History of the world

World population, 10,000 BCE – 2,000 CE (vertical population scale is logarithmic)[1]

The history of the world, in common parlance, is the history of humanity (or human history), as determined from archaeology, anthropology, genetics, linguistics, and other disciplines; and, for periods since the invention of writing, from recorded history and from secondary sources and studies.

Humanity's written history was preceded by its prehistory, beginning with the Palaeolithic Era ("Old Stone Age"), followed by the Neolithic Era ("New Stone Age"). The Neolithic saw the Agricultural Revolution begin, between 8000 and 5000 BCE, in the Near East's Fertile Crescent. During this period, humans began the systematic husbandry of plants and animals.[2] As agriculture advanced, most humans transitioned from a nomadic to a settled lifestyle as farmers in permanent settlements. The relative security and increased productivity provided by farming allowed communities to expand into increasingly larger units, fostered by advances in transportation.

Whether in prehistoric or historic times, people always needed to be near reliable sources of potable water. Settlements developed on river banks as early as 3000 BCE in Mesopotamia,[3] on the banks of Egypt's Nile River,[4][5] in the Indus River valley,[6] and along China's rivers.[7][8] As farming developed, grain agriculture became more sophisticated and prompted a division of labour to store food between growing seasons. Labour divisions led to the rise of a leisured upper class and the development of cities, which provided the foundation for civilization. The growing complexity of human societies necessitated systems of accounting and writing.

With civilizations flourishing, ancient history ("Antiquity," including the Classical Age,[9] up to about 500 CE[10]) saw the rise and fall of empires. Post-classical history (the "Middle Ages," c. 500–1500 CE [11]) witnessed the rise of Christianity, the Islamic Golden Age (c. 750 CE – c. 1258 CE), and the early Italian Renaissance (from around 1300 CE). The mid-15th-century introduction of movable-type printing in Europe[12] revolutionized communication and facilitated ever wider dissemination of information, hastening the end of the Middle Ages and ushering in the Scientific Revolution.[13] The Early Modern Period, sometimes referred to as the "European Age",[14] from about 1500 to 1800,[15] included the Age of Enlightenment and the Age of Exploration. By the 18th century, the accumulation of knowledge and technology had reached a critical mass that brought about the Industrial Revolution[16] and began the Late Modern Period, which started around 1800 and has continued through the present.[17]

This scheme of historical periodization (dividing history into Antiquity, Post-Classical, Early Modern, and Late Modern periods) was developed for, and applies best to, the history of the Old World, particularly Europe and the Mediterranean. Outside this region, including ancient China and ancient India, historical timelines unfolded differently. However, by the 18th century, due to extensive world trade and colonization, the histories of most civilizations had become substantially intertwined, a process known as globalization. In the last quarter-millennium, the rates of growth of population, knowledge, technology, communications, commerce, weapons destructiveness, and environmental degradation have greatly accelerated, creating opportunities and perils that now confront the planet's human communities.[18]


Early humans

Genetic measurements indicate that the ape lineage which would lead to Homo sapiens diverged from the lineage that would lead to chimpanzees and bonobos, the closest living relatives of modern humans, around 4.6 to 6.2 million years ago.[19] Anatomically modern humans arose in Africa about 300,000 years ago,[20] and reached behavioural modernity about 50,000 years ago.[21]

Cave painting, Lascaux, France, c. 15,000 BCE
"Venus of Willensdorf", Austria, c. 26,500 BCE

Modern humans spread rapidly from Africa into the frost-free zones of Europe and Asia around 60,000 years ago.[22] The rapid expansion of humankind to North America and Oceania took place at the climax of the most recent ice age, when temperate regions of today were extremely inhospitable. Yet, humans had colonized nearly all the ice-free parts of the globe by the end of the Ice Age, some 12,000 years ago.[23] Other hominids such as Homo erectus had been using simple wood and stone tools for millennia, but as time progressed, tools became far more refined and complex.

Perhaps as early as 1.8 million years ago, but certainly by 500,000 years ago, humans began using fire for heat and cooking.[24] They also developed language in the Paleolithic period[25] and a conceptual repertoire that included systematic burial of the dead and adornment of the living. Early artistic expression can be found in the form of cave paintings and sculptures made from ivory, stone, and bone, showing a spirituality generally interpreted as animism, or even shamanism.[26] During this period, all humans lived as hunter-gatherers, and were generally nomadic.[27] Archaeological and genetic data suggest that the source populations of Paleolithic hunter-gatherers survived in sparsely wooded areas and dispersed through areas of high primary productivity while avoiding dense forest cover.[28]

Rise of civilization

The Neolithic Revolution, beginning around 10,000 BCE, saw the development of agriculture, which fundamentally changed the human lifestyle. Farming developed around 10,000 BCE in the Middle East, around 7000 BCE in what is now China, around 6000 BCE in the Indus Valley and Europe, and around 4000 BCE in the Americas.[29] Cultivation of cereal crops and the domestication of animals occurred around 8500 BCE in the Middle East, where wheat and barley were the first crops and sheep and goats were domesticated.[30] In the Indus Valley, crops were cultivated by 6000 BCE, along with domesticated cattle. The Yellow River valley in China cultivated millet and other cereal crops by about 7000 BCE, but the Yangtze River valley domesticated rice earlier, by at least 8000 BCE. In the Americas, sunflowers were cultivated by about 4000 BCE, and maize and beans were domesticated in Central America by 3500 BCE. Potatoes were first cultivated in the Andes Mountains of South America, where the llama was also domesticated.[29] Metal-working, starting with copper around 6000 BCE, was first used for tools and ornaments. Gold soon followed, with its main use being for ornaments. The need for metal ores stimulated trade, as many of the areas of early human settlement were lacking in ores. Bronze, an alloy of copper and tin, was first known from around 2500 BCE, but did not become widely used until much later.[31]

Monumental cuneiform inscription, Sumer, Mesopotamia, 26th century BCE

Though early proto-cities appeared at Jericho and Catal Huyuk around 6000 BCE,[32] the first civilizations did not emerge until around 3000 BCE in Egypt[33] and Mesopotamia.[34] These cultures gave birth to the invention of the wheel,[35] mathematics,[36] bronze-working, sailing boats, the pottery wheel, woven cloth, construction of monumental buildings,[37] and writing.[38] Writing developed independently and at different times in five areas of the world:[39] Egypt (c. 3200 BCE),[39] India (c. 3200 BCE),[40] Mesopotamia (c. 3000 BCE),[41] China (c. 1600 BCE),[42] and Mesoamerica (c. 600 BCE).[39]

Farming permitted far denser populations, which in time organized into states. Agriculture also created food surpluses that could support people not directly engaged in food production.[43] The development of agriculture permitted the creation of the first cities. These were centres of trade, manufacturing and political power.[44] Cities established a symbiosis with their surrounding countrysides, absorbing agricultural products and providing, in return, manufactured goods and varying degrees of military control and protection.

The development of cities was synonymous with the rise of civilization.[a] Early civilizations arose first in Lower Mesopotamia (3000 BCE),[46][47] followed by Egyptian civilization along the Nile River (3000 BCE),[5] the Harappan civilization in the Indus River Valley (in present-day India and Pakistan; 2500 BCE),[48][49] and Chinese civilization along the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers (2200 BCE).[7][8] These societies developed a number of unifying characteristics, including a central government, a complex economy and social structure, sophisticated language and writing systems, and distinct cultures and religions. Writing facilitated the administration of cities, the expression of ideas, and the preservation of information.[50]

Entities such as the Sun, Moon, Earth, sky, and sea were often deified.[citation needed] Shrines developed, which evolved into temple establishments, complete with a complex hierarchy of priests and priestesses and other functionaries. Typical of the Neolithic was a tendency to worship anthropomorphic deities. Among the earliest surviving written religious scriptures are the Egyptian Pyramid Texts, the oldest of which date to between 2400 and 2300 BCE.[51]

Other Languages
العربية: تاريخ العالم
Bân-lâm-gú: Sè-kài ê le̍k-sú
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Сусьветная гісторыя
čeština: Dějiny lidstva
Cymraeg: Hanes y Byd
गोंयची कोंकणी / Gõychi Konknni: Sonvsaracho Itihas
한국어: 세계의 역사
Bahasa Indonesia: Sejarah dunia
Interlingue: Historie del Munde
íslenska: Mannkynssaga
Lingua Franca Nova: Istoria de la mundo
la .lojban.: citri lo remna
മലയാളം: ലോകചരിത്രം
Bahasa Melayu: Sejarah dunia
日本語: 世界の歴史
norsk nynorsk: Verdshistoria
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Jahon tarixi
português: História do mundo
română: Istoria lumii
Simple English: History of the world
slovenčina: Dejiny ľudstva
српски / srpski: Светска историја
татарча/tatarça: Дөнья тарихы
Türkçe: Dünya tarihi
українська: Всесвітня історія
Tiếng Việt: Lịch sử thế giới
粵語: 世界史
中文: 世界歷史