Before around 10,000 BC, all humans on Earth were nomadic hunter-gatherers. Over the past million years, they had gradually spread out of Africa, replacing other hominid species such as the Neanderthals. By the time the Agricultural Revolution began around 8000 BC, all major landmasses except New Zealand had been settled. Agriculture was independently developed in the Fertile Crescent, China, India, Mesoamerica, and New Guinea.
Sumer, the first civilization, emerged in Mesopotamia around 4000 BC. It developed the first system of writing, known as cuneiform. Sumer interacted intensely with Akkad, who adopted cuneiform writing for their own language. Akkad soon became to eclipse Sumer in influence, and the Akkadian Empire was born. In Egypt, another civilization arose around the Nile River. They also created a writing system, known as hieroglyphics. In India and China, civilizations grew around the Indus and Yellow rivers, respectively.
In this period, civilization spread throughout the Mediterranean. The Minoans settled Crete and the Mycenaens settled mainland Greece. Around 1600 BC the Minoan civilization was destroyed, and around 1200 BC the Dorians invaded Greece, beginning the Greek Dark Ages. In Mesopotamia, the previously dominant Akkadian Empire was replaced by the Assyrians. Later the Assyrians were conquered by Babylon. In China, the Zhou Dynasty began to rise above the others in the Warring States period.
This period saw the beginning of large, politically complex states. The Roman Republic, founded in 509 BC, controlled most of Italy. The Greeks entered a golden age, with the development of democracy in Athens, and the philosophers of Socrates and Plato. The Achaemenid Empire in Persia became the world's first empire, controlling Persia, Egypt, and the Fertile Crescent.
The Roman Republic continued to expand, winning control of the western Mediterranean after the defeat of Carthage in the Punic Wars. The Maurya Empire rose in India, founded by Chandragupta Maurya. Alexander the Great of Macedon led an army out of Greece and conquered the whole of the Persian empire, initiating the Hellenic Age. The Warring States period continued in China, leading to the development of philosophies such as Confucianism and Daoism.
The Qin dynasty became the first dynasty to unify China in 221 BC, under Qin Shi Huangdi. It quickly fell due to popular discontent, and was replaced by the more stable Han dynasty. The Greek civilization began to decline in favor of the Romans. The Kalinga War in India led to the conversion of Ashoka the Great to Buddhism.
100 BC-1 ADEdit
The Roman Republic continued to expand with the conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar. In 27 BC, the largest empire of the Classical Period, the Roman Empire, was founded by Augustus Caesar after a lengthy series of civil wars. The Han dynasty also enjoyed its golden age.
This century saw the expansion of the Roman Empire to its maximum extent. The Han dynasty was also at its prime; there is some evidence of direct contact between the two empires. Certainly, the Silk Road linked the two indirectly. In the early part of the century, Jesus of Nazareth founded Christianity in Israel. It quickly spread throughout the Roman Empire, although it was often bloodily suppressed.
During this period, the Han dynasty began to fall. Nomadic migrations, perhaps related to those that would affect Rome in the next century, caused its downfall. At the same time, the Gupta Empire rose in India. It grew wealthy from the Indian Ocean basin trade routes.
The divide between the Eastern Roman Empire and the Western Roman Empire grew during this period. Christianity also began to spread throughout the Mediterranean. In China, the Han dynasty fully collapsed and the Spring and Autumn Period began. The Gupta Empire in India enjoyed a golden age.
Christianity was adopted as the official religion of the Roman Empire in 313. A couple of decades later, the split between the Western and Eastern Roman Empire became permanent, with the East going on to become the Byzantine Empire. The Huns entered Europe at this time, setting off a chain reaction of barbarian migrations that Rome would not be able to endure.
The Roman Empire withered away in the 5th century, and finally collapsed in 476. They were replaced by various Germanic tribes, including the Franks in the north, who would carve out their own empire. In China, the chaos of the Spring and Autumn Period continued. In India, the Gupta Empire began to falter, but survived to the end of the century.
The 6th century saw the collapse of the last major classical civilization, the Gupta Empire. The Franks, a Germanic tribe in northern Europe, converted to Christianity and began to build an empire. The Byzantine Empire in the eastern Mediterranean experienced a golden age under Justinian the Great and reconquered Italy, but the [[Plague of Justinian] ravished the empire and his armies were forced to withdraw.
The 7th century saw the founding of Islam by Muhammad in 622. The Rashidun Caliphate quickly expanded its borders to include most of the Middle East, defeating the weak Byzantine Empire and Sassanids. The Sui dynasty united China for the first time since the Han, and began construction of the Grand Canal.
The Rashidun Caliphate was replaced by the Umayyads, who continued their expansion. North Africa and Central Asia were converted to Islam and incorporated into their empire. At the Battle of Tours in 732, the Franks kept the Umayyads from expanding into Europe. In 750, the Abbasids replaced the Umayyads. The Franks also took northern Italy from the Lombards, creating the largest empire in Europe since Roman times. In China, the Sui dynasty was replaced by the Tang dynasty.
The Frankish Empire fell apart in 843 at the Treaty of Verdun, and the fragmented political landscape of the Middle Ages began to take shape. The Vikings ravaged the coasts of Western Europe, and expanded overseas. Kievan Rus' in Russia became the largest state in Europe, although it was not particularly unified.
The Holy Roman Empire was formed in Central Europe in 962 by Otto II. Leif Ericsson became the first European to set foot in North America in 1000. Kievan Rus' splintered into several smaller states, including the future Grand Duchy of Moscow. Polynesians reached New Zealand, one of the last large landmasses to be settled.
The Norman invasion of England in 1066 brought England and continental Europe closer together, politically and culturally. The beginning of the Crusades at the end of the century advanced European science by rediscovered lost manuscripts of Ancient Greek philosophers. The Tang dynasty in China was replaced by the Song. The Turks began a great migration into Anatolia, eventually entirely replacing the native inhabitants and severely threatening the Byzantine Empire.
The Kingdom of Castile and the Kingdom of Portugal began to reconquer the Muslim-occupied areas of Iberia. The Crusades continue in the Middle East, with several important Crusader victories and the establishment of Crusader states. The Sultanate of Delhi was at its height, controlling most of northern India. Northern China was conquered by the Jin dynasty, forcing the Song dynasty into the south.
Genghis Khan unified the Mongol tribes in 1206, and began two centuries of Mongol conquests. By 1278, most of Asia was under Mongol control. The Song dynasty was replaced by the Yuan dynasty, the Khwarezmids by the Ilkhanate, and the Russian principalities by the Golden Horde.
The Mongol Empire declined with the fall of the Yuan dynasty in 1368. The Ming dynasty experienced its height in China. The introduction of gunpowder in the previous century drastically altered European warfare. The Hundred Years' War between England and France saw the first standing armies since the time of Rome. The Aztec Triple Alliance arose in Mesoamerica.
Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453, ending the last vestige of the Roman Empire. The Chinese explorer Zheng He sailed throughout the Indian Ocean before he was recalled by the Ming dynasty, beginning a period of Chinese isolationism. In 1492, Christopher Columbus initiated long-term contact between the peoples of Eurasia and the Americas by sailing to The Bahamas. Spain quickly laid claim to much of the Caribbean.
The 16th century continued the trend of European exploration in the Americas and elsewhere. French explorers sailed to eastern Canada and the Mississippi River Valley. Several English attempts to establish colonies on the East Coast of the United States failed. Ferdinand Magellan's fleet became the first to circumnavigate the world in 1521. The Spanish conquered the Mesoamerican civilizations of the Aztecs and the Incas, yielding them great wealth. The Ottomans continued to encroach on Central Europe, unsuccessfully laying siege on Vienna, Austria. The Grand Duchy of Moscow established the Tsardom of Russia under Ivan the Terrible.
The 17th century saw France emerge as the primary European military power. England established a string of colonies on the Atlantic seaboard of North America. The English Civil War and Glorious Revolution set a precedent of democracy in England that later spread to mainland Europe and across the Atlantic.
The defining event of this era was the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. Several indirect wars were fought between the two, including the Korean War, Vietnam War, and the Soviet war in Afghanistan. The Soviet Union fell in 1991, leaving the U.S. the sole superpower. Decolonization of most of Africa occurred in the 1960s, which permanently ended the era of British and French dominance. The Computer Revolution began in the 1970s, as microcomputers became affordable to the middle-class. The Internet and the World Wide Web spread into general use.
The September 11 attacks on the United States began the War on Terror, which resulted in greater U.S. participation in the Middle East. The Arab Spring brought democracy and more civil liberties to many Arab nations. The Chinese economy grew at an unprecedented rate, poised to overtake the U.S. economy. The Information Revolution continued, with the founding of major tech firms and nonprofits like Wikipedia, Facebook, and YouTube.