When it comes to the study of history, there are many different approaches that can be taken. The most common of these is to analyze the various periods in Western history, particularly the European history as this provides a more balanced view of the development of Western civilisation. Much Western history can be seen as a story of transition, with success gradually being replaced by more profound darkness. This dark period was typified by two world wars that devastated vast areas of the world, killing millions and forcing millions more to flee their homes. The modern world has yet to face such evils, but the knowledge of Western history gives us a small glimpse into what could happen if a similar disaster struck now.
Most modern scholars of western history agree that major events such as the fall of the Roman Empire, the rise of the Germanic tribes, the rise of Islam, and the French Revolution all played a major role in the shaping of the western world as we know it today. However, some historians question whether this is necessarily true. Some historians argue that these changes were far more gradual than many people imagine, and were thus far less traumatic. Others point out that although major events like the fall of the Roman Empire, the rise of Islam, and the French Revolution were indeed incredibly traumatic, they did not lead to the total destruction of Western civilisation. Some even argue that these events merely delayed, rather than caused, the inevitable decline of Western civilisation.
The period after the great conflict was one of immense change, marked not only by the collapse of the Roman Empire, but by the rise of Islam and other tribal-based religions across the Middle East and Northern India. This led to a massive immigration, or migration, of peoples into what was then the ancient world. By the end of the thirteenth century, there were dozens of different races living together in what was then the most fertile agricultural land on earth. As farming developed and cities sprung up across what was then the largest continent, the west experienced a major shift in its history and culture. The westward migration of populations helped shape the geography and climate of what is now modern day China, India, Pakistan, Tibet and the Himalayas.
Another important development in the history of the west during the later Middle Ages was the rise of the Carolingian Empire. Unlike the Romans, who had a major city-state system, the Carolingians split their territories between the four principal islands of the Iberian Peninsula. Although the empire was mostly confined to Spain, it also had the strongest hold on the west-central part of the continent, which was later joined by the Germanic tribesmen in the ‘apps’ of the Holy Roman Empire. In addition to its influence on the shaping of the geography of the west, the Carolingians were also crucial in shaping the language and culture of the middle ages. In particular, they were the first Europeans to write, and perhaps, to use Latin as their official language.
One of the most important developments in the history of the west that resulted from the rise of the medieval era was the rise of the so-called ‘western civilization’. Although the west was not united in the beginning (its cultural and political structures were too diverse to be considered one entity), the impact of the thirteenth century’s ‘great war’ and the subsequent development of the Thirty Years’ War largely impacted the development of the middle ages in the east and north. The outcome of this war brought an influx of new ideas and values, especially in regard to gender roles and the family. The introduction of the printing press, which facilitated mass literacy and gave the west a vast array of new literary creations, greatly influenced the way the west began to think about itself. Thus, throughout the fifteenth and up to the fifteenth century, developments in the east were sometimes reversed, resulting in mistakes that the west would eventually learn from.
Furthermore, in comparison to earlier periods, the thirteenth century witnessed a significant rise in the level and quality of writing by European history’s greatest historians. As a result, these historians had far more material to draw upon to critique earlier works. While earlier historians had criticized previous civilizations for their inconsistencies, these critics in the European history of the American west were far more vocal in their attacks. Furthermore, as America became more closely connected with Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, European influence extended well beyond the bounds of the Americas.