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A Short History of the World

A Short History of the World

There is an increasing realisation that our knowledge of world history – and how it all fits together – is far from perfect. A Short History of the World aims to fill the big gaps in our historical knowledge with a book that is easy to read and assumes little prior knowledge of past events.

The book does not aim to come up with groundbreaking new theories on why things occurred, but rather gives a broad overview of the generally accepted version of events so that non-historians will feel less ignorant when discussing the past.

While the book covers world history from the Big Bang to the present day, it principally covers key people, events and empires since the dawn of the first civilisations in around 3500 BC. To help readers put events, places and empires into context, the book includes 36 specially commissioned maps to accompany the text.

The result is a book that is reassuringly epic in scope but refreshingly short in length. An excellent place to start to bring your historical knowledge up to scratch!


Chapter I. Pre-History - The Big Bang - 3500 BC

The Beginning


The Birth of Man and the Exploration of the Earth

From Hunter-gathering to Farming

Chapter II. The Ancient World - 3500 BC - AD 500

The First Civilisations

Ancient Egypt: Land of the Pharaohs (3100 BC)

Civilisations in the East

The Stone, Bronze & Iron Ages

The Hittites: Early Ironmongers (1400–1200 BC)

The Olmecs of Central America (1400–400 BC)

The Invasion of the Sea Peoples (1200 BC)

The Hebrews

The Phoenicians Explore the Mediterranean (1000–500 BC)

The Great Assyrian Empire

The Empire of Ancient Persia (550–330 BC)

Ancient Greece and the Greek City States (1000–330 BC)

Alexander the Great (356–323 BC)

The Indian Mauryan Empire (321–185 BC)


Alexander’s Successor Kingdoms

The Unification of China (221 BC)

The Roman Republic (509–27 BC)

Hannibal and the Punic Wars (264–146 BC)

Julius Caesar (100–44 BC)

Octavian, Mark Antony and Cleopatra

The Roman Empire (27 BC–AD 476/1453)

Jesus: The Birth of Christianity

The Decline of Rome

Barbarians at the Gate

The End of the Roman Empire in the West (AD 476)

The Mayan Civilisation of Central America (AD 300–900)

Chapter III. The Early Middle Ages - AD 500 - 1000

The Dark Ages (AD 500-800)

Byzantium: The Eastern Empire

Muhammad: The Last Prophet (AD 570–632)

The Fall of the Umayyad Dynasty (AD 750)

Early African Empires

The Islamic Golden Age (8th–11th Centuries)

Charlemagne (AD 747–814)

Viking and Norman Invasions (AD 793–1066)

Chapter IV. The Late Middle Ages - AD 1000 - 1450

Challenges to the Caliphate

Europe’s Religious Schism (AD 1054)

The Crusades (AD 1096–1291)

The Mamluks: Kingdom of Slaves (AD 1250–1517)

The Mongols and Genghis Khan (13th – 15th centuries)

Kublai Khan (AD 1215–1294)

The Ascent of Moscow

The Legacy of the Mongols

The Hundred Years War in Europe (AD 1337–1453)

The Rise of the Ottomans (AD 1301)

Tamerlane (AD 1336–1405)

The Fall of Constantinople (AD 1453)

Ming China (AD 1368–1644)

The Retreat of Islam

Chapter V. The Ascent of the West - AD 1450 - 1780

The Renaissance (early 15th – late 16th Centuries)

The Spice Trade

The Age of Exploration (1450-1600)

Christopher Columbus (AD 1451–1506)

The Treaty of Tordesillas (1494)

The European Reformation (1517-1598)

The Habsburgs take over Europe

The Aztecs and the Incas meet the Iron Age (1200–1520/1531)

Safavid Persia (1502–1732)

The Catholic Counter-Reformation (1545)

The Dutch Revolt (1579–1648)

The English Reformation (1517–1558)

Elizabeth I: The Virgin Queen (1533–1603)

The Thirty Years War and the Peace of Westphalia (1618-1648)

The Colonisation of North America (17th Century)

Jamestown and the Settlement of North America (1607)

Sugar and the Slave Trade (15th–19th Centuries)

The Dutch Empire Grows…

…while Spain and Portugal Decline

France Gains Dominance Under Louis XIV

England: The Beginnings of an Empire

Japan Closes its Doors to the World (17th Century)

China Expands under the Manchus

Meanwhile in Russia…

The Kingdom of Prussia (1701–1871)

The Seven Years War (1756–1763)

The Europeans Dominate India

The Hindu Religion

The American War of Independence (1775-1783)

Terra Australis Incognita

Chapter VI. The Modern Period - AD 1780 - Present

The French Revolution (1789–1799)

Napoleon Bonaparte: Emperor of the French (1799–1815)

The Industrial Revolution (1780s–1900)

Rule Britannia: Great Britain Leads the World (1815–1900)

The Growth of Socialism (19th Century)

The Independence of South America (1808–1826)

The Rise of Nationalism and Liberalism (19th Century)

The Great Game in Central Asia (19th Century)

The Opium Wars

Civil War in China (1851)

Revolution in India (1857)

How King Cotton led to Civil War in America (1861-1865)

The Expansion of America (1783–1867)

New Nations: Austria-Hungary, Italy, and Germany (1867–1871)

The Scramble for Africa (1880–1914)

The Technological Revolution

The Rise of Japan (1895–1945)

Rebellion in China and the End of the Qing (1900–1911)

Chapter VII. The 20th Century

The Bloodiest Century

Oil and the Internal Combustion Engine

The Russo-Japanese War (1904)

The First World War or ‘Great War’ (1914–1918)

The Russian Revolution (1917)

The End of the Great War

The Emancipation of Women

The Russian Civil War (1917-1921)

The Rise of Fascism and Totalitarianism

The Great Depression (1929–1932)

Change in the East

The East at War (1931–1945)

The Second World War (1939–1945)

The Katyn Massacre (1940)

The War in the East

After the War

The Arab-Israeli Conflict

The New World Order

Revolution in China (1949)

De-Stalinisation and the Space Race

The Great Leap Forward in China (1958–1962)

Vietnam and Cambodia

The Communist Holocaust (1917–1991)

The Microchip and the Digital Revolution

Decolonisation: The End of Overseas Empires

The Collapse of the Soviet Union (1991)

The Pendulum Turns: Europe Loses its Dominance

The Resurgence of Islam

What's Next?