A Timeline of Western History

The idea of Western Civilization is often a loaded one, pitting it against other parts of the world that are depicted as backward, corrupt, and stagnant. Historians use the term to describe a set of ideas, beliefs, and values that have been most heavily developed in countries such as France, Spain, and Portugal. This timeline of Western history is meant to highlight some key moments in the development of this civilization.

336 BC – Alexander the Great defeats the Persian Empire and creates what is widely considered to be the biggest empire of all time. His conquest paved the way for a number of future conquerors to follow, including the Roman Empire and the Hellenistic Period, when much of the West was influenced by Greek culture.

333 AD – The Black Death spreads across Europe, killing almost half of the continent’s population. It’s a major factor in the collapse of the Byzantine Empire and the rise of the medieval European kingdoms, such as England and Scotland.

500 AD – Clovis I unites all Frankish tribes to form the first French state, which becomes the heir of the old Roman Empire. This event marks the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of a new era that’s known as the High Middle Ages.

800 AD – Charlemagne becomes Roman Emperor, but he’s also the creator of the modern German state. The schism between Catholicism and Protestantism leads to a lot of fighting, including the 30 Years War.

1000 AD – The Battle of Hastings takes place. This is a key point in the Norman Conquest of England. Duke William, who has sacked the north of the country in his “Harrying of the North,” meets Harold II on a field at high elevation and, by using a terrain advantage, wins the decisive battle.

1066 – The Norman Conquest of England begins. William the Conqueror conquers southern England and violently puts down any rebellions among his power-hungry followers. The northern part of the country remains depopulated in comparison to southern England for centuries afterward.

1113 – Henry I, the youngest son of William the Conqueror, becomes King of England. He lays waste to the northern part of the country in his “Harrying Of The North,” which leaves the area looking like a wilderness in comparison to south England for centuries afterwards.

1492 – Cristobal Columbus sails to the Americas. This is a significant event that marks the end of the Middle Ages and, eventually, the birth of the modern era of globalization.

1700 – The French Revolution shakes up the balance of power in Europe and starts a process that will see Britain, France, Germany and Russia all become major players in the global economy. 1800 – The Industrial Revolution begins, enabling the development of machines that dramatically increase production and efficiency in many sectors of industry.

1900 – Women gain the right to vote in national elections in several Western countries.

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