This is a list of the major periods in world history. It includes broad global eras, such as the Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age. It also includes modern eras, which have lasted only a few decades, such as the Gilded Age, Progressive Age and the Information Age.
Stone Age (50,000–3000 BC) The Stone Age refers to the broad range of ‘pre-history’ which lasted from approx 30,000 BC to 6,000BC where the first metals started to be use. In the stone age, use of metals was scarce and the most common building materials and weapons were wood and stone. Much of his this history is undocumented, though some archaeological evidence persists.
Bronze Age (3000–1300 BC) The Bronze age refers to the broad period of history were cultures in Europe, Asia and other parts of the world made the first uses of bronze melt – from mining copper and tin. Bronze enabled more powerful tools and weapons. It was an age where the first writing systems became devised and used.
Iron Age (1200–230 BC) The iron age was a period of economic development, where iron and steel enabled a greater use of metal tools which were stronger than previous Bronze Age items. The era led to developments in agricultural production and we see the first evidence of written manuscripts, which includes great religious texts such as the Indian Vedas, (Sanskrit), and the Hebrew Bible.
Ancient Egypt (3000 BC to 300 BC) Ancient Egypt was a civilisation which inhabited the banks of the Nile. Egypt was successful in using technology to increase agricultural production, giving spare labour for other pursuits, such as cultural, religious and military. Egypt was ruled by powerful Pharoahs, though there began a slow decline after being invaded by foreign powers. By 30 BC Egypt fell under the rule of the Roman Empire.
Ancient India (7000 BCE or earlier to c. 500 AD) Ancient India refers to a long period of history which includes the Vedic ages and the development of Indus and Aryan civilisation. Ancient India includes the period from the earliest Vedic sages and Vedas and the great Indian epics of the Ramayana and Mahabharata are said to have occurred. See: Famous Indians
Ancient Greece (8th Century BC to 0 AD) Ancient Greece is considered the birthplace of modern democracy and representative government. Ancient Greece also produced some of the earliest Western philosophy, with great thinkers such as Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Ancient Greece also was an important source of early Western literature, with epic poets, such as Homer. Other contributions of Ancient Greece include modern sports (Olympics) and scientific innovations. See: Famous Greeks
Ancient Rome (8th Century BC to 476 AD) The Roman Empire was centred on the city of Rome and the Italian peninsula. Rome went through different phases – from classical Republic government to autocratic Emperors. At its peak, the power of Rome extended throughout the majority of Europe, laying many foundations of Western civilisations. Towards the end of the Roman Empire, it adopted Christianity as its official religion; this helped the religion to spread across Europe. See: Famous Italians
Middle Ages (Europe, 5th century – 15th century) Also known as the post-classical era. The Middle Ages stretches from the end of the Roman Empire and classical period and the Renaissance of the 15th Century. It includes the rise of Islam in the Middle East. The Middle Ages is often considered a period of relative darkness – with severe wars (e.g. 100 year war, crusades), plagues, religious persecution and a relative lack of learning.
Islamic Golden Age (Middle East, 750 – 1300) This refers to a period in the Islamic World which saw a flourishing of science, mathematics and preservation of classical writings, such as Aristotle. The Islamic Golden Age saw the creation of centres of learning, science and culture, beginning with the House of Wisdom in Baghdad.
Age of Discovery (or Exploration) (Europe, 15th century – 17th century) The Age of Discovery refers to a period in the late Middle Ages / Renaissance where foreign travel and discovery was an influential part of European societies. In the Age of Discovery, European powers discovered and settled in different continents – changing the fate of the Americas, Africa and Asia. It led to a global spread of Christianity and ideas of Western civilisation, it also marked the growth of the global slave trade. See: Famous explorers
The Protestant Reformation (Europe, 16th century) The Protestant Reformation was a Christian movement, which criticised the excesses of the Catholic Church and promoted a new branch of Protestant Christianity – which emphasised the pre-eminence of the Bible over the priesthood and the church. The Protestant Reformation began with Martin Luther pinning 95 theses to the church door of Wittenburg, Saxony. The ideas of the Reformation were spread with the help of the newly developed printing press. See: People of the Protestant Reformation
The Enlightenment (1650s to 1780s) The enlightenment is a period which saw the growth in intellectual reason, individualism and a challenge to existing religious and political structures. Enlightenment ideas had an influence on the American and French revolutions and also limited the power of religious authority. See: Famous People of The Enlightenment
Age of Revolution (1750 – 1917) The Age of Revolution is a period in which the Western world underwent several major revolutions, changing society from autocratic monarchies to more democratic republics. Major revolutions of this era, include the American and French revolution, European-political revolts of 1848, nationalist revolutions of Italy, Greece and Latin America. It also includes the Haitian revolution against slavery. See: Famous Revolutionaries
The Romantic Era (1790s to 1850s) Romantic poets (Blake, Keats, Coleridge, Wordsworth and Shelley) and Romantic artists, composers and writers. The Romantic era was partly a reaction against the faith in reason alone. It was also a reaction to the industrial revolution retaining a faith in nature and man’s spiritual needs.
Industrial Revolution (1750s – 1900) The industrial revolution is a phase of social development which saw the growth of mass industrial production and the shift from a largely agrarian economy to an industrial economy based on coal, steel, railways and specialisation of labour.
Age of Imperialism (c. 1700 – mid 20th Century) The Age of Imperialism refers to the process of (mostly) European powers conquering and annexing less developed countries. Imperial powers ruled dominion countries directly. The most widely spread Empire was the British Empire, which at its peak covered 25% of the globe, in countries, such as India, West Indies and parts of Australasia.
The First World War (1914 – 1918) The First World War was a devastating global war, mostly centred on Europe and the battlefields of France and Belgium. It featured troops from across the world, and later involved the US. See: People of The First World War
Inter-war era (1918 – 1939) A period of peace in between the two world wars. It was characterised by economic boom and bust, and the growth of polarising ideologies, in particular, Fascism and Communism.
Roaring Twenties (1919-1929) The roaring twenties refers to the period of rapid economic expansion and rise in US living standards. It also saw an emergence of new music and a decline in strict morality. The ‘Roaring Twenties’ was associated particularly with the East coast of the US and major European cities, such as Paris and London.
Great Depression (1929-39) The 1930s were a period of global economic downturn. Major economies experienced mass unemployment and stark poverty. It also led to the rise of political extremism, e.g. Nazi Party in Germany.
The Cold War (1948 – 1990) The Cold War refers to the period of ideological conflict between the Communist East, and Western democracies. The cold war saw a period of rising tension, especially over the proliferation of nuclear weapons. There was no direct war between the US and the Soviet Union, but both sides gave support to ideological similar armies in minor conflicts around the world. See: People of The Cold War
Information Age (1971–present) The Information age refers to the new modern technologies which have shaped the modern world. These technologies, include the internet, computers, mobile phones. Key figures include business entrepreneurs, such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.
Periods of American history
American revolution (1765 – 1783) The American Revolution was the period of political upheaval in which the American colonies declared their independence from British rule.
American Civil War (1861 – 1865) The American civil war was the intense fighting between federal army, led by President Abraham Lincoln and the confederate armies of the south, who wished to break away from the union to defend slavery.
Reconstruction era (United States, 1865–1877) The period of rebuilding in the south after the civil war.
The Gilded Age (US 1870-1900) – The Gilded Age refers to the last part of the US industrial revolution. The Gilded Age included rapid economic growth, but also refers to the immorality behind the accumulation of great wealth by a few leading industrialists, such as J.D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie, who came to define the Gilded Age.
Progressive Era (1890-1920) The progressive era was a period of political activism which included causes such as votes for women, labour and trade unions movements and civil rights. It also included movements to regulate aspects of Capitalism and big business.
Civil rights movement (1950s-1960s) The civil rights movement is principally aimed at supporting rights of African Americans and ending segregation. The wider civil rights movement has spread over the whole of American history, but the 1950s and 60s saw some of the most intense activism.
Periods of British history
Elizabethan period (England, 1558–1603) A period in English history marked by the rule of Queen Elizabeth I. It saw Britain emerge as a major world power. It also saw the English Renaissance, with figures, such as Shakespeare and William Byrd.
Victorian age (1837 – 1901) The Victorian Age co-coincided with the later part of the Industrial Revolution. In Britain, it also saw the growing strength and extent of the British Empire. The Victorian Age is associated with a stricter type of morality.
Edwardian Age (UK 1901 – 1914). A period of growth in science, technology and also rising tensions between the major European powers. Also saw the ‘heroic age’ of exploration.
The Nineteenth Century (1801-1900) The Nineteenth Century saw the economic boom of the industrial revolution and world-wide movements for political change, which included the suffrage movement for women, growing nationalist movements and also the emergence of workers movements in response to the inequality of the industrial revolution.
Population of Scotland: 5,313,600 (9% of UK population 64m)
Area: 33% of UK landmass including 790 islands. (660 uninhabited)
Patron Saint: Saint Andrew
Scotland’s major cities
Glasgow – 592,820
Edinburgh – 486,120
Aberdeen – 217,120
Dundee – 144,290
Inverness – 56,660
Stirling – 89,850
Mountains: Ben Nevis is the highest peak in the UK at 1,346m.
There are 600 square miles of freshwater lakes, including Loch Ness
Loch Ness Monster is a famous and enduring myth of an ancient sea creature still inhabiting the deep loch of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. It became world famous in 1934 after a hoax photograph was widely circulated.
The first recording of the Loch Ness monster was 565 AD where a follower of St. Columba related being attacked by a ‘water beast’ Scottish dogs.
There are over 2,000 castles recorded being built in Scotland, most of which are still standing. Famous castles include Stirling Castle (above) Balmoral and Edinburgh Castle. Usually these were built as defensive mechanisms. Read On…
The Industrial Revolution was a period between the late 18th Century and early 20th Century, which saw rapid growth in mechanisation, industrial production and change in society.
Two stages of Industrial Revolution
First stage of the Industrial revolution – (1770-1870) Centred on steam, water, iron and shift from agriculture.
Second stage of Industrial revolution (1870-1914) – New technologies of electricity, development of petrol engine, oil, and greater use of cheap steel.
Key features of the Industrial Revolution
Population shift – moving from rural agriculture to work in factories in cities.
Mass production of goods, increased efficiency, reduced average costs and enabled more to be produced.
Rise of steam power, e.g. steam trains, railways and steam powered machines.
Industrial and scientific discoveries enabled a revolution in our understanding of the material world.
Rapid industrialisation had a cost in terms of pollution and poor working conditions for labour.
Reasons for the Industrial Revolution
Birmingham New Street station
New technologies dramatically improved speed of transporting people and goods. The first Intercity railway was built in 1830 between Liverpool and Manchester. The railways enabled more freight to be transported cheaply and quickly.
In 1700, it took four days to travel from London to Manchester, by 1870, it took four hours.
Application of steam engines. The development of the steam engine was critical for the Industrial revolution. It enables steam trains, but also steam powered pumps and machines, which increased the productivity of labour.
Agricultural revolution enabled higher food output from less farm workers, leading to surplus workers who could go and work in factories. This revolution in agriculture was due to new techniques like crop rotation, selective breeding, economies of scale from bigger farms and better transport.
Growth in global trade. Helped by Britain’s effective shipping capacity and Empire, which was a source of raw materials.
The Renaissance was a period in history between the 14th and 17th Century, associated with a wave of new artistic, scientific and cultural achievements.
The French word renaissance literally means ‘rebirth’, and was first seen in English in the 1830s.
The first quote of Renaissance in English: “A style possessing many points of rude resemblance with the more elegant and refined character of the art of the renaissance in Italy.” -W Dyce and C H Wilson’s Letter to Lord Meadowbank (1837)
The Renaissance is seen as a period of rebirth from the dark ages of Europe to the more enlightened and progressive ages of Europe.
The century before the Renaissance was particularly dark with the Hundred Years war (1337 – 1453) devastating much of Europe, the failed Crusades and also the Black Death (1346 – 53) killing – 25 million (33%) of population.
However, some academic scholars feel the term Renaissance is too vague and the “Renaissance years” were not particularly enlightened. Some scholars feel that the Renaissance was more accurately part of a ‘Longue duree’ of European history
The Renaissance period still saw real problems, such as religious wars, political corruption, inequality, witch-hunts and corrput Borgia Popes. Most people who lived through the Renaissance didn’t view it as a ‘Golden Era’!
The Renaissance was a period of ground-breaking explorations, with the discovery of new lands outside Europe by famous explorers, such as Christopher Columbus and Vespucci.
The Renaissance was also a period of scientific discovery. Galileo Galilei and René Descartes (1596–1650) promoted a new view of astrology and mathematics, which challenged old Aristotelian ideas.
N.Copernicus began the process of changing the whole view of the world. He argued the sun was centre of the galaxy rather than the earth. This heliocentric view of the world was controversial because it challenged the existing teaching of the church. But, during the Renaissance, this heliocentric view gradually came to be accepted.
The Renaissance was most strongly associated with Italy, and Florence in particular. But, most other European countries had their own ‘Renaissance.
For example, The Netherlands developed its own Renaissance revival of painting, including Jan van Eyck. The artistic style of the Netherlands later had an influence on Italy.
The English Renaissance began later in late 15th Century, and was focused more on literature and music – less on art.
Leonardo’s famous portrait of the perfect man was based on Vitruvius’ De architectura (1st century BC) – mostly a treatise on architecture, but also the human body.
The ceiling of Sistine chapel was commissioned by Pope Julius II, and painted by Michelangelo.
“Without having seen the Sistine Chapel one can form no appreciable idea of what one man is capable of achieving.”
— Johann Wolfgang Goethe, 23 August 1787
‘David’ by Michelangelo is one of the great masterpieces of the Renaissance. It symbolises the defence of civil liberties of Florence, with the eyes of David turned towards Rome.
The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci is perhaps the world’s most famous painting. Da Vinci worked on the painting continuously for over 20 years – striving to attain perfection.
‘Sfumare’ was a new painting technique of the Renaissance; it means to evaporate or to fade out. It was developed by da Vinci and enabled greater depth and realism to be given to a painting.
The term chiaroscuro refers to the fine art painting modeling effect of using a strong contrast between light and dark.
Reasons for the Renaissance
Sandro Botticelli portrays the family of Piero de’ Medici in Madonna del Magnificat.
The Black Death decimated the population of Europe in the 14th Century, but left survivors with relatively more wealth and ability to climb social / political structures. It led to a decline of feudalism.
New political structures – with new men in positions of power, patronage of the arts was a way to secure greater status and prestige.
This new political order led to the patronage of the powerful and wealthy Medici family in Florence, who could afford to give commissions to artists.
Migration of Greek scholars and texts from Constantinople to Europe after the conquest by the Ottoman Turks (1453).
Creation of Printing Press by J.Gutenberg c.1440 allowed greater printing of books and the spread of knowledge to a wider range of the population. This was particularly important for printing of Bibles, including for the first time Bibles in English and not Latin.
New secular / humanist ideas. Thinkers like Plutarch (1304 – 1374) and Erasmus (1466-1536) helped make classical texts and humanistic ideas more relevant and popular to a Christian society.
Artistic genius of people such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael.
Great openness of Church. In response to a decline in the temporal power of the Catholic Church, the Vatican sponsored more arts and reforms as part of the Counter Reformation in response to the criticism of Luther. Pope Nicholas V, and Leo X sponsored many Renaissance art projects as a way to bolster the church..
Greater trade between Italy and the rest of Europe. Also, ironically, the wars between Italy and France helped spread Renaissance ideas.
The Crusades led to the exposure of many European scholars to Eastern ideas; it also facilitated the growth of trade and commerce.
Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan “Facts of the Renaissance”, Oxford, www.biographyonline.net, 12th February 2016
– Rene Descartes. Descartes’ Meditation (1641) was a ground-breaking philosophical work, which challenged many established beliefs. Descartes tried to prove existence of God, from use of rational reasoning.
“In her (Nature’s) inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous.”
– Leonardo da Vinci – who made detailed investigations of natural sciences.
“Here forms, here colours, here the character of every part of the universe are concentrated to a point; and that point is so marvellous a thing … Oh! marvellous, O stupendous Necessity — by thy laws thou dost compel every effect to be the direct result of its cause, by the shortest path. These are miracles…”
– Leonardo da Vinci – who made detailed investigations of natural sciences.
“Love shows itself more in adversity than in prosperity; as light does, which shines most where the place is darkest.”
– Leonardo da Vinci
“Human vocation is a mystical vocation that has to be realized following a three stage way, which comprehends necessarily moral transformation, intellectual research and final perfection in the identity with the absolute reality. This paradigm is universal, because it can be retraced in every tradition.”
The ‘Manifesto of the Renaissance’ was written by Pico della Mirandola – “Oration on the Dignity of Man” – It sought to encourage the striving for human excellence and a universal mystical vocation.
“I die the king’s faithful servant, but God’s first.”
― Thomas More (Renaissance thinker, who refused to acknowledge King Henry VIII Protestant reforms.) Read On…
The Gilded Age is a period in American society at the end of the Nineteenth Century (roughly 1870-1900).
The Gilded Age was a time of unbridled capitalism, with some business leaders becoming very wealthy through the consolidation of key industries into power monopolies. The Gilded Age was a time of rapid economic growth, but also characterised by corruption, unfair business practises and growing inequality.
Cartoon by Joseph Keppler entitled ‘The Bosses of the Senate’ – suggestion US Congress effectively owned by wealthy industrial bosses.
The term ‘Gilded Age’ implies outer wealth as a mask for the inner corruption and inner poverty. ‘Gilded Age’ is a satire on the rich monopolists, who were accused of gaining wealth through monopoly practises, mistreatment of workers and corruption of the political process.
One of the defining elements of the Gilded Age was the railroad industry. Americans developed a love/hate relationship with the railroads. They transformed society enabling greater travel and economic growth, but they were also run by business magnates who wielded enormous power and could set high prices to farmers, suppliers and travellers. Whilst the owners grew very wealthy, the industry was also very dangerous, with numerous industrial accidents and relatively low pay. Read On…
Some of the great Olympic runners from sprinters to middle distance and marathon runners.
Sebastian Coe (1956 – ) (Great Britain, athletics) Double Olympic gold medallist at 1500m in 1980 and 1984. Also chairman of the successful London Olympics of 2012. In 2015 became President of the IAAF, amidst dificult circumstances of doping problems in the sport.
Hicham El Guerrouj (1972 – ) (Morocco, athletics) Double Olympic gold medallist in 2004 – at 1500m and 5,000m. Set World Record for mile at 3.43.13 and 1500m of 3.26.00.
Paavo Nurmi (1897 – 1973) ( Finland, athletics) Nurmi dominated middle distance running in 1920s, winning nine Olympic gold medals and setting 22 new world records from the distance of 1500m to 20km.
Grete Waitz (1953 – 2011 ) (Norway, athletics) First women to run the marathon under two and half hours. Waitz won nine NY marathons and five gold medals at the World Cross Country championships. Waitz won silver in the inaugural female Olympic marathon of 1984. She won gold at the inaugural World Championship marathon in 1983. Read On…
Famous Olympic sprinters, including the most prolific Olympic medallists, such as Usain Bolt, Carl Lewis, Gail Devers and Jesse Owens.
Usain Bolt (1986 – ) Jamaica, athletics. Usain Bolt has set the world record for 100m and 200m. The first 100m record was set in his first Olympic final of 2008. Bolt has won triple Olympic gold at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, in the 100m, 200m and 4*100m relay.
Carl Lewis (1961 – ) American sprinter. Nine time Olympic gold medallist, Carl Lewis won gold over four Olympics (1984-1996). He won gold in the long jump for four consecutive Olympics. He won the 100m in 1984 and 1988.
Fanny Blankers-Koen (1918-2004) (Netherlands, athletics) Koen participated in 1936 Olympics, and missed the best years of her career, due to the War. But, in the 1948 London Olympics she won four gold medals at 100m, 200m, 80m hurdles and 4*100m relay.
Eric Liddell (1902 – 1945) (Scottish, athletics) Liddell represented Scotland at Rugby Union and GB athletics. He was the Olympic gold medallist at 400m (1924). His preferred distance was 100m, but he didn’t compete because it involved racing on Sundays, which conflicted with his beliefs. His life featured in the film ‘Chariots of Fire’.
Feminism is a broad range of movements and ideologies which seek to work towards greater equality between men and women. Within feminism there are different strands and emphasis, but most feminists would share the same idea of equal rights and equal opportunities.
A list of famous feminists and famous quotes.
Mary Wollstonecraft (1759 – 1797) English author, Wollstonecraft wrote the most significant book in the early feminist movement. Her tract “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” laid down a clear moral and practical basis for extending human and political rights to women.
“I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.”
– Mary Wollstonecraft
Sojourner Truth (1797 – 1883) African-American abolitionist and women’s rights campaigner. In 1851, gave a famous extemporaneous speech “Ain’t I a woman?” which explained in plain language how women were essentially equal to men.
J.S. Mill (1806-1873) John Stuart Mill was a leading liberal philosopher of the Nineteenth Century. He argued for universal suffrage (extending the vote to women and all classes of people) His pamphlet The Subjection of Women (1861) was important for raising the issue of votes for women.
“the legal subordination of one sex to the other — is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other. “
– J.S. Mill Subjection of Women (1861)
Margaret Fuller (1810 – 1850) An American women’s rights advocate. Her book Women in the Nineteenth Century (1845) was influential in changing perceptions about men and women, and was one of the most important early feminist works. She argued for equality and women being more self-dependent and less dependent on men.
“Male and female represent the two sides of the great radical dualism. But in fact they are perpetually passing into one another. Fluid hardens to solid, solid rushes to fluid. There is no wholly masculine man, no purely feminine woman… Nature provides exceptions to every rule.”
― Margaret Fuller, Women in the Nineteenth Century (1845)