An Introduction to Western History

western history

The term western history encompasses a broad area of human endeavor and activity. It has been used to describe the political and cultural development of Europe and its outlying lands, as well as parts of Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Historically, the western world has developed in parallel with, and influenced, the other cultures of the globe. Western culture is a product of the amalgamation of these diverse experiences.

The most significant events that formed the foundation of the modern Western world occurred in the 1500’s. This period of exploration straight after stagnant medieval times uncovered a new world that altered the course of humanity forever. The discovery of the Americas was not only a major geographic event but also introduced new philosophies, religions, and ideas into European society. These alterations have been the basis of all subsequent social, cultural and intellectual developments in the West.

During this time, many countries made great strides towards fully-fledged parliamentary democracy with the 19th and early 20th centuries seeing near universal male suffrage and mass party politics replacing the more limited and aristocratic governing structures of the past. This change was facilitated by the fact that many of these countries had a long history of British-style parliamentary governance.

In the same period, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution was adopted by the scientific community and radically shifted the way in which people thought about the origin and development of life. For some this meant that God could be done away with altogether, while others embraced it alongside their Christianity as part of a world view that emphasized the process and order of the universe.

Another dramatic development during this time was the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. While his trip was motivated by a desire for riches, it set in motion a chain of events that would eventually change the entire globe.

This period also saw the end of the old feudal system in France as Charlemagne emerged as the Holy Roman Emperor, a major figure in world history who was particularly supportive of education and the arts. The Renaissance in Europe produced works of art that were valued not only as illustrations but also as scientific documents imbued with cultural significance.

The late 19th century saw the myth of the cowboy as a symbol of the West emerge in popular culture. While this myth perpetuates the idea of the frontier as a meeting point between civilization and savagery, it is important to note that cowboys were not all white men; they were also Mexican vaqueros, blacks, and other ethnicities who worked the range for cattle. In addition, the life of the cowboy was a hard and often dangerous one. These various aspects of western public history are discussed in this collection that includes essays on the Little Big Horn battle site, Route 66, and historic brothel buildings in Colorado as well as articles interpreting the Ludlow massacre site, Nikkei removal from Bainbridge Island, and wild land firefighter memorials.

Similar Posts