World History: Ancient Through Early Modern Times Additional Summary

Douglas Carnine

Chapter 1 Summary: The Earliest Human Societies

By studying history, students can learn about a society's culture, government, economy, and religious beliefs. Historians look for patterns of living and interaction over generations, and that results in insight into human behavior and development. Chief among the resources used by historians are primary and secondary sources. Primary sources are generated by people who experienced a historical event and can include diaries, photographs, and letters. Secondary sources are created by people who did not experience a historical event for themselves but have analyzed primary sources. Examples of secondary sources are encyclopedias, textbooks, and paintings.

Humans' ways of living changed as they interacted with one another and adapted to their environment. Early humans were nomadic hunter-gatherers who had to follow their food source. They developed tools to help them survive and make the most of their environment and resources. Early human technology included stone axes, awls, scrapers, and bows. Humans successfully tamed fire about 500,000 years ago, which allowed them to create light and heat whenever they needed to and also allowed them to cook food.

Circa 8000 BCE, humans began to be sedentary agriculturalists, which was a far more sustainable way to live. In addition, humans domesticated animals; doing so allowed humans to use animals for their hide, meat, and milk as well as for work. This precipitated the need for new and different tools and technology such as plows and irrigation. Humans settled in villages, which was advantageous as far as providing food and defense but was potentially hazardous with regard to the spread of disease and famine. Being sedentary also allowed humans to specialize in specific jobs. Specialization ultimately led to the development of social classes.

Chapter 2 Summary: Mesopotamia and the Fertile Crescent

Ancient Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) was located between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, hence yielding the name “the land between two rivers.” These rivers made the land optimal for farming, earning Mesopotamia its other nickname, “the fertile crescent.” In order to manage the rivers properly and use them to their advantage, the Mesopotamians devised a way to irrigate their crops through a system of canals and earthen walls. Aside from the fertile soil and the rivers, however, Mesopotamia had few natural resources. Lacking wood, for example, the Mesopotamians built their dwellings out of mud brick, one resource that was plentiful. Such bricks were also used to build defensive walls around the city-states, which had no other means of protection. What the Mesopotamians lacked in natural resources they could trade for; throughout Southwest Asia, they traded figs, dates, grain, and other crops for items such as gold, ivory, and other precious stones.

Circa 3300 BCE, the first civilization developed in Sumer, a region in southern Mesopotamia. The cities throughout the region, such as Babylon and Ur, became prosperous centers of trade, religion, and education, but most people still lived in the countryside where access to these intellectual pursuits was much less available. A social hierarchy developed in Sumer: the king and then the priests were at the top; the upper class consisted of landowners, wealthy merchants, and government workers; the middle class comprised other free people including artisans and farmers; slaves were at the bottom. The Sumerians were responsible for a number of important technological inventions including the wheel, the first written language (cuneiform), and a base-60 math system.

The Mesopotamians were also the first empire builders. Sargon the Great, an Akkadian leader, unified many of the Mesopotamian city-states into an empire over which he ruled. King Hammurabi, a Babylonian, ultimately took over the Akkadian Empire and went one step further; he unified the city-states through a legal code. The Code of Hammurabi was a legal code based on retribution that was meant to act as a deterrent and treated everyone, regardless of social class, fairly. Over the course of Mesopotamian history, the Assyrians, the Chaldeans, and the Persians also had control of the empire.

Chapter 3 Summary: The Hebrew Kingdoms

Another portion of ancient Mesopotamia was inhabited by the Hebrews. According to the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible), God chose Abraham to be the patriarch of the Hebrews and to lead his people out of Ur and into Canaan, their Promised Land. Abraham and his followers set out circa 1800 BCE. Once they reached their destination, the Hebrews renamed themselves the Israelites. Years later, Canaan was plagued by famine. The Israelites set out for Egypt in hopes of finding a more suitable and fertile homeland. However, once there, they were enslaved by the Egyptian pharaoh. The Torah explains that God spoke to a man named Moses and commanded him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. The Exodus refers to the escape of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. For 40 years, the Israelites wandered the Sinai Desert on their way back to Canaan. At one point in the journey, Moses ascended Mount Sinai where he received the Ten Commandments from God. The Ten Commandments serve as the moral and ethical foundation of the world's monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) as well as most all of Western civilization. Judaism was the world's first monotheistic religion. The religion is based on God's covenant with the Jews. The covenant says that the Jews are God's chosen people and that Canaan is their Promised Land.

Around 1029 BCE, the Israelites, facing a threat from the Philistines, chose a king to unite them. Saul, a respected leader in the Israelites' army, was chosen as king. He was then succeeded by David, who ultimately defeated the Philistines. David was succeeded by his son, Solomon, who oversaw the building of the Great Temple in Jerusalem. The structure became the center of the Jews' religious life and, as such, a target for their enemies. The Temple was destroyed by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE and the Jews were once again enslaved, but sent this time to Babylon. During their captivity, they began to transcribe their history in the Torah. The Persian king Cyrus defeated Babylon in 539 BCE and allowed the Jews to return to their homeland where they began rebuilding the Great Temple.

Chapter 4 Summary: Ancient Egypt and Kush

The geography of Egypt played a critical role in its development as a civilization. The world's longest river, the Nile, was both a natural resource and defense for the ancient Egyptians. Although the Mesopotamians also benefited from settling in a fertile river valley, the Egyptians' irrigation surpassed that of the Mesopotamians in that the Egyptians were able to predict the Nile's flood cycles and plan their irrigation accordingly. Silt deposited after the Nile's annual flood made the land tremendously fertile and allowed the Egyptians to become completely self-sufficient. Ancient Egyptians grew grapes, figs, and dates as well as barley, wheat, and a host of vegetables.

Job specialization characterized the workforce of ancient Egypt. Some Egyptians quarried for different minerals and rocks while others tended to farming, fishing, and trade. Atop the social hierarchy sat the pharaoh who was followed by the priests and nobles. Scribes and government officials were beneath them but above the levels of craftspeople and merchants, farmers, laborers, and slaves. Women had nearly as many rights as men did, which was unprecedented in the ancient world.

The Egyptians made some significant technological advances in the arts and sciences. Their system of writing, hieroglyphs, was pictographic and highly complex. Medical knowledge was advanced as a result of the extensive preparations to bodies for the afterlife. Geometry was necessary to build the pyramids, a critical element of Egyptian culture. The Egyptians were polytheistic and had a positive view of the afterlife. In fact, the entire culture was focused on what was necessary for a happy afterlife. As a result, entire professions, such as embalming and architecture, were developed. The first pyramids were constructed in the third millennium BCE. They were built of millions of blocks that had been quarried along the Nile and were full of great riches and possessions. Unfortunately, many of the pyramids were looted, leaving few artifacts behind.

Ancient Egyptian history can be divided into three eras: the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms. Each was ruled by a series of pharaohs who got their power through dynastic succession. The decline of ancient Egypt was precipitated by weak rulers in the second half of the New Kingdom, invasion, and general instability. Although Egypt's neighbor to the south, Kush, successfully reigned over Egypt for several hundred years, they were ultimately defeated by the Assyrians, who later succumbed to the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans.

Chapter 5 Summary: Ancient India

Located on the Asian subcontinent, India has a unique geography. Home to the Hindu Kush and Himalayan mountains and the Ganges and Indus rivers, India was another prosperous ancient civilization. The Indus River Valley became an agricultural settlement growing wheat and barley and domesticating sheep, goats, and chickens. The people of this region learned to make tools from bronze and copper. Cities developed as well, the largest of which were Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa. The ancient Indians even created planned cities that were surrounded by defensive walls and laid out in grids. The Harappans also devised a drainage and sewer system the likes of which were not seen again until the nineteenth century.

Around 1500 BCE, a group of Indo-European nomads called Aryans migrated to India. They brought with them their native dialects and religious beliefs as well as their social structure. The Aryan social structure was divided into three levels: warriors, priests, and commoners. Eventually, their social structure became more elaborate, and people were divided into castes: Brahmans (priests, scholars, and teachers), Kshatriya (rulers, nobles, and warriors), Vaisya (bankers, farmers, and merchants), and Sudra (artisans and laborers).

The Aryans' earliest religion was Brahmanism in which followers worshipped deities in nature. In an effort to develop a more complex understanding of the world, the religion morphed into Hinduism in which the foremost deities were Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu. Buddhism also began in ancient India. This religion is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama and includes the Four Noble Truths that assert that people can end suffering by following the Eightfold Path.

Separate Aryan kingdoms were united by Chandragupta Maurya in the fourth century BCE. The greatest Mauryan king was Asoka, who codified laws and ameliorated conditions throughout the region. India's golden age, however, took place under the reign of the Guptas, who began their rule in the fourth century CE. Tremendous advances were made in the arts and the sciences. Poetry was written, temples were built, and the decimal system was invented.

The legacies of ancient India are many and varied. Hinduism and Buddhism are among the world's largest religions today. Their epics, the Bhagavad Gita and the Mahabharata, are still read worldwide. The decimal system and the number zero are used around the world for a variety of purposes. In short, India was one of the most prosperous and diverse ancient civilizations.

Chapter 6 Summary: Ancient China

Ancient China was another prosperous river-valley civilization. The Yangtze and Huang He rivers were critical to the success of the civilization's farming settlements around 2000 BCE.

Circa 1766 BCE, the Shang family came to power and established a dynasty. Over the course of the Shang dynasty, a system of pictographic writing was developed that served to unify the vast and varied land. Also, a heavy emphasis was placed on respect for one's ancestors, a critical part of ancient Chinese religion. The Shang dynasty was also characterized by a strong centralized government.

After extensive conflict, the Zhou dynasty claimed power circa 1027 BCE. To solidify their claim to power, the Zhou said that the last Shang king was a poor ruler and had fallen out of favor with the gods. As a result, they asserted, the gods had given the Zhou the power to rule through the Mandate of Heaven. In contrast to the Shang, the Zhou lacked a centralized government; instead, local rulers were given power, and conflict often resulted.

Several important belief systems emerged in ancient China. Confucianism emerged in an effort to restore the order of earlier times. The basic tenets focused on proper conduct and relationships between father and son, brothers, husband and wife, friends, and rulers and subjects. In short, this system of beliefs emphasized proper conduct in one's family as well as in society. Daoism stood in stark contrast to Confucianism. It asserted that by following "the way (Dao)," one should seek harmony with nature. Daoists believed that if people found their way and achieved natural harmony, social harmony would follow.

The time of the Warring States began in 403 BCE and was plagued by conflict among warlords. This instability lasted until 221 BCE when a Qin ruler, Shi Huangdi, put an end to the conflicts and unified ancient China under Legalism. Legalism emphasized the importance of an efficient government and a stringent code of laws supported by harsh punishments for those who did not comply. Under this system, the Chinese were discouraged from speaking out against the government and developing new and different philosophies.

The Han dynasty followed the Qin and lasted until 220 CE. Han rulers maintained a strong centralized government and bureaucracy but lowered taxes. Han culture prospered for many years and witnessed tremendous expansion.

The ancient Chinese left many significant legacies including the Silk Road (a trans-Eurasian network of trade routes), the plow, iron tools, and paper.

Chapter 7 Summary: Ancient Greece

Greece is a mountainous peninsula in the Mediterranean with a mild climate. The land was not conducive to farming except for a small section of the region. Greece also lacked natural resources, which made it necessary for ancient Greeks to trade extensively. In exchange for olive oil, wine, wool, and pottery, the Greeks were able to obtain grain, timber, slaves, and animal hides. The Greeks had a great deal of interaction with the Phoenicians at sea, a connection through which they obtained coinage and a written language.

The Mycenaeans were the first Greek culture. While the nobles lived lavishly, commoners were mostly traders. The Mycenaeans had gold jewelry, bronze weapons, and pottery that they exported. The Mycenaeans' civilization declined around 1200 BCE, and little is known about the succeeding 500 years because no written records were kept during that time.

Around 700 BCE, the Greeks began to organize themselves into city-states. Life centered around the agora (marketplace) where business, politics, and socialization took place. Throughout their early history, the Greeks experienced a monarchy and an oligarchy as well as a series of tyrants. Ultimately, however, the Athenians devised a limited democracy in which citizens participated in and controlled every aspect of the government. A series of politicians—Solon, Cleisthenes, and others—honed the rights and responsibilities of citizens, including jury duty and military service.

Another important aspect of life in ancient Greece was its polytheistic religion. The Greeks had a host of myths and beliefs that they used to explain the inexplicable as well as the behavior of humans and nature. To honor their gods, the Greeks held a number of festivals, including the Olympics, a series of athletic competitions to honor Zeus, the chief deity.

The Greeks, particularly the Athenians, were highly educated and devoted a great deal of time and energy to intellectual pursuits. Homer, a blind poet, is believed to have scribed several epic poems, the most famous of which are the Iliad and the Odyssey. Aesop, another author, penned a series of fables that were short stories with important morals.

Two of the most powerful city-states in ancient Greece were Athens and Sparta. Whereas the Athenians prized educational and intellectual development, the Spartans focused on military training. Although both city-states viewed the Persians as a threat and common enemy, they also viewed each other suspiciously. This lack of trust would ultimately result in a serious military conflict.

Chapter 8 Summary: Classical Greece

Following the Persian Wars, Athens turned to Pericles, a great orator who prized morality and ethics, to restore Athens. Pericles wanted to accomplish three goals including strengthening Athens' democracy, expanding its power abroad and making the city more aesthetically pleasing. First, Pericles eased restrictions and allowed more people to participate in the government; by paying public officials, the poor could afford to participate in Athenian democracy. Next, Pericles forged the Delian League, an alliance of Greek city-states intended to protect one another from outside threats like the Persians. However, when Athens became too powerful, the rest of the League's city-states grew wary of its intentions leading to a later conflict. Finally, Pericles focused on rebuilding the Acropolis and added the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to Athena. Pericles did this, however, using money from the Delian League's treasury which resulted in a great deal of animosity from the other city-states.

In response to Athens' ever-growing power, Sparta formed the Peloponnesian League. In 431 BCE, Sparta declared war on Athens, resulting in the Peloponnesian War. After a decade of fighting and little progress on either side, Athens and Sparta signed a truce. However, in 415 BCE, Athens attacked Sicily to hinder Sparta's access to supplies. Sparta responded and, with support from their former enemy Persia, defeated Athens who surrendered in 404 BCE.

With an eye on the war-weary Greek city states, Macedonian king Philip II was able to conquer Greece. However, Philip was assassinated at his daughter's wedding and was succeeded by his son, Alexander in 336 BCE. Ultimately to become Alexander the Great, he successfully conquered all of the land between Greece and India including Egypt, Persia and Anatolia. Unfortunately, Alexander died before the empire was completely unified and his conquests were divided among three generals.

Throughout Greece's Golden Age, many cultural achievements were made. Tragedies and comedies were performed regularly in theaters across Greece. Sculpture and architecture thrived, establishing a style that continues to be used throughout the Western world today. Philosophers considered new and different ways of looking at the world. And astronomy, physics and math advanced as well.

Chapter 9 Summary: The Rise of Rome

Built on seven steep hills, Rome had many geographic advantages for its ancient citizens, including easy access to the Mediterranean sea and the Tiber River. Ancient Rome traced its beginnings back to two legends: that of brothers Romulus and Remus, and that of Aeneas, a Trojan War hero. Ultimately, however, Rome began as a monarchy in 753 BCE that was overthrown in 509 BCE, giving way to a republic.

Ancient Rome experienced a great deal of conflict between the patricians (wealthy land owners) and the plebeians (poor citizens). The plebeians, although they had the right to vote, could not participate in government. The patricians eventually capitulated to the plebeians' demands and drafted the Twelve Tables, which outlined the rights and duties for all Roman citizens, including the plebeians. Much like America's government today, the Roman republic had three branches—the executive, the legislative, and the judicial.

The Romans sought to expand their territory and began to conquer much of the Mediterranean. They became engaged in the Punic Wars in 264 BCE, fighting Carthage for control of important colonies and trade routes. After a series of three wars, the Romans finally emerged victorious and subjugated Carthage.

Rome also experienced internal conflicts, especially between the wealthy and the poor. Julius Caesar, a great military general, tried to quell these disagreements but was perceived by others as overly ambitious and power hungry. Threatened by his popularity, a group of conspirators murdered Caesar on March 15, 44 BCE. With the looming question of who would control Rome and its holdings, civil wars ensued. Eventually, Caesar's great-nephew and adopted son, Octavian, took power and assumed the title Augustus in 27 BCE. Rome had become an empire ruled by one all-powerful individual...precisely what the Romans had tried to avoid with the creation of the republic.

Beginning with the rule of Augustus, Rome entered into the Pax Romana, two hundred years of peace and prosperity. However, Rome would soon face a threat that they least expected: an organized religion growing in the eastern part of their empire. Christianity was fast becoming popular among people throughout the Mediterranean. Nearly a century after Rome became an omnipotent empire, it faced a significant challenge.

Chapter 10 Summary: Rome's Decline and Legacy

Beginning in the first century CE, the Roman Empire faced a host of threats; among them was the growing popularity of Christianity. Christians refused to serve in the Roman military, to worship the emperor, and to worship Roman gods. In response, the Romans persecuted the Christians as well as the Jews who refused to comply. Despite these threats, Christianity continued to prosper throughout the Mediterranean. The emperor Constantine, believed to have had a vision of the cross, issued the Edict of Milan in 313 CE, thus legalizing...

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Chapter 11 Summary: The Rise of Islam

The Arabian peninsula, a region of Southwest Asia, presented a challenge for the ancient peoples in the region. With only a tiny portion of arable land, most of the inhabitants became nomadic herders. They survived by establishing elaborate trade networks and cities. By the early seventeenth century, Mecca and Medina were two very prosperous cities in what is modern-day Saudi Arabia. Cultural diffusion played a critical role in the region as well. Goods and ideas were exchanged with people in Asia, Africa, and Europe; Judaism and Christianity also spread throughout the trade network.

In 570, the prophet Muhammad was born in Mecca. At the age of forty, he heard a voice that told him that he was a messenger of God. Soon,...

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Chapter 12 Summary: African Civilizations

Around 4000 BCE, people living in the Saharan region of Africa migrated south in pursuit of more fertile and suitable land; the Bantu migrations, commencing in 1000 BCE, were the most notable. These West Africans represented a number of different cultures and over 450 different languages. Bantu people adapted to their new environments and exchanged ideas with those already living there. Regardless of one's group, however, family played a crucial role in African culture. Kinship groups provided the foundation of government, the social structure, and the job specialization that characterized ancient African culture. Women cared for the home and raised the children while men worked the fields or herded animals.


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Chapter 13 Summary: American Civilizations

Characterized by a variety of climates and mountains in the west, the Americas boast a varied geography that had a significant impact on their development. North America was populated by a variety of Native American cultures, each of which developed its own technology, religious beliefs, and social organization. South America, however, had a number of distinct cultures in its early history.

The Olmecs were one of the earliest cultures in Mesoamerica. By about 1000 BCE, they had settled the area, found a reliable food source, created job specialization, and organized religious practices. However, they vanished by 400 BCE, having abandoned their settlement.

Mayan society developed in modern-day Guatemala and...

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Chapter 14 Summary: Dynasties of China

China's Han Dynasty fell in 220 CE and was followed by tremendous chaos. Significant changes in the people's belief systems took place. For example, Confucianism began to lose its influence in Chinese culture when many turned to Buddhism. However, Confucianism experienced a resurgence in popularity during the seventh century that reflected Buddhist and Daoist principles.

China was finally reunified in 589 CE by the Sui Dynasty. Wendi, the leader, restored ancient traditions and eliminated social conflict by accepting all religious beliefs. Wendi was responsible for many public works projects including restoration of parts of the Great Wall of China and the building of the Grand Canal. Wendi and his successor found...

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Chapter 15 Summary: Civilizations of Asia

Cultural diffusion played an important role in the spread of ideas, beliefs, and technology throughout Asia. Japanese culture was influenced heavily by Chinese culture and was, in fact, named by the Chinese, who called it "the land of the rising sun." Japanese society was organized around family units called clans. The wealthy noble families ruled Japan despite the claim of the regent that he, in fact, ruled.

By the sixth century, Buddhism was practiced in Japan, and Zen in particular became quite popular. Emphasizing self-discipline and simplicity, Zen Buddhists worked toward achieving inner peace. Japanese arts developed as well. Noh and kabuki theater emerged to retell folktales and to entertain. Calligraphy and...

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Chapter 16 Summary: Feudal and Late Medieval Europe

The Middle Ages began with the fall of the Roman Empire and lasted for nearly 1000 years. This era witnessed the disappearance of schools, the middle class, and most cities. The distinct lack of opportunities in cities forced many to move to the countryside and become farmers. The Christian church, however, became quite powerful during this time. With the reign of rulers like Clovis and Charlemagne, what had formerly been part of the Roman Empire was reunified under new laws which gave the church a great deal of power. This marked the start of the Holy Roman Empire.

A new social order spread throughout Europe during the Middle Ages called feudalism. This social organization was based on an agreement between landowning...

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Chapter 17 Summary: The Renaissance and the Reformation

The Italian Renaissance brought about a tremendous rebirth in all aspects of culture and society. There was a revival of classical learning; philosophical ideas and artistic styles reemerged once again. Humanism came to the forefront of education; people were encouraged to reach their potential by pursuing a liberal arts education. Trade flourished and cities were rebuilt.

Florence emerged as one of the most powerful cities in Europe. It served as the cultural and economic capital of Europe where the arts were patronized by the ruling family, the Medici. This era witnessed the work of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael, whose works are regarded as...

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Chapter 18 Summary: Scientific Revolution and the Age of Exploration

Despite the social, political, and religious disagreements that marked the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, science managed to advance. Discoveries were constantly being made and inventions were created that allowed people to better understand the world in which they lived.

Beginning in the 1500s, the Scientific Revolution took place. Countless technological inventions were made, including the microscope, the thermometer, and the barometer. Polish astronomer Copernicus rejected Ptolemy's notion of a geocentric universe and instead asserted a heliocentric theory in which the planets revolved around the sun. Galileo built a telescope that allowed him to confirm...

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