity and the Roman Catholic Church. But during the late Middle Ages--between 1300 and 1500--scholars and artists began to develop a new way of looking at life. They became less concerned with religion and concentrated, instead, on understanding people and the world. This new outlook became known as humanism. Humanist scholars pioneered in the revival of classical studies--the literature, history, and philosophy of ancient Greece and Rome. They believed that by returning to the classics, they could begin a new golden age of culture.

The humanist philosophy formed the intellectual core of the Renaissance, a 300-year period of great advancement in the arts and learning in Europe. The Renaissance began in Italy in the early 1300's and spread throughout most of Europe during the 1400's and 1500's. Renaissance thinkers stressed that the duty of intellectuals was to concentrate on human problems, not to seek an understanding of religious questions. Writers of the period described human feelings and situations that people could easily understand. Renaissance artists tried to capture the dignity and majesty of human beings in lifelike paintings and sculptures. Architects designed many nonreligious buildings that incorporated elements of classical style. Many world masterpieces of architecture, literature, painting, and sculpture were created during the Renaissance.

Other changes that occurred during the Renaissance affected the Christian church itself. During the early 1500's, a religious movement called the Reformation led to the birth of Protestantism. The Reformation followed many earlier attempts by religious reformers to correct abuses that had developed within the Roman Catholic Church. Beginning in 1517, Martin Luther, a German monk and theology professor, became the leader of the reform movement. Luther's criticisms gradually led him and his followers to break completely with the Catholic Church.

By the mid-1500's, the Reformation had resulted in the establishment of Protestant churches in nearly half the European countries. Many Protestant groups developed, which helped create a mood of religious toleration in many parts of Europe. The Protestant movement led to the Counter Reformation, a reform and renewal movement in the Catholic Church. The Counter Reformation removed many bad practices within the church and greatly strengthened the authority of the pope.

The spread of new ideas during the Renaissance was made faster and easier by the invention of movable type in Europe in the mid-1400's. Most of the first printed books were classic Greek and Roman texts or religious books, particularly the Bible. But the Renaissance stimulated a renewed interest in scientific research and in the study of the natural world, and so books on scientific subjects began to appear by the late 1500's. During the 1600's, scientists developed the modern scientific method, with its emphasis on experimentation and careful observation. The invention of such instruments as the microscope and telescope contributed to a rapid growth in scientific knowledge. By 1700, new discoveries had revolutionized such fields as anatomy, astronomy, chemistry, and physics.

The great age of exploration. A remarkable wave of European exploration had begun in the early 1400's. Portuguese explorers in search of an eastward sea route to Asia started to sail down the west coast of Africa. They gradually developed better navigational charts and improved the rigging of their sailing ships. By 1473, a Portuguese ship had crossed the equator, and another one had reached the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa by 1487. Christopher Columbus, an Italian navigator in the service of Spain, reached America in 1492. In 1497 and 1498, a Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama, made the first voyage from Europe around Africa to India.

During the 1500's and 1600's, Europeans continued to gain geographical knowledge. In the early 1500's, Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese navigator in the service of Spain, set out on an expedition to sail around the world. Magellan was killed on the journey, but one of his ships completed the voyage. Sailors from France, England, and the Netherlands led the search for shorter routes to Asia--either a Northwest Passage across North America or a Northeast Passage north of Europe. Explorers slowly began to work their way through the land mass of America.

The discovery of new territories provided opportunities for the expansion of European commerce. By 1700, Europeans were trading throughout the world, and some European nations had acquired colonial empires. The colonies provided Europeans with bananas, coffee, cotton fabrics, hard woods, spices, and other products. New crops, such as potatoes and tobacco, were introduced into Europe from America. A flourishing slave trade developed with Africa. In addition, a continuous flow of gold and silver from the New World enabled Europeans to increase their trade with India and China, where demand for the precious metals was high.

The colonization of America. The search for gold drew many of the first Spanish explorers and conquistadors (conquerors) to the New World. The most famous conquistador was Hernando Cortes. In 1519, he landed in Mexico, marched his army to the Aztec capital at Tenochtitlan, and took the Aztec emperor captive. The Aztec rebelled in 1520. They were finally defeated in 1521. Cortes then claimed Mexico for Spain. In 1533, another Spaniard, Francisco Pizarro, conquered the wealthy empire of the Inca Indians in Peru.

Except for members of the Spanish clergy, few Spaniards had respect for the Indians and their ways of life. They made the Indians give them a fortune in gold and other riches and forced them to work in their mines and on their plantations. Millions of Indians died of mistreatment or of diseases brought by the Spaniards.

Spanish rule rapidly expanded in the Americas. By 1700, Spain controlled Mexico, Central America, and most of South America. The Spaniards established cities and universities throughout their territory. European government, the Spanish language, and the Catholic Church became dominant in most of Latin America. The population of the colonies rose as more settlers arrived and the Indians acquired some resistance to European diseases. Many Spaniards and Indians intermarried, producing the beginning of a population of mixed ancestry. However, the ruling class of the colonies consisted only of people of unmixed European ancestry.

Much of Latin America had been colonized before the first lasting English settlement was established at Jamestown, Va., in 1607. By 1733, there were 13 English colonies, with a total population of about a million, along the Atlantic coast of North America. Many colonists were drawn to the New World by its economic opportunities, such as the availability of plentiful land. Some settlers, including Puritans, Quakers, and Roman Catholics, came to the English colonies to escape persecution for their religious beliefs. Most of the colonists were English. But other European immigrants also came. In 1624, for example, the Dutch settled New Netherland, which included parts of what are now Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York. Farther north, French colonists settled throughout the St. Lawrence River Valley.

The English colonists were soon able to grow enough food to support themselves. They also produced tobacco and other valuable exports to pay for imports from England. But unlike the Spanish colonies, the English colonies had no silver or gold. In addition, the English settlers in North America did not find highly advanced Indian societies like those in Mexico and Peru. At first, the Indians and the settlers had friendly relations. But as more and more settlers claimed greater amounts of Indian hunting grounds, wars broke out between the two groups.

The Islamic empires. Parts of Europe and Asia remained under control of the Ottoman Empire until the early 1900's. The Ottoman Empire never had a strong central government. Ottoman governors ruled the provinces of the empire. Their chief tasks included collecting taxes and raising armies. But they interfered as little as possible in the lives of the conquered peoples. For example, Christians and Jews could practice their faiths as long as they paid their taxes. The subject peoples thus continued to be divided into separate communities and felt no loyalty to their Ottoman rulers. This lack of unity weakened the empire.

The Ottomans could not control some areas of their empire. Mesopotamia was especially difficult to govern. For nearly 200 years, this valley between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers was the site of warfare between the Ottomans and another Islamic power, Persia. A new dynasty, the Safavid, had developed in Persia in the early 1500's. The greatest Safavid king was Shah Abbas, who came to the throne in 1587. He successfully fought the Ottomans and Uzbek tribes from Turkestan. Shah Abbas and his successors strongly supported the development of the arts. Isfahan, which became the Safavid capital in 1598, was known as one of the world's most beautiful cities. The Safavid dynasty began to decline after Shah Abbas died in 1629. It ended in 1722, when armies from Afghanistan invaded Persia and captured Isfahan.

In addition to fighting the Ottomans, the Safavid rulers fought another great Islamic power, the Mughal Empire of India. The Mughal Empire reached its height under Akbar, who ruled from 1556 to 1605. Akbar controlled most of what are now northern and central India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. He ruled wisely, and his religious tolerance won the loyalty of many Hindus. The empire weakened under Akbar's successors. Serious trouble developed during the reign of Aurangzeb, who became emperor in 1658. Aurangzeb reimposed a special tax on Hindus that had been abolished by Akbar and destroyed many of their temples. He also tried to force non-Muslims to convert to Islam. Partly as a result of Aurangzeb's policies and costly wars with Persia, the Mughal Empire began breaking up soon after his death in 1707.

At first, the spread of European influence had little effect on the Islamic world, though trade gradually increased between the European nations and the Islamic empires. But as the Islamic powers declined, the Europeans took advantage of the situation and began to assume control of Islamic lands. By 1900, European nations dominated most of the Islamic world. The French established themselves in northern Africa, and the Dutch took Indonesia. Britain occupied Egypt and the Sudan, set up an empire in India, and ruled Malaya. During the 1900's, Italy seized Turkish territories in northern Africa and along the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

Developments in China and Japan. The Ming dynasty, which had come to power in China in 1368, began to decline during the 1500's. Rebellions in outlying provinces troubled the empire, and Indochina and other distant dependencies slipped out of its control. The Ming emperors looked down on all things foreign and regarded the European traders who visited China as inferiors. But some rights were granted to the Europeans as the Ming dynasty weakened. The Portuguese were allowed to establish a permanent settlement at Macao, on the southeast coast of China, in 1557. A European community later grew up in the port city of Canton, a major center of foreign trade with China.

In 1644, the Ming asked the Manchus, a barbarian people from Manchuria, for help in putting down rebellions within the empire. The Manchus then invaded China--but only to establish their own dynasty, the Qing, on the throne. The Manchus ruled China until 1912. They had great respect for Chinese civilization and did little to change Chinese life or government. The Manchu rulers pushed back Russian advances in the Amur River Valley, established imperial control over Tibet, regained parts of Indochina, and added Korea to their territory. During the 1700's, the Qing empire enjoyed stability and prosperity. Contacts with Europeans multiplied, and Christian missionaries were welcomed at the Manchu capital, Beijing. The Manchus admired the Europeans' scientific knowledge and their skills in mapmaking and the manufacture of guns, but they did not wish to imitate European ways of life. Chinese culture remained largely cut off from the rest of the world.

Japan was even more isolated than China. The Tokugawa family seized power in Japan in 1603 and established the Tokugawa shogunate. The Tokugawas ruled for more than 250 years. They were determined to end the civil wars that had troubled the country for years and restore order to Japanese society. Under Tokugawa rule, Japan was divided into about 250 regions, each headed by a lord who swore allegiance to the shogun.

European traders and Christian missionaries had begun arriving in Japan during the 1500's. But the Tokugawa rulers feared that the missionaries might soon bring European armies with them to conquer Japan. In the early 1600's, they ordered all missionaries to leave the country. They also tried to force all Japanese converts to give up their new faith. Those who refused were persecuted or killed. By 1640, Christianity had been almost eliminated. The Tokugawa government also believed that contact with the outside world must end to keep order in Japan. During the 1630's, it therefore cut ties with other nations. All European traders except the Dutch had to leave the country. The Dutch were permitted a small trading station on the tiny island of Deshima in the harbor at Nagasaki. The Tokugawa shogunate allowed one Dutch ship to come to the trading station each year.

The rise of democracy and nationalism. During the 1700's and 1800's, most countries in the Western world were affected by two powerful political forces--democracy and nationalism. During this period, many peoples won the right to take part in their governments. Nationalistic feelings--particularly the desire of people who shared a common culture to be united as a nation--led to the formation of many new states.

In some areas, the movement toward democracy and nationalism triggered revolts against existing political systems. One of the most important revolts was the Revolutionary War in America. Relations between Great Britain and its colonies in America began to break down in the mid-1700's. The colonists, who had enjoyed a large measure of self-government, wanted even greater freedom. They deeply resented efforts by the British government to tighten its control over the colonies. The Revolutionary War began on April 19, 1775. On July 4, 1776, the colonists issued the Declaration of Independence, in which they declared their freedom from British rule and the formation of a new nation, the United States of America. The Revolutionary War ended with Britain's defeat. In 1783, Britain acknowledged the independence of the colonies. The United States Constitution, adopted in 1788, officially established the new nation as a republic.

Another major revolution occurred in France. The French Revolution lasted from 1789 to 1799. It began when King Louis XVI called a meeting of the Estates-General, the French national assembly, to solve the state's financial problems. Commoners in the Estates-General revolted and seized control of the government, declaring themselves the legal National Assembly of France. The Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. This document set forth the principles of human liberty and the rights of individuals. The French nobles gave up most of their titles and special privileges. In 1792, the revolutionaries established the First French Republic.

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During the French Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte, a professional soldier, began to attract notice as a successful general. In 1799, he overthrew the revolutionary government and seized control of France. Napoleon made himself emperor in 1804. Under his leadership, the French came to control most of western Europe. But Napoleon lost much of his army when he invaded Russia in 1812. In 1815, allied European forces crushed Napoleon in the Battle of Waterloo, ending his attempt to rule Europe.

From late 1814 through early 1815, European leaders held a series of meetings called the Congress of Vienna. By that time, the ideas of the French Revolution had spread throughout Europe. The great rulers at the congress feared the effects of these ideas and wanted to smother liberal and nationalistic feelings among their subjects. They restored monarchies in Italy, Spain, and several other countries where they had been overthrown by Napoleon. They also approved the restoration of the French monarchy. But the congress failed to halt the spread of liberalism and nationalism in the long run.

By 1880, nearly every European nation had a constitution. In some, all adult males had received the right to vote. Germany and Italy, which had been divided into many small states, were each united as a nation under a constitutional monarchy. Many new nations with constitutional governments appeared in southeastern Europe as the Ottoman Empire began to crumble. The United States had survived the crisis of the Civil War (1861-1865), when its unity as a nation had been at stake. By 1900, many people believed that democracy and nationalism would continue to spread and eventually solve all the world's political problems. But in some areas, these forces had already started to create new problems. Nationalism posed serious threats for Russia and Austria-Hungary, which governed peoples of many different nationalities. Quarrels among the new nations of southeastern Europe also threatened to disrupt peace.

The Industrial Revolution. During the 1700's and 1800's, the spread of power-driven machinery helped bring about a rapid growth of industry. Large factories replaced homes and small workshops as manufacturing centers. The use of the new machinery and the development of factories led to a huge increase in the production of goods. As industrial nations began exporting manufactured products and importing raw materials for their factories, a worldwide system of markets took shape. The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain. By the mid-1800's, industrialization had become widespread in western Europe and the northeastern United States. Such countries as Russia and Japan also began to develop their industries.

The Industrial Revolution transformed human life more dramatically than any other change since the development of agriculture. Before the Industrial Revolution, most Europeans lived in farm areas. Towns and villages served chiefly as market centers for the farmers. But as factories appeared, towns grew into industrial cities. People streamed into the cities to take factory jobs. Better transportation and communication between cities became necessary. Many railroads, roads, and waterways were built. By 1837, invention of the telegraph had furnished fast long-distance communication.

Industrialization brought many social changes. The middle class prospered and grew rapidly. Members of the middle class owned most of the factories, hired the workers, and operated the banks, mines, and railroads. They believed that business should be regulated by supply and demand, largely without government control. This idea forms the basis of capitalism, an economic system in which the chief means of production are privately owned. During the early 1800's, Britain began to develop the first capitalist economy. Capitalism soon spread to other industrial nations.

Often, early factory workers were poorly paid and had to work long hours under unhealthful conditions. They could not form labor unions, and their working conditions were not regulated by law. In the growing industrial cities, housing could not keep up with the migration of workers from rural areas. Severe overcrowding resulted, and many people lived in extremely unsanitary conditions that led to outbreaks of disease. Unemployed workers rioted and destroyed machinery in an attempt to gain revenge against the factories they blamed for their joblessness. Employed workers joined in riots, went on strike, and formed illegal trade unions to fight for their rights.

Some people believed that the evils of industrialization resulted from capitalism. Socialism became the chief rallying point for many such people. The socialists wanted to put all industrial production under the control of the workers. From that basic idea, Karl Marx, a German writer and social philosopher, developed the theories of communism. Marx believed that workers would be driven by the march of history to rise up against the wealthy and to establish socialist economic systems and classless societies. By 1900, many European socialists had accepted Marx's ideas and belonged to political parties whose aim was the overthrow of the capitalist system.

During the 1800's, workers in many countries won the right to form labor unions. Laws regulating working conditions were passed in the United States and Great Britain during the 1840's. Great Britain and Germany pioneered in social legislation that provided accident, sickness, and unemployment insurance for industrial employees. By the late 1800's, most industrial nations had laws that regulated working conditions and raised the workers' standards of living.

Imperialism. The Industrial Revolution contributed to a great rise in imperialism (colonial expansion) during the 1800's. The industrialized nations acquired more and more colonies as they eagerly sought raw materials for their factories, markets for their manufactured goods, and opportunities for investment. Africa was one of the main areas of colonial expansion. By the late 1800's, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Portugal, and Spain had divided up almost all of Africa. Only Ethiopia and Liberia remained independent.

European nations also took over large sections of southeastern Asia and many islands in the South Pacific Ocean. The only major Asian nations that remained independent were China, Japan, and Siam (now Thailand). However, China's government had weakened, and the country had given up Indochina and many of its other outlying dependencies to Western nations. After the British defeated the Chinese in the Opium War in 1842, China lost all real control over the presence of foreigners in its territory. Many Chinese ports were opened to foreign residence and trade. Japan began to develop into an industrial and military power in the 1860's and successfully resisted imperialist interference. By the early 1900's, Japan had become strong enough to seize parts of Chinese territory and to win a war against Russia over control of southern Manchuria and Korea.

In Latin America, a series of wars of independence during the early 1800's freed many colonies from European rule. The United States, backed by Great Britain, acted to protect the new Latin-American republics against European attempts to reestablish colonial rule. In 1823, U.S. President James Monroe issued the Monroe Doctrine, which warned European powers not to interfere in the affairs of the Western Hemisphere.

The United States itself expanded into new areas during the 1800's. As a result of the Mexican War (1846-1848), it gained Mexican territory that now covers California, Nevada, Utah, and parts of four other states. In 1867, the United States purchased Alaska from Russia. Spain surrendered Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines to the United States after losing the Spanish-American War in 1898.

Imperialism affected the colonial peoples in various ways. In some areas, it brought economic development and raised living standards by introducing Western agricultural, industrial, and medical techniques. Colonial rule also ended local wars in numerous lands. However, many imperialist nations took advantage of their colonies by exporting natural resources without providing economic benefits in return to most of the people. Colonial administrations often cared little about local customs and destroyed old ways of life. As time passed, injustices under the imperialistic system triggered nationalistic feelings, resistance movements, and demands for self-government among the colonial peoples.

The world since 1900

Since 1900, the world has changed faster than ever before. The population has continued to rise rapidly. The world had about 12/3 billion people in 1900, about 21/2 billion in 1950, and about 6 billion by the end of the 1990's. Industrial output has soared as more and more countries have become industrialized, and international trade has expanded enormously. Advances in science and technology have altered basic ways of life to an extent that would never have been dreamed possible during the 1800's. In 1957, the space age began when the Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite to circle the earth. In 1969, two United States astronauts became the first human beings to walk on the moon.

The great colonial empires of the 1800's have disappeared, and many new nations have emerged. Europe no longer dominates international affairs. Between 1945 and about 1990, the United States and the Soviet Union ranked as the world's superpowers. However, serious economic problems contributed to a sharp loss of Soviet power after 1985, and the nation ceased to exist in late 1991. China and Japan have also developed into world powers.

Differences in beliefs and customs continue to divide the many peoples of the world. But at the same time, people throughout the world increasingly share similar experiences and problems. Many of the same political and economic forces operate around the globe, and events in one country can now quickly affect distant nations. The development of one world culture--which began with the spread of Western culture during the 1700's and 1800's--continues to be an important trend.

The world wars. War--fought on a greater scale than ever before--overshadowed world developments in the first half of the 1900's. World War I raged from 1914 to 1918, and World War II from 1939 to 1945.

World War I resulted chiefly from the competition for colonial and economic power among European nations, the desire of national groups to gain independence, and the secret military alliances among the nations of Europe. In the war, the Allies, which included France, Britain, Russia, and Italy, fought the Central Powers, which included Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire. The United States joined the Allies in 1917. In November 1917 (October on the old Russian calendar), a revolution in Russia established a Communist dictatorship there, and Russia withdrew from the war. The Allies gained victory in 1918. The Treaty of Versailles, signed in 1919, ended the war with Germany. The Allies signed separate treaties with the other Central Powers.

World War I was fought at a terrible cost. Millions of men, women, and children were killed, and whole cities were destroyed. The economic damage was huge. The war brought many changes in the political map of Europe. For example, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire split into national states. In Germany, the monarchy collapsed, and a republic was established.

Under the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was forced to disarm, give up much of its territory, and pay war damages to the Allies. Many of the German people felt that they had been treated too harshly. Adolf Hitler, head of the Nazi Party, won their support by promising to rebuild Germany into a mighty empire. In 1933, he became dictator of Germany.

In 1938, German forces seized Austria and part of Czechoslovakia. In March 1939, they took the rest of Czechoslovakia. On September 1, Germany invaded Poland, and World War II began. In the war, Germany, Italy, Japan, and other Axis powers fought the Allies, which included France, Britain, the Soviet Union, Canada, China, and the United States. The United States entered the war in 1941, after Japan attacked U.S. military bases at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The war in Europe ended with Germany's surrender in May 1945. In August 1945, U.S. planes dropped the first atomic bombs used in warfare on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The next month, Japan signed the terms of surrender.

The cost of World War II, both financially and in terms of human suffering and loss of life, was even greater than that of World War I. The political effects were also more sweeping. Europe lay in ruins. Germany, once the strongest European nation, was occupied by Allied military forces. The major European nations were too weak to hold on to their colonies. The United States and the Soviet Union emerged from the war as the world's leading powers. Out of the horror of World War II came attempts by nations to settle their disputes peacefully. A new international organization, the United Nations (UN), was established near the end of the war to provide a meeting place where countries could try to work out their political differences.

The rise of Communism. The Communist movement, which achieved its first major success in Russia in 1917, grew quickly after World War II. In the late 1940's, Soviet-controlled Communist governments were formed in most countries of Eastern Europe. Germany was divided into West Germany, which was governed by freely elected representatives, and Communist-controlled East Germany. In 1949, Chinese Communists established the People's Republic of China. Other Asian nations also came under Communist control.

Alarmed by Communist expansion, the United States and its allies began giving military and economic aid to non-Communist countries and pledged to help nations threatened by Communist take-over. The struggle between the Communist world, led by the Soviet Union, and the non-Communist world, led by the United States, became known as the Cold War.

Tensions between Communist and non-Communist nations increased in the 1950's and 1960's. The Korean War (1950-1953) began when troops from Communist-ruled North Korea invaded South Korea. Cold War incidents occurred from time to time in the divided German city of Berlin. In 1961, for example, the Communists built a wall between democratic West Berlin and Communist-controlled East Berlin to prevent East Germans from escaping. Probably the most serious incident was the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. Communists had come to power in Cuba in 1959. In October 1962, the United States learned that the Soviet Union had installed missiles in Cuba that could launch nuclear attacks on U.S. cities. The crisis passed after the Soviet Union and President John F. Kennedy agreed that the Soviets would remove their missiles from Cuba in return for the removal of U.S. nuclear missiles from Turkey. The Vietnam War, begun in 1957, was a major contest between Communist and non-Communist forces. The war ended in 1975 in a Communist victory.

The birth of new nations. Large-scale colonialism ended during the 1950's and 1960's. After World War II, the European nations had neither the money nor the will to continue to rule their colonies. In addition, nationalistic feelings and demands for self-government had been growing among colonial peoples in Africa and Asia. Between 1950 and 1980, over 45 African colonies gained their freedom. Most European colonies in Asia and the Middle East also became independent.

The formation of so many new nations led to a big increase in the membership of the UN and greatly affected the balance of power in the organization. Many former colonies became part of a group of economically developing countries called the Third World. The Third World countries had a majority of the votes in the UN General Assembly.

The end of colonialism has made international politics much less stable. In numerous cases, the ruling powers had given the colonial peoples too little training in self-government. As a result, leaders in many new nations have found it hard to handle crises in political, economic, and social affairs. Large areas of the world once governed peacefully by imperialist powers have been torn by conflicts among the new nations. For example, disputes have occurred periodically between India and Pakistan, areas once ruled by Great Britain.

Many of the new nations had hoped that an end to colonial exploitation would automatically bring economic well-being. Instead, they continue to face such grave problems as rapid population growth, poverty, illiteracy, disease, and food shortages. Most of the former colonies have found it almost impossible to develop their economies without investment from wealthier countries. But such investment has often led to renewed political interference from the countries providing aid.

The easing of Cold War tensions. Tensions between Communist and non-Communist nations began to decrease sharply in the late 1980's. In 1987, top Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan signed a treaty that called for the destruction of many U.S. and Soviet nuclear missiles. Tensions decreased further in 1989, when the Soviet Union completed withdrawal of its military forces from Afghanistan, which they had invaded in 1979.

Also, during the late 1980's, Gorbachev worked to decentralize the Soviet economic system to improve the nation's poor economy. He also worked to increase democracy and freedom of expression in the Soviet Union. Gorbachev encouraged similar economic and political changes in Eastern Europe. As a result, non-Communist governments came to power in several Eastern European nations that had been Communist dictatorships since the late 1940's. In 1990, East Germany and West Germany were reunited. Many people believe these events marked the end of the Cold War.

The collapse of the Soviet Union. In 1991, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union lost control of the Soviet government after conservative Communist officials attempted to overthrow Gorbachev. The attempt failed, and the Soviet parliament suspended all Communist Party activities. By the end of 1991, most of the republics that made up the Soviet Union had declared independence, and the Soviet Union ceased to exist. A majority of the republics formed a new, loose confederation called the Commonwealth of Independent States.

 .     .

Scientific and technological achievements. During the 1900's, advances in science and technology have changed the world in many dramatic ways. Airplanes, automobiles, communications satellites, computers, lasers, plastics, refrigerators, and television are only a few of the inventions that have transformed human life in this century. Research into the structure of the atom has expanded scientists' view of the universe and led to the discovery of nuclear energy as a source of power. Unmanned space probes have explored other planets and sent back data on them. Antibiotics and other new drugs have helped control most infectious diseases. Agricultural output has soared as scientists have developed better varieties of plants and highly efficient fertilizers and pesticides. The rapid medical progress and increases in food supplies have enabled millions of people to live healthier and longer lives.

In a number of cases, the scientific and technological achievements of the 1900's have created new problems. Breakthroughs in nuclear research, for instance, have led to the development of powerful weapons of mass destruction. The rapid growth of industrial technology has created such serious side effects as environmental pollution and fuel shortages. Increases in life expectancy have contributed to overpopulation in many of the world's developing countries, where birth rates have remained high as death rates have declined.

The interdependence of nations. In some ways, the world today seems full of divisions. No war has broken out directly between major world powers since World War II ended in 1945, but fighting has gone on in some part of the globe almost every day since then. In 1991, for example, the United States, Britain, and other countries drove Iraq out of Kuwait after Iraq had invaded and occupied Kuwait in 1990. Since the late 1980's, tensions between Communist and non-Communist nations have decreased. But the fact that some nations have nuclear weapons still makes the threat of nuclear war a worldwide concern. In economics, the gulf between developing and developed countries is much greater than ever before. About 60 per cent of the people in the Third World live in extreme poverty, while resources are consumed in huge quantities in developed countries simply to provide luxuries.

In spite of all the divisions in the world today, peoples and nations are tied together more closely than ever before. Electronic communications and worldwide systems of transportation make it possible for ideas and information to be shared quickly by peoples around the globe. Exchanges between cultures are more rapid and widespread than at any time in the past. Nations have become increasingly interdependent as such problems as pollution and the reduction of natural resources have grown too big for any one government to handle. Many countries belong to international economic or political organizations. Some developed countries give developing nations financial aid and technical assistance.

The breakdown of barriers between cultures began with the spread of European civilization. Westernization, more than any other force, has shaped much of the modern world and laid the foundation for the development of a common world culture. Today, many peoples throughout the world recognize the interdependence of nations and the need for international cooperation. The growing unity of human experience offers some hope that nations can settle their differences peacefully and avoid another world war.


Important Dates (9000 to 1500 B.C.)
c. 9000 B.C.    The development of agriculture began with the growing of crops and the domestication of animals in the Middle East.
c. 3500 B.C.    A number of small cities, centers of the world's first civilization, appeared in Sumer, the lower part of the Tigris-Euphrates Valley.
c. 3500 B.C.    The Sumerians invented the first form of writing. The Sumerian system was later simplified to produce wedge-shaped cuneiform writing, which spread throughout the Middle East.
c. 3100 B.C.    King Menes of Upper Egypt united Lower and Upper Egypt.
c. 3000-1100 B.C.    The Minoan civilization on the island of Crete rose and fell.
c. 2500 B.C.    The Indus Valley civilization began to flourish at Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa in what is now Pakistan.
2300's B.C.    Sargon of Akkad conquered the Sumerians and united all Mesopotamia under his rule, creating the world's first empire.
1700's B.C.    The Shang dynasty began its rule in the Huang He Valley of China.
c. 1792-1750 B.C.    Babylonia flourished under King Hammurabi.
1500's-c. 1100 B.C.    The city of Mycenae was the leading political and cultural center on the Greek mainland.
c. 1595 B.C.    The Hittites, a warlike people from what is now central Turkey, conquered the Babylonians.
c. 1500 B.C.    The Aryans of central Asia began migrating to India.

Important Dates (1500 B.C. to A.D. 500)
1020 B.C.    The Hebrews founded a kingdom in what is now Palestine.
800's B.C.    The Etruscans settled in west-central Italy.
750-338 B.C.    Athens, Corinth, Sparta, and Thebes were the chief city-states of Greece.
c. 550 B.C.    Cyrus the Great established the Persian Empire.
509 B.C.    The people of Rome revolted against their Etruscan rulers and established a republic.
338 B.C.    Philip II of Macedonia conquered the Greeks.
331 B.C.    Alexander the Great won the Battle of Arbela, assuring his conquest of the Persian Empire.
221-206 B.C.    The Qin dynasty established China's first strong central government.
202 B.C.    The Han dynasty began its 400-year rule of China.
146 B.C.    The Romans conquered Greece.
55-54 B.C.    Julius Caesar led the Roman invasion of Britain.
27 B.C.    Augustus became the first Roman emperor.
c. A.D. 250    The Maya Indians developed an advanced civilization in Central America and Mexico.
313    Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, which granted freedom of worship to Christians of the Roman Empire.
320    India began its golden age under the Gupta dynasty.
395    The Roman Empire split into the East Roman, or Byzantine, Empire and the West Roman Empire.
476    The Germanic chieftain Odoacer overthrew Romulus Augustulus, the last emperor of the West Roman Empire.

Important Dates (500 to 1500)
300's-mid-1000's    The Ghana Empire, the first great black empire in western Africa, existed as a trading state.
527-565    The Byzantine Empire reached its greatest extent under Emperor Justinian I.
622    Muhammad, prophet of Islam, fled from Mecca to Medina. His flight, called the Hegira, marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar.
732    Charles Martel and the Franks defeated invading Muslims in fighting in west-central France. The victory prevented the Muslims from overrunning Europe.
750    The Abbasids became the caliphs of the Islamic world.
800    Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne, ruler of the Franks, emperor of the Romans.
c. 988    Vladimir I (also spelled Volodymyr) established Christianity among the East Slavs, ancestors of the Belarusian, Russian, and Ukrainian people.
1054    Rivalries between the church in Rome and the church in Constantinople resulted in their separation as the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Churches.
1192    Yoritomo became the first shogun to rule Japan. Shogun rule lasted until 1867.
1215    English barons forced King John to grant a charter of liberties called Magna Carta.
1279    The Mongols gained control of all China.
1300's    The Renaissance began in Italy.
1368    The Ming dynasty began its nearly 300-year rule of China.
1453    The Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople (Istanbul) and overthrew the Byzantine Empire.

Important dates in world history (1500 to 1900)
1500's    The Reformation led to the birth of Protestantism.
1519-1521    Ferdinand Magellan commanded the first globe-circling voyage, completed in 1522 after his death.
1521    The Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortes defeated the Aztec Indians of Mexico.
1526    Babur, a Muslim prince, invaded India and founded the Mughal Empire.
1588    The Royal Navy of England defeated the Spanish Armada, establishing England as a great naval power.
1644-1912    The Manchus ruled China as the Qing dynasty.
1776    The 13 American Colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, establishing the United States of America.
1789    The French Revolution began.
1815    Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated in the Battle of Waterloo, ending his attempt to rule Europe.
1853-1854    Commodore Matthew Perry visited Japan and opened two ports to U.S. trade, ending Japan's isolation.
1858    Britain took over the rule of India from the East India Company after the Indaian Rebellion, also called the Sepoy Rebellion.
1865    Union forces defeated the Confederates in the American Civil War after four years of fighting.
1869    The Suez Canal opened.
1871    Germany became united under the Prussian king, who ruled the new empire as Kaiser Wilhelm I.
1898    The United States took control of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines following the Spanish-American War.

Important Dates (Since 1900)
1914    The assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary started World War I.
1917    The Bolsheviks (Communists) seized power in Russia.
1933    Adolf Hitler became dictator of Germany.
1939    Germany invaded Poland, starting World War II.
1941    The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and the United States entered World War II.
1945    The United Nations was established.
1945    The first atomic bombs used in warfare were dropped by U.S. planes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
1945    World War II ended in Europe on May 7 and in the Pacific on September 2.
1949    The Chinese Communists conquered China.
1950    North Korean Communist troops invaded South Korea, starting the Korean War.
1957    The Vietnam War started when South Vietnamese rebels attacked the U.S.-backed South Vietnamese government.
1969    U.S. astronauts made the first manned moon landing.
1989-1990    Democratic reforms spread across Eastern Europe, and several non-Communist governments replaced Communist dictatorships.
1990    East Germany and West Germany were reunited, ending the division of Germany that had begun soon after the end of World War II.
1991    The Communist Party of the Soviet Union lost control of the Soviet government, and the Soviet Union ceased to exist.

: 7 2001

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