- Slides: 18
8000 BCE – 600 CE BROAD TRENDS
GLOBAL POWER AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS • Early on, the most advanced civilizations were to be found in the Middle East (especially the river valleys of Egypt and Mesopotamia) and China. • As time passed, other developed societies emerged. Especially powerful and sophisticated was the Mediterranean world (particularly Greece and Rome).
• Cultures in North and South America were physically and culturally isolated from the rest of the continents. • The cultures of Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia were all linked, directly or indirectly, by war, conquest, trade, travel, religious interaction, and cultural exchange.
• By 600 c. e. , several civilizations could claim to be among the world’s most powerful and advanced, especially China, Persia, and Byzantium. Europe was slowly recovering from the collapse of Rome in the late 400 s.
POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS • With the development of agriculture during the Neolithic revolution, advanced forms of political organization began to appear. • Most governments were monarchies (rule by a single leader) or oligarchies (rule by a small elite). More representative forms of government, such as republics and democracies, were very rare.
• In some cases, decentralized civilizations were governed by confederations of independent city-states (such as Greece) or feudal systems (such as Europe after the fall of Rome). • Many civilizations, by means of military conquest, built empires. Among the largest and longest lasting were Assyria’s, Persia’s, Rome’s, and China’s.
ECONOMIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL DEVELOPMENTS • Until the development of agriculture during the Neolithic revolution, systems of economic exchange remained quite primitive. Most prehistoric cultures, mainly hunting and gathering societies, lived at subsistence and possessed few goods. There was very little specialization of labor. Any trade tended to be limited, and based on simple barter.
• The development of agriculture allowed the accumulation of food surpluses, which enabled some members of society to make a living by means other than growing food. The result was specialization of labor. • • Specialization of labor led to social stratification and the emergence of socioeconomic classes (ex. upper-class aristocracies, middle-class merchants and artisans, lower-class urban dwellers and peasants).
• The switch from nomadic life to sedentary, or settled, life led people to develop the concept of private property. • Resource consumption and extraction increased, causing human societies to have a greater (and often negative) impact on the environment.
• As settled civilizations encountered each other, they traded with each other. Trade became one of the most important forms of interaction between civilizations. Trade networks tended to follow waterways, for ease of transport. • Systems of currency (particularly coinage) were devised.
CULTURAL DEVELOPMENTS • Even during the Stone Age, human beings expressed themselves artistically, by means of painting and music. • Prehistoric societies buried their dead, worshipped gods, and practiced religious rituals.
• Systematic scientific observation, experimentation, and thought emerged, especially in China, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean world. • The world’s major religions were born (except for Islam).
GENDER ISSUES • The ability of humans to mate when and with whom they chose gave rise to family units during the prehistoric era.
• Basic physical differences between the sexes led to a gender division of labor in most Stone Age societies. • The emergence of agriculture deepened the gender division of labor. In most agricultural and settled societies, gender division gave rise to gender inequality. • Organized religions often reinforced this sense of inequality.
• In most societies up to 600 C. E. , women were relegated to a secondary, subservient role. The degree of subservience depended on the society. In some cultures, women had at least some rights (divorce, inheritance, and ownership of property, for example). • In other cultures, women had almost no rights or influence. Whatever the case, in almost no society were women granted a status equal to that of men.
QUESTIONS AND COMPARISONS TO CONSIDER • How do human societies develop into societies? What does it mean to be “civilized”? • How do agricultural and urban societies compare with pastoral and nomadic ones? • What is the importance of cultural interaction and diffusion versus that of independent innovation in changing societies technologically, scientifically, or culturally?
• Examine and compare various forms of social inequality (slavery, caste systems, patriarchy, gender inequality) in different cultures. • How have different societies organized themselves economically? What role did trade play? Be able to describe the features of at least one interregional trading system (for example, the overland route linking the Mediterranean and Middle East with East Asia).
• How and why do empires and major civilizations decline or collapse? Good comparisons might include Egypt versus Mesopotamia or the Roman Empire versus Han China. More generally, why did imperial collapse prove more devastating in western Europe than it did farther to the east?