History of Western civilization
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Western civilization describes the development of human civilization beginning in the Middle East, and generally spreading westwards, and it is generally contrasted with Eastern civilization. In its broader sense, its roots may be traced back to 9000 BCE, when humans existing in hunter-gatherer societies began to settle into agricultural societies. Farming became prominent around the headwaters of the Euphrates, Tigris and Jordan Rivers, spreading outwards into and across Europe; in this sense, the West produced the world's first cities, states, and empires. However, Western civilization in its more strictly defined European sphere traces its roots back to classical antiquity. From European and Mediterranean origins, it has spread to produce the dominant cultures of modern North America, South America, and much of Oceania, and has had immense global influence in recent centuries. The civilizations of Classical Greece (Hellenic) and Roman Empire (Latin) as well as Ancient Israel and early Christendom are considered seminal periods in Western history. From Ancient Greece sprang belief in democracy, and the pursuit of intellectual inquiry into such subjects as truth and beauty; from Rome came lessons in government administration, martial organisation, engineering and law; and from Ancient Israel sprang Christianity with its ideals of the brotherhood of humanity. Strong cultural contributions also emerged from the pagan Germanic/Celtic/Slavic/Baltic and Nordic peoples of pre-Christian Europe. Following the 5th century Fall of Rome, Europe entered the Middle Ages, during which period the Catholic Church and Pope filled the power vacuum left in the West by the fallen Roman Empire, while the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) endured for centuries, becoming a Hellenic Eastern contrast to the Latin West, particularly following the Great Schism of 1054 which severed the link between Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. Feudalism developed as the system of government and society, with serfdom providing a manual workforce and medieval knights evolving as the elite military units, bound by a code of chivalry, and from whom were drawn the soldiers of the Crusades. Cultures which had existed beyond the bounds of the Hellenic and Latin worlds - such as Ireland, the Norse countries and Russia - converted to Christianity, entrenching their position within Western Civilization, while lands of the Middle East and North Africa - such as Egypt and Judea - which had been immensely influential in the development of Western Civilization, were subsumed within the new Arabic and Turkic Empires of Islam, creating a new East-West political contrast. By the 12th century, Europe was experiencing a great flowering of art and learning, propelled by the construction of great cathedrals and establishment of medieval universities. Christian unity was shattered by the Reformation from the 14th century. A merchant class grew out of city states and Europe experienced the Renaissance from the 14th to the 17th century, heralding an age of technological and artistic advance and ushering in the Age of Discovery which saw the rise of such global European Empires as that of Spain and Britain, which helped shape the modern world. The Industrial Revolution began in Britain in the 18th century and the Age of Revolution emerged out of the United States and France as part of the transformation of the West into its industrialised, democratised modern form. The lands of North and South America and Australia became first part of European Empires and then home to new Western Nations, while Africa and Asia were largely carved up between Western powers. Laboratories of Western democracy were founded in Britain's colonies in Australia and New Zealand from the mid-19th centuries. In the 20th Century, Absolute...