A Western History Timeline

A western history timeline is a convenient way to get an overview of the major events in western civilization’s development. However, any such timeline is a simplification. For one thing, any period can be considered as a “western” period even though it may have a different culture or language. For another thing, historians artificially divide periods into smaller units to make it easier for them to work and teach. This is a mistake.

Nevertheless, this method is very useful for students because it gives them a framework with which to look at history. The following is a western history timeline that combines a number of the most significant moments in the development of the world’s dominant culture.

1st century BC: Hallstatt culture reaches its peak in central Europe. Iron begins to be widely used in European society. Roman influence over Europe’s tribes grows. Octavius Augustus establishes the Roman Empire. The Black Death plague sweeps across the European continent.

Early Middle Ages: Feudalism rules most of northern Europe. Christianity begins to take root in the West. Charlemagne becomes emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

Renaissance: Europe undergoes a period of cultural and social change, which is characterized by new ideas and artistic achievement. The population of Europe explodes, and towns grow to enormous size. A middle class develops. This era is often viewed as a golden age, and it was, but for reasons that have nothing to do with its reputation as the “golden age.”

19th century: The Industrial Revolution changes the shape of the world forever. Cities swell in size, and the working classes become a large part of the population. New forms of energy, in the form of fossil fuels like coal, provide a dramatic expansion of European technology and wealth. The explosion of European power coincided with the emergence of the belief that the Western world was both distinct from and better than other cultures. The theory of evolution by Charles Darwin encouraged the growth of a secular outlook that could replace or run parallel to religious beliefs.

20th century: World War Two destroys many nations and lays waste to millions of lives. Global decolonization slowly begins. The Soviet Union is established after the Russian Civil War, and it becomes the first communist nation in the world. The US Marshall Plan provides aid and money to help rebuild shattered Europe.

The US begins using nuclear weapons against Japan, and the atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The US-allied occupation zones in Germany split into East and West Germany. The Berlin blockade is ended after the US flies resources to Berlin via plane. In the same year, the first TV is tested in the USA. The United Kingdom abolishes its monarchy and is now the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. World population reaches 2 billion.

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