The History of the World


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The History of the world. People have probably lived on the earth about 2 million years. In the earliest days, human groups established small societies throughout much of the world. People started to use writing about 5,500 years ago. 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 ob
   The History of the world.People have probably lived on the earth about 2million years. In the earliest days, human groups established small societiesthroughout much of the world. People started to use writing about 5,500 years ago.The period before people began to write is usually called prehistory.Archaeologists have pieced together the story of prehistory by studying what thepeople left behind, including artwork, tools, ruins of buildings, fossils, and even theirown skeletons. Such objects provide the main evidence of what prehistoric peoplewere like and how they lived. For a description of life in prehistoric times, see theWorld Book article Prehistoric people.The first traces of writing date from about 3500 B.C. From then on, people couldrecord their own history. By writing down their experiences, they could tell futuregenerations what they were like and how they lived. From these documents, we canlearn firsthand about the rise and fall of civilizations and other important events. Thehistory of the world — from the first civilizations to the present — is based largely onwhat has been written down by peoples through the ages.The development of agriculture about 9000 B.C. brought about a great change inhuman life. Prehistoric people who learned to farm no longer had to migrate in searchof food. Instead, they could settle in one place. Some of their settlements grew tobecome the world's first cities. People in the cities learned new skills and developedspecialized occupations. Some became builders and craftworkers. Others becamemerchants and priests. Eventually, systems of writing were invented. These  developments gave rise to the first civilizations.For hundreds of years, the earliest civilizations had little contact with one another andso developed independently. The progress each civilization made depended on thenatural resources available to it and on the inventiveness of its people. As timepassed, civilizations advanced and spread, and the world's population rose steadily.The peoples of various civilizations began to exchange ideas and skills. Within eachcivilization, groups of people with distinctive customs and languages emerged. In time,some peoples, such as the Romans, gained power over others and built hugeempires. Some of these empires flourished for centuries before collapsing. Greatreligions and later science and scholarship developed as people wondered about themeaning of human life and the mysteries of nature.About 500 years ago, one civilization — that of western Europe — started to exert apowerful influence throughout the world. The Europeans began to make greatadvances in learning, the arts, science, and technology. The nations of Europe sentexplorers and military forces to distant lands. They set up overseas colonies, first inthe Americas and then on other continents, and conquered other regions. As a result,European customs, skills, political ideas, and religious beliefs spread across much of the world.Today, the many peoples of the world continue to observe 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 distanceand rapidly increased the exchange of ideas and information between peoples.However far apart people may live from one another, they are affected more and moreby 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 petroleumprices in distant oil-producing countries. The separate cultures of the world seem to beblending into a common world culture. Much of world history is the story of the waydifferent civilizations have come closer together.Early centers of civilizationFor hundreds of thousands of years, prehistoric people lived byhunting, fishing, and gathering wild plants. Even small groups of people had to migrate constantly over large areas of land to findenough food. A group usually stayed in one place only a few daysor a few weeks. The discovery of agriculture gradually ended thenomadic way of life for many people. After prehistoric men andwomen learned to raise crops and domesticate animals, they no longer had to migratein search of food. They could thus begin to settle in villages.Agriculture was developed at different times in different regions of the world. People insouthwest Asia began to grow cereal grasses and other plants about 9000 B.C. Theyalso domesticated goats and sheep at about that time, and they later tamed cattle. Insoutheastern Asia, people had begun cultivating rice by about 7000 B.C. People wholived 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. Asprehistoric people became better farmers, they began to produce enough food tosupport 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 thehoe, sickle, and other tools to make their work easier. The hair of domestic animalsand 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 touse hotter ovens to harden pottery. The practice of agriculture required many people towork together to prepare the fields for planting and to harvest the crops. New systemsof government were developed to direct such group activities.The changes brought about by agriculture took thousands of years to spread widelyacross the earth. By about 3500 B.C., civilization began. It started first in southwestAsia. Three other early civilizations developed in Africa and in south and east Asia. Allthese early civilizations arose in river valleys, where fertile soil and a readily availablewater supply made agriculture easier than elsewhere. The valleys were (1) theTigris-Euphrates Valley in southwest Asia, (2) the Nile Valley in Egypt, (3) the IndusValley in what is now Pakistan, and (4) the Huang He Valley in northern China.While large, complex civilizations were developing in the rivervalleys, agriculture also appeared in other parts of the world.Most people in Europe, central and southern Africa,southeastern Asia, central Mexico, and the Andean region of South America began tocultivate their food after about 2000 B.C. They did not immediately build complexcivilizations like those of the river valleys, but they organized settled societies thatlater expanded and dominated large regions.The Tigris-Euphrates Valley. One of the most fertile regions of the ancient world lay
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