The Impact of Western History on the World

western history

Western history has had a profound impact on the world. Most of the advancements we take for granted can be traced back to early periods in our history. Those events, however, didn’t just happen; they were shaped by cooperation and conflict between East and West. The clash of cultures has contributed to scientific progress, economic growth and a wealth of other social benefits. It has also given rise to power struggles, wars and exploitation of resources.

In its most simple terms, Western civilization means the ideas of liberty and individualism institutionalized in democratic government, free markets, constitutionalism and the rule of law. The Americans breathed a new meaning into this concept, first as they dealt with the large surge of European immigrants to America and then in their dealings with Europe itself during the course of two world wars.

This article looks at six major eras in the development of Western civilization, from antiquity to the Cold War. In addition, it explores some of the ways in which Western history has impacted world history and the way in which this topic intersects with other areas of knowledge like TOK, geography, social studies, civics and biology.

In this unit, students examine the ancient Greeks and Romans, the Byzantine Empire, the Age of Enlightenment, colonialism, the Industrial Revolution and two world wars including the Russian Revolution.

The ancient Greeks and Romans created a culture that was the foundation of modern civilizations. Their ideas influenced everything from science to architecture, language to art, philosophy to religion.

Their mighty empires fell, but their legacy endured. The philosophies of the ancients are still a fundamental part of many of our daily lives.

In the Middle Ages, also known as the Medieval period, Christian beliefs and institutions spread across Europe. This period is usually subdivided into the Early, High and Late Middle Ages.

After the Reformation and counter-reformation, European kings were concerned about losing their divine right to rule. The Thirty Years War, fought between almost all the states of Europe from 1536 to 1648, was one result of this.

The western frontier was a meeting point between civilized society and “savage” wilderness. The cowboy became the symbol for this view of American culture in the late 19th century. In reality, however, the American West was home to a variety of cultures, from the Indians who hunted bison to the Spanish vaqueros.

When the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, a ceremony known as the Golden Spike Ceremony was held at Promontory Point, Utah. Wild Bill Hickok, who was the Marshal of Abilene, pushed the golden spike into place. The Civil War prompted another massive migration of Americans, this time to the West. This section of the country was initially ruled by the Missouri Compromise, which gave each settler 160 acres of land provided they planted it with trees. In the 1860s, this was not enough for most people, so they began to move even further West — to Oregon, California and Texas.

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