Narrative of humanity's past / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Human history is the narrative of humankind's past. Since the invention of writing, human history has been studied through primary- and secondary-source documents. History was preceded by prehistory, in the Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) era and in much of the Neolithic (New Stone Age) era. In Eurasia and North Africa, the Paleolithic and Neolithic eras were separated by the Mesolithic era.
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The Neolithic era saw the Agricultural Revolution begin in fertile river valleys of the Near East around 10,000 BCE: humans began the systematic husbandry of plants and animals, and most humans transitioned from a nomadic life to a settled existence as farmers in permanent settlements. As efficient grain husbandry developed, surpluses fostered the development of advanced non-agricultural occupations, division of labor, social stratification, including the rise of a leisured upper class, and urbanization. The growing complexity of human societies necessitated systems of accounting and writing. True writing is first recorded in Sumer at the end of the 4th millennium BCE, followed soon after in other parts of the Near East.
In the late Bronze Age, Hinduism developed on the Indian subcontinent, while the Axial Age witnessed the appearance of religions such as Buddhism, Jainism, Judaism, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism. As civilizations flourished, ancient history saw the rise and fall of empires. Subsequent post-classical history (the "Middle Ages", from about 500 to 1500 CE) witnessed the rise of Christianity, the Islamic Golden Age, and the Renaissance (from around 1300 CE).
The 15th-century introduction of movable-type printing in Europe facilitated the dissemination of information, hastening the end of the Middle Ages and eventually enabling the Scientific Revolution. The early modern period, from about 1500 to 1800 CE, saw the Age of Discovery and the Age of Enlightenment. By the 18th century, the accumulation of knowledge and technology had reached a critical mass that brought about the Industrial Revolution and began the late modern period, which started around 1800 CE and continues.
The foregoing historical periodization (antiquity, followed by the post-classical, early-modern, and late-modern periods) applies best to the history of Europe. Elsewhere, including China and India, historical timelines unfolded differently up to the 18th century. By then, however, due to extensive international trade and colonization, the histories of most civilizations had become substantially intertwined. Over the last quarter-millennium, the rates of growth of human populations, agriculture, industry, commerce, scientific knowledge, technology, communications, weapons destructiveness, and environmental degradation have greatly accelerated.