Western history traces its roots to Europe and is closely linked to ancient Greece and Rome. Its influence spread across the world during the Middle Ages. Its contributions range from the Renaissance and Reformation to the Scientific Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. Western civilization is also associated with liberal democracy. Its greatest contributions came from the Christianized Germanic peoples such as Charlemagne, who founded the Carolingian Empire and is considered the Father of Europe.
Western history is an important aspect of world history and contributes to international culture in many ways. The West was the first major civilization to abolish slavery, enfranchised women in Australasia, and invented steam power. Its culture also inspired many artists, developed sports such as soccer and cricket, and produced the personal computer and the internet. A study of Western history helps students develop critical thinking skills.
In early modern times, European cities grew to become large metropolises. France became the cultural center of the Western world and was home to the great artists such as El Greco and Rembrandt. During this time, Russia and Austria stood firm against the idea of revolution. Meanwhile, the Greek and Serbian wars of independence freed their countries from the Ottoman Empire. The Dutch, however, became involved in European politics and conquered parts of modern Belgium and France.
After the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, the Western world entered the Middle Ages. The Catholic Church stepped in to fill the vacuum of power left by the Western Roman Empire. The Eastern Roman Empire, however, remained for centuries and was a Hellenic Eastern contrast to the Latin West. By the 12th century, the flowering of art and learning in Western Europe began. The construction of cathedrals and the establishment of medieval universities propelled this process. In addition, greater contact with the medieval Islamic world via Al-Andalus allowed the Europeans to learn Arabic texts on philosophy and science. During this time, many Europeans began to turn secular and atheistic, although they still held traditional Christian beliefs.
The expansion of Western powers brought about a new age of discovery. In the 1500s, new technologies and ships allowed Westerners to sail into areas that were previously unexplored. Using this newly acquired power, they increased their power and populated new areas. This was the Age of Discovery, with Western explorers from seafaring nations exploring new lands.
After the Napoleonic Wars, Britain reconstructed its empire, and the United States rapidly grew. Britain’s expansion established Anglicanism as the dominant religion, while English became the dominant language and culture on two continents. The Industrial Revolution accelerated as well, creating a class of industrial workers and wealthy industrialists. These changes led to new ideologies, including the rise of communism and socialism.
Inventors of this era transformed the West and revolutionized society. Thomas Edison pioneered electricity and motion picture technology, while the Wright brothers achieved the first successful flight in 1903. During this time, oil became an important commodity, and Henry Bessemer developed steel. This allowed the construction of tall buildings. In the 19th century, Alexander Graham Bell and Guglielmo Marconi invented radios. These men became the fathers of modern science.