A Summary History of the World

[History Summary Scroller] | [Some History Snippets Scroller] | [Reference to Peoples and Countries from the Past] | [Getting used to millennium and centuries] | [Demographics] | [A short textual summary history of the world]
[History Quiz 1] | [History Quiz 2] | [History Quiz 3]


Why History?

History is an important part of our lives and an important part of appreciating who we are. History helps provide a little more meaning in our lives, and an increased appreciation of being alive and a part of the world, through connecting us into the shared memory of the human race.

History helps us better appreciate just how biased our thinking is as a result of our particular culture and circumstances. History enables us to stand back and see our circumstances from a wider perspective, and better recognise that as a member of some ethnic group we have inherited the views of that group and we regard others in particular and biased ways. People from other nations are not different to us in any physiological sense, but they simply have a different history which leads them to think in a particular way and in a way we ourselves would think if we had been born into that history. We are who we are by chance and they are who they are by chance: now lets work together on solving the problems we mutually face.

History helps us appreciate that our present situation is neither natural nor inevitable and that we consequently have many more possibilities before us than we imagine. It helps open our minds to an appreciation of the many different viewpoints that different people have and thus gives us a better understanding of why the world is as it is; enabling us to interact with it in a more realistic and pragmatic manner.

History widens our horizons and provides us with a topic we can communicate to others about.

History is fascinating. Having an interest in history brings an extra dimension to our lives. If you enjoy stories, history is pretty much the most interesting story you could read. And if you find a particular part of history interesting there is a continuing detailed story for you to follow up on.

History Summary Scroller

The following scroller is a brief run through major periods of history or the history of certain areas of the world now occupied by countries.

Prehistory to Civilisation
Centred on the Middle East and Egypt
Europe and the Mediterranean
The Emergence and Heyday of Greece
The Emergence and Heyday of Rome
The History of China
The History of Japan
The History of India
The History of South East Asia
The History of Korea
The History of Africa
Pre-Columbus America
Europe following the fall of the Western European Empire
The Byzantine Empire
The Emergence and Heyday of Islam
Europe in the year 1000 AD
The Crusades
Steppe Invasions and the Mongols
History of the Ottoman Empire
Europe into the Second Millenium
European 16th Century History
European 17th Century History
European 18th Century History
European North America and the American Revolution
The French Revolution
The Industrial Revolution
European 19th Century History
The American Civil War
The British Empire
European 20th Century History

[Note that you can navigate through with left and right arrows or hold the screen by hovering over it.]

Some History Snippets

The following scroller provides a few snippets from history, some of which I hope you find interesting.

Reference to Peoples and Countries from the Past

Using modern labels to describe the past can be highly misleading.

When speaking of historical events we often use modern country terms. We talk of France, or China, or India. This is a necessary shorthand to let the reader know where we are taking about without putting him or her off by being more precise. However this also gives a false impression of the past which many readers will misunderstand. Thus we talk of England in the Roman times and imagine our ancestors living there. However the people we now are may or may not be strongly related to those from some particular past point in the history of the land we live in. For example the ancestry of those living in the UK is about 37 per cent Anglo Saxon, Germanic invaders from about 500 AD, 22 per cent Celtic, invaders from about 500 BC, 20 percent Western mainland European, immigrants from various times over the last 1,000 or so years, and 10 per cent Scandinavian.

Whilst we use these national terms to give the reader an appreciation of where in the world we are talking about, we need to be wary of thinking that our modern day nations and peoples have been around for thousands of years. They haven’t. Our modern day obsession with nations is a phenomena of only the past couple of hundred years. People three of four hundred years ago did not feel English, or French, or Russian, or Indian. Any sense of belonging they would have had would have either been to their local village or area, or possibly to some lord or local power figure. Whilst historical films will show a people ‘fighting for England’, at the time this would have meant nothing to them.

Many people who look back at their history with national pride are in fact referring back to a people with whom they may have little or no direct genetic relationship. They may even be referring back to a people who their true genetic ancestors may have been responsible for exterminating.

There is also an artificiality about other terms we use when referring to the past. We refer to periods of history or to movements or to empires, but this is often merely a convenient terminology we use in the present to make sense of the past and not a terminology that would have been in use at the time or even have made any sense at the time. Nevertheless it is a useful and necessary means of providing us with a mental architecture that enables us to talk about the past.

We should also be wary of applying modern day morality and sensibilities to the past. People in the past were physically and intellectually much the same as today, albeit without the benefits of modern day diets and learning. They were shaped by their environment in the same way as we are shaped by ours. We should not judge them by today’s standards.


Getting used to millennium and centuries

Whilst some people have no trouble with immediately recognizing what is meant by the 2nd millennium BC or the 15th century AD, others are not so sure. If you’re not so sure then read on.

The first century AD was the period from 1 AD through to, and including 31st Dec 100 AD. Thus the first day of the 2nd century is 1st Jan 101 AD, and the 20th century ran from 1st Jan 1901 through to 31st Dec 2000. Thus most of the 15th century for example is the years beginning 14xx.

The first millennium AD consisted of the first 10 centuries AD, and thus ran from 1 AD through to 31st Dec 1000 AD. The second millennium AD thus ran from 1st Jan 1001 through to 31st Dec 2000 AD. The third millennium thus began on 1st Jan 2001 AD.

The first century BC was the period from 1st Jan 100 BC through to 31st Dec 1 BC. The 8th century BC thus ran from 1st Jan 800 through to 31st Dec 701 BC.

The first millennium BC consists of the 10 centuries immediately preceding start of the Common Era, and thus runs from 1st Jan 1000 BC through to 31st Dec 1 BC. Thus the 4th millennium BC runs from 1st Jan 4000 BC through to 31st Dec 3001 BC.



For background information it is worth keeping in mind that the world has not always been populated by today’s large populations.

Around 1,000 BC, when we had major civilizations in the Middle East, in China, and in India, the total world population was of the order 50 million. That is smaller than the populations of many of today’s countries, including Britain.

At the time of Christ, when there were major Roman and Chinese Empires, the world population was about 200 million, less than that of Brazil today. The population of the whole of the Roman Empire at its peak was less than the population of Italy today.

Through the 1st millennium AD the population grew little, lots of diseases and wars about, and by 1000 AD it stood at about 250 million. Through the 2nd millennium it steadily crept up, and in 1804 it hit a billion and by 1927 2 billion.

It is also worth keeping in mind that until relatively recently about 95% of humans were peasants who rose each morning to till the land. The extra they produced fed the tiny minority of elites – kings, government officials, soldiers, merchants, priests, artists, and thinkers – that worked away from the fields and occasionally get a mention in the history books. History is something that a small number of people have been doing whilst the vast majority of our ancestors were ploughing the fields and carrying water buckets.


History Quiz 1

[Alternative version of Quiz with Scoring]: Requires ActiveX enabled

Reminder on taking tests: It’s not about trying to prove you already know it, it’s about learning.

Question 1.1

Which millennium are the following years in?
a. The year 23,322 BC
b. The year 1,231 BC
c. The year 992 AD
d. The year 1001 AD
e. The year 2000 BC
f. The year 2000 AD
g. The year 0


Question 1.2

Which century are the following years in?
a. The year 231 AD
b. The year 231 BC
c. The year 100 AD
d. The year 101 BC
e. The year 1801 AD
f. The year 1800 AD
g. The year 2000 AD


Question 1.3

Until approximately when were there still our ‘cousin’ species the Neanderthals?:
a. 1 million years ago,
b. 300,000 years ago,
c. 30,000 years ago,
d. 10,000 years ago.


Question 1.4

The origins of settled human civilisations was in the region known as Mesopotamia, around 10,000 years ago. There are two rivers running through this area along which the first civilisations emerged. Which of the following were (and still are) these two rivers:

Volga, Euphrates, Nile, Mekong, Tigris, Danube, Yellow River, Indus


Question 1.5

Other than in Mesopotamia, what were the three other regions of the world that advanced cultures are believed to have first developed? Name, if you can, both the River area and the modern day country.


Question 1.6

Many cities along the middle and Western Mediterranean were founded by the Phoenicians and the Greeks from the Eastern Mediterranean. Align the following cities with the people’s that founded them:

Cities: Carthage, Syracuse, Marseille, Cadiz

Founders: Phoenicians or Greeks


Question 1.7

Which philosophers were near contemporaries in the 6th Century BC?


Question 1.8

Alexander the Great, the Mecedonian, created a brief Empire which stretched from Greece and Egypt to India. How old was he when he died?

a. 23
b. 33
c. 43
d. 53


Question 1.9

Which Roman Emperor was ruling at the time of the birth of Jesus Christ?


Question 1.10

Which Roman Emperor, in the 3rd century AD, divided the Empire into two, which major city was named after him, and what was the name of the Empire which resulted from the split and lasted through until the 15th century AD.


Question 1.11

Order the following chronologically from earliest to most recent in terms of what is recognised as their heydays.

Roman Empire, Greek City States, Vikings, The Shang Dynasty, Carolingian Empire


History Quiz 2

[Alternative version of Quiz with Scoring]: Requires ActiveX enabled

Reminder on taking tests: It’s not about trying to prove you already know it, it’s about learning.

Question 2.1

Put the following Chinese dynasties in chronological order:

Tang, Manchu, Qin, Ming, Han, Shang


Question 2.2

Who was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day 800 AD?


Question 2.3

Which of the following is the odd one out?

Constantinople, Istanbul, Byzantium, Ankara


Question 2.4

Who was the grandson of Genghis Khan who became emperor of China and the founder of the Yuan dynasty, and who Marco Polo is reputed to have met?


Question 2.5

In the 13th century the Mongols under Kublai Khan attempted an invasion of Japan. The Japanese were saved in part by the Samurai, and in part by a Kamikaze. What was the Kamikaze?


Question 2.6

The following terms are related to two of the high points of Indian culture. Group the terms according to one or other of these periods:

Taj Mahal; Hindu; Muslim; Gupta Empire; Mughals; Akbar; Kama Sutra; 5th century; 16th century


Question 2.7

Which European country was the first to establish trading posts on the coast of India following the rounding of The Cape of Good Hope?


Question 2.8

Which empire is the following a description of:

• The largest pre-industrial society in the world;
• Extensive network of roads and rest houses connecting every town in the empire.
• Built the temple complex of Angkor Wat;


Question 2.9

Who were the principal protagonists in the following wars:

a. The Peloponnesian War
b. The Punic Wars
c. The Hundred Years War
d. The Thirty Years War


Question 2.10

Associate the following dates with their respective events:

1453; 1099; 1565; 1492.

The taking of Jerusalem by the Crusaders;
Completion of the Christian reconquest of the Iberian Peninsular;
Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans;
Ottoman siege of Malta.


Question 2.11

Shortly after the coming of the Europeans to America, two major American civilisations fell, one to Cortes, and one to Pissaro. What were they?


History Quiz 3

[Alternative version of Quiz with Scoring]: Requires ActiveX enabled

Reminder on taking tests: It’s not about trying to prove you already know it, it’s about learning.

Question 3.1

In the early 20th century there was only one non-European/American country which could stand as an economic and military equal of the European/American nations. Which country?


Question 3.2

Which was the only country in South East Asia to avoid European colonisation?


Question 3.3

Which were the only two African countries to avoid European colonisation?


Question 3.4

Identify which of the items below belong in the identified positions within the following:

When the (i) took control of Jerusalem, they massacred the population, with little consideration of their religion.
When the (ii) took control of Jerusalem, they treated the population with respect. …

a. The Muslims under Saladin.
b. The Christians under, amongst others, King Richard the Lionheart.


Question 3.5

The spread of Protestant ideas was enabled by, and probably would not have happened without, a particular technological innovation. Which one?


Question 3.6

The Knights Hospitaller of Saint John were one of the religious military orders that were founded in support of travellers to the crusader states established in the Middle East. With the reconquest of the middle east by the Muslims they were forced out initially to Cyprus and then Rhodes, where the ruled for some 200 years. When forced out from Rhodes where did they then settle, through till the end of the 18th century?


Question 3.7

The last major outbreak of the Black Death in Europe, to date, was in 1720. Where did it occur?


Question 3.8

What is termed the Scientific Method emerged in the 17th century with the works of persons such as Francis Bacon, Rene Descartes and Isaac Newton. What, in simplistic terms, is meant by The Scientific Method?


Question 3.9

Three major revolutions occurred in the second half of the 18th century which were to have a profound effect on the world. What were they?


Question 3.10

Which of the following are true facts about the American Civil War

a. It led to more American deaths than did the first world war and the second world war combined.
b. It was triggered by Abraham Lincoln’s stated intent to ban slavery from the Southern states.
c. Technologies applied included early submarines, aircraft, and tanks.
d. The two sides were equally matched and the North’s victory was largely due to superior military leaders.
e. Armed conflict began when the North launched an attack on the Confederacy.


Question 3.11

Identify some of the contrasts between the beginning and the end of the 20th century.