SECTION FOUR: THE ORIGIN OF HUMAN CIVILIZATION

SECTION FOUR: THE ORIGIN OF HUMAN CIVILIZATION

One: From Barbarism to Civilization

Humans have evolved from animals. About three million years ago, the ancestors of man learned to use stone tools. About 500,000 years ago, the use of fire expanded the scope of food and helped man’s ancestors overcome the cold, allowing them to move out of the warm climates of lower latitude Africa towards Asia, Europe, Australia, and the Americas. Humans migrated in the pursuit of food constantly, and in large groups. This migration process took very long. Australia was reached about fifty thousand years ago, and the Americas were only reached fifteen thousand years ago.

The social development of human beings has always been relatively small. This social organization existed in the form of primitive communes; any person who obtained food had to share it among the collective, and every person had the right to share in collective food source.

Because the demands of life—that is, basic food—were very simple, and the number of humans distributed around the world was small enough to easily assure such demands, people had ample leisure time. Once enough food was obtained, all remaining time could be used for rest and entertainment. That is why many scholars believe that late Paleolithic humans were happier and more relaxed than people today.

The first major change in human lifestyle and the formation of human society occurred about ten thousand years ago. During this period, the manufacture of stone tools became much more sophisticated, evolving from earlier striking methods to polishing techniques, coining this time the “Neolithic Age.”

The most revolutionary change for mankind was the mastery of plant and animal domestication. Planting and keeping animals provided a much more stable lifestyle compared to the migratory way of hunting and gathering. It offered more security as well, allowing people to settle down. This change in production methods was later known as the “Agricultural Revolution.”

The Agricultural Revolution fundamentally changed life and social structures for humans. After settling down, people formed family units and villages. Compared to the gathering method, planting and farming greatly improved the efficiency of land usage, permitting villages to expand and far exceed the human groupings of the gathering era. The efficiency in production created enough surplus for storage, sparking conflict and war. To better ward off foreign invasion, two or more villages would unite to form a tribe, further expanding the scale of human society.

In the late Neolithic period, people invented metal-smelting technology. The first metal to be smelted was copper. Adding a small number of additives to copper enhanced its performance quality. Bronze is produced by adding small amounts of tin to copper.

Pottery and weaving also emerged in this era. With the development of agriculture, irrigation and water conservancy projects also arose; complete and intricate agricultural irrigation systems existed in Mesopotamia and Egypt more than six thousand years ago.

Before the Industrial Revolution took place more than two hundred years ago, the center of human civilization was firmly fixed upon the Eurasian continent and the African region north of the Sahara Desert. (Unless otherwise specified, we will call this “North Africa” in this section.) Due to the swamps in the Sahara Desert and the upper reaches of the Nile, North Africa and the Eurasian continent shared more contact, while the African region south of the Sahara (referred to as “South Africa,” unless otherwise specified) was isolated from the hub of civilization on the Eurasian continent. The Americas and Australia also existed in relative isolation.

The ancient Eurasian continent and North Africa possessed 90 percent of the population and the most advanced civilization. Among some of the most important ancient civilizations that existed here were: the Mesopotamian civilization along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers; the Egyptian civilization along the Nile; the Indian civilization along the Indus and Ganges rivers; the Chinese civilization along the Yellow River and Yangtze River; and the Minoan civilization of the Mediterranean Crete.

It is worth mentioning that many nomads lived outside of civilization on the vast expanses of grassland north of Eurasia, from the northeastern part of China in the east to the Hungarian planes of central Europe in the west. These powerful nomads traveled south to pillage and plunder civilized areas every chance they got, destroying buildings and spilling blood in their wake. They were the destroyers of civilization; however, they were also the messengers of civilization, as they brought Eastern civilization and technology to the West, and Western civilization and technology to the East.

Different ancient civilizations came into being at different times, with only indirect influences between them. Chinese civilization especially experienced less influence from other civilizations due to its far-off location in the East. Due to long distance and inconvenient traffic, the basic principles of civilization only journeyed from one place to another after many years. Only after accepting these basic principles—and only these basic principles—did the major civilizations start to flourish, each with their own characteristics.

Every civilization is always under constant destruction and reparation. The main destruction comes from war, but natural disasters like earthquakes and volcanoes also play a part, albeit a secondary one. Some civilizations were destroyed and never rebuilt, like the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete. It was destroyed without a trace left; even the subsequent Greek civilization did not accept much of its influence. Some civilizations are repeatedly destroyed and reconstructed; this reconstructed civilization is impacted by its predecessor, but its core values often undergo great change. Mesopotamian civilization, Egyptian civilization, and Indian civilization all have such features. However, there is one other civilization that has been damaged and rebuilt many times but has managed to continue uninterrupted: the Chinese civilization.

 

Two: The Pace of Civilization

Ancient civilizations can only be regarded as primitive civilizations, as human civilization did not stop its in-depth development after its establishment. As civilization develops in depth, it also develops in scope. When ancient civilizations were conceived, they were like single, isolated islands floating in the corners of the world, surrounded by barren land. These “islands” were like sparks of flames, constantly burning and expanding, influencing the areas around them until all civilizations connected into a whole. This period is called the Classical Era or Classical Age by scholars.

 For the purpose of this section, we will continue to use the Eurasian continent and North Africa as the main subject of observation. We know that in the earlier stages, a series of small city-states formed in the major civilized areas. These small states coveted each other’s wealth and resources, so constant battles ensued. As war raged, the more powerful states gained in power while weaker states were swallowed up. As states expanded in scale, the battles between small states became wars between large nations; the scope of civilization continued to expand, eventually forming one whole.

The emperor Qin Shi Huang was the person to first unify Chinese civilization. Early Chinese civilization was confined to the small area near the middle reaches of the Yellow River. As civilization spread, a number of small vassal states were formed, all of which were nominally affiliated to the Zhou dynasty. In reality, the Zhou dynasty only had control over the limited area around itself. By third century BC, only seven larger nations remained due to war and the merging of vassal states. Among them, Qin—a nation developed from border tribes—was the strongest in power. Under these circumstances, Qin Shi Huang destroyed the six other countries over one decade of conquest, establishing a unified Qin dynasty in 221 BC.

Indian civilization was united by the Maurya dynasty. During the rule of Ashoka, a series of successful expeditions were launched, joining Indian civilization as one. In the time that followed, the neighboring civilizations of China and India developed along different respective paths. Indian civilization spent more time divided, while Chinese civilization spent more time united.

Roman civilization was an important component of European civilization; it is both a sister civilization and a continuation of Greek civilization. In its heyday, the Roman Empire spanned Europe, Asia, and Africa, surrounding the entire Mediterranean. Its origin can be traced back to the Roman citystate on the Apennine Peninsula. After centuries of war, the Romans united Italy. Then they conquered many countries along the Mediterranean over more centuries of war, forming the huge Roman Empire. During Rome’s prime, its contemporary, China’s Han dynasty, equaled it in size and power, making the two the respective East and West cores of civilization.

The middle and later parts of the millennium BC was a time of great ideological advancement for humanity. Due to great unrest, centuries of war, and long periods of divide experienced by the major civilized areas, people thought long and hard about the universe, life, ideal societies, ideal governments, and moral ethics. A great number of outstanding thinkers emerged, and their thoughts pushed humanity into maturity. Under the guidance of these ideological masters, human society rationalized in leaps and bounds. The influence of these thinkers lives on, remaining rooted in the depths of human society until this day.

In the five hundred years between 770 BC and 221 BC, philosophers, thinkers, military strategists, and educators like Laozi, Mozi, Confucius, and Sun Tzu flourished in China. India’s Buddha was a contemporary of China’s Confucius; he was born during a time of great social upheaval in India. Buddha observed the pain people suffered through aging, sickness, and death, prompting him to agonize over the meaning of life and ultimately create Buddhism.

In the same period, Greek thinkers replaced the mysticism of religion with scientific rationalism. Their philosophical speculation started with the understanding of nature, asking and answering questions freely using rationality. In time, a number of outstanding rationalist thinkers and scientists like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Archimedes appeared.

In the history of ideology, another far-reaching event would take place later. Jesus created Christianity in the first century AD.

Human history has always been accompanied by war, and this period was no exception. However, two wars must be mentioned, for they impact all of human history. The first war was the eastward campaign of the Macedonian king, Alexander the Great. After Alexander inherited the throne, he unified most of Greece through a series of wars, and then he launched a war against the powerful Persian Empire. His conquest was unstoppable. Although the Persian Empire was much larger and had more troops, it crumpled under the iron fist of Alexander the Great. After conquering Egypt in the south, Alexander advanced eastward until he hit the river basins of India.

Alexander the Great held great respect for Greek culture, so he was determined to spread Greek civilization to the corners of the earth. He realized, however, that the brilliant oriental civilizations were not inferior and sometimes were even more marvelous than Greek civilization, so he became a facilitator of culture exchange instead of cultural invasion.

The other war worth mentioning was the war waged by the Eastern Han Dynasty against the Huns. The Huns were a strong, nomadic tribe in northern China, long accustomed to harassing the Chinese Empire to its south. Relying on the strength of his empire, Emperor Wu of Han launched a series of large-scale wars against the Huns. As a result of these wars, the Huns were greatly weakened, and a portion of the Huns joined the Han dynasty shortly after, while the rest fled into the depths of the desert. The fleeing of the Huns invoked a great migration in the history of the world. This migration lasted hundreds of years, changing the course of world history.

 At that time, there were many strong ethnic groups living on the Eurasian grasslands; the Huns were one of the strongest. As the Huns migrated westward, they occupied the lands of other nomadic tribes. Unable to contend with the fierce Huns, these tribes were forced to move farther west into other nomadic territories. Many Germanic tribes had occupied the grasslands of central Europe and were now crammed into the small area in the north of the Roman Empire during this migration. At every opportunity they would travel south to rob wealthy Romans.

During this time, the Roman Empire divided into two parts. The Eastern Roman Empire (also known as the Byzantine Empire) was still strong, so the Germans had less opportunity for looting. The Western Roman Empire was in decline, and after repeated invasions it was eventually occupied by the Germans in 476. The demise of the Western Roman Empire holds major significance. Historians use the fall of the Western Roman Empire as a dividing line, denoting the thousand years following the fall as the “mid-century.”

 

  Three: The Century of the East

 After the Western Roman Empire fell, the Byzantine Empire continued to survive for nearly one thousand years, striving to continue the splendor of the Roman Empire. The Justinian period in particular tried to restore the territory of the Roman Empire, achieving some success. But overall, the Byzantine was on the decline; its rule shrank more and more and the nation weakened gradually until it was destroyed by the Ottoman Empire in 1453.

Europe was most often dominated by barbarians. Under their rule, almost all of classical European civilization was destroyed. Only the Roman religion was inherited. During this period, European society was scattered and divided into many small countries. Religious rule rose above imperial power, achieving dominance. As cultures suffered destruction, religious rule strictly imprisoned people’s minds, casting Europe into a cultural desert; academic circles call this period the “Dark Ages.”

To say that the entire world was shrouded in darkness during the Dark Ages is a gross generalization. The lack of creativity was only restricted to the West; the East experienced a great prosperity of culture. The number system we call “Arabic numerals” was developed in this period by the Indian people and was spread to Europe by the Arabs. The Arabs also absorbed the mathematical achievements of the Indians and Greeks to create their own unique mathematical accomplishments—algebra was one especially brilliant achievement. Arabs also experienced successful creative achievements in astronomy and medicine.

During the Medieval Period (fifth to fifteenth century), China contributed the most significant cultural achievements of all. Most of the world’s scientific and technological advancements came out of China in this period; among them, the four great inventions—the compass, paper-making, gun powder, and printing—made the most significant contribution to human society. China’s four great inventions quickly spread to the Arabs and Persians, who later brought them to Europe.

Obviously, the abovementioned creations and inventions are not the full scope of medieval cultural development in the East. The Eastern world also achieved remarkably in the fields of literature, art, and philosophy.

The rise and expansion of Islam was another very influential event of the Middle Ages. Muhammad not only created the Islamic religion, but he also spread it through war and missionary work, thus uniting the Arabian Peninsula. His successors continued to promote the spread of Islam and expand the territory of Arab countries, ultimately forming a religious nation of unprecedented scale. This religious nation covered a variety of different areas and spanned all three continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The rise and spread of Islam created conflict with Christianity. The famous Crusades raged from 1096 to 1291 as the war was fought over control of Jerusalem, as well as numerous other cities and religious sites.

At the beginning of the thirteenth century, a powerful nomadic nation sprung up on the grasslands of northern China: the Mongol nation. Genghis Khan and his descendants used brutal war tactics to carry out invincible conquest. The Mongols built an empire of unparalleled reach. Starting in China from the East and encompassing Korea, it reached Poland and the Baltic Sea in the West, and Mesopotamia and the Arabian Gulf in the West. Most of the Eurasian continent was included in the territory of the Mongol Empire.

In Europe, the Germans broke into many small countries after conquering the Western Roman Empire. Among them, the Franks established the most powerful kingdom. Relying on support from the Pope, two generations of Franks rulers, Pepin and Charles the Great (also known as Charlemagne), conquered and built an empire that encompassed most of Europe. Since this empire rose to its peak during the rule of Charles the Great, it is known as the Charlemagne Empire. Shortly after the death of Charlemagne, the Charlemagne Empire split into east, central, and west portions; these would later become Germany, Italy, and France. These three countries played a very important role in European and world history—one that persists today.

The original people inhabiting England were called the Celts; they later came under the rule of the Roman Empire. After the Western Roman Empire was invaded by the Germans, England was occupied by two smaller Germanic tribes, the Angles and the Saxons. Anglo-Saxons became the masters of this land thereafter.

 

Four: The History of the World

When Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas in 1492, the American people were still in the early stages of the Agricultural Revolution. They had domesticated over one hundred types of crops—no less than Eurasian cultures— but farming only made up a small portion in their production. Most of their food was obtained through the more primitive method of gathering.

Prior to this, the Americas had formed three large areas of civilization. The Mayan civilization of Central America was a leader in arts and technology; they created imaginative architecture and sculptures and also mastered considerable mathematical and astronomical knowledge. The Aztec civilization was located in Mexico; they were an aggressive people that staged tribal wars to capture prisoners in order to sacrifice their hearts to the gods. This sacrifice was to ensure victory in battle, while victory in battle was meant to produce more captive hearts to sacrifice for victory. This produced a vicious cycle that fed war with more war. The Inca civilization in Southern America had the relatively highest level of civilization; they had formed an empire called the Inca Empire. The Inca Empire had a unified religion, the Inca religion; they practiced state-ownership when managing land, mines, and other assets, and they had a centralized conscription and taxation system. In comparison, the Mayan civilization and the Aztec civilization were still in tribal stages.

When the British arrived in Australia in the late eighteenth century, they found the land even less civilized than the Americas. There were about 300,000 indigenous people living in Australia, all still stuck in the Paleolithic Age. They could only use the simplest tools, such as sticks and rough stones, their social structure was still in the group stage, and they generally did not wear clothing apart from a few decorative objects.

South Africa was much more civilized than the Americas and Australia, but the development there was extremely uneven. The development of South Africa should be attributed to the introduction of agricultural and smelting technologies from the Asian and European civilizations; this allowed them to enter the agricultural period early on. The introduction of Islam also helped to promote cultural development.

 Columbus’ discovery of the American continent was a milestone in human history. He believed that he had circled the earth and reached Asia on the other side. Although Columbus died without realizing his mistake, the significance of his discovery cannot be diminished. No matter how many people had previously believed that the earth was round, it was only after Columbus’ geographical discovery that this conclusion was cemented. (In reality, the first person to actually conclude a successful round the world voyage was Ferdinand Magellan.) People started to view the history of mankind through a global perspective. Before this, people had always believed the world to be composed of the Asian, African, and European continents alone. This is why the academic community generally agrees to use Columbus’ discovery of the Americas as the sign of humans entering a global era.

The start of the global era is also marked by bloodshed. Spanish colonialists in the Americas began first with the plunder of gold, silver, and jewelry, and then continued relentlessly to occupy land and resources. They used trickery and betrayal to gain the trust of Native peoples, and then they brutally killed their chiefs and kings. The European colonialists who came after the Spanish killed and plundered in the same vein. Arguments vary concerning the exact number of Indians killed in the end, but one thing is for certain: the dead far outweighed the survivors. The Indians living on the West Indies suffered particularly heavy losses; they were nearly wiped out. Many Indian villages on the continent were also destroyed until few people were left alive.

As the indigenous peoples of the Americas were largely slaughtered by colonialists, a manpower shortage occurred in the development of the Americas, giving rise to the slave trade. European slave traffickers sold African slaves to the Americas for huge profits. The slave trade was extremely cruel and savage. Some information indicates that about one black slave out of every four died in the transportation process due to the harsh trafficking practices. The slave trade caused the population of Africa to terribly decrease.

The colonization of Australia did not start until the late eighteenth century. Most immigrants were criminals sent to Australia due to overcrowding in British prisons. The arrival of these people rained destruction on the aboriginal people; they killed indigenous people as if it were a hunting sport, destroying over 90 percent of the population.

With the discovery of the Americas and Australia, Western Europe started a massive expansion and colonization operation. Portugal, Spain, France, and Britain all established colonies overseas. As a late bloomer, Russia limited its expansion to its immediate surroundings. As time has proven, this kind of peripheral expansion is much more effective than overseas expansion. Today, Russia’s territory ranks first in the world, the result of its continuous expansion over many centuries.

The overseas colonies established by the Europeans developed a new national consciousness over time, giving rise to continuous conflicts between them and their sovereign nations. The demands for independence by the colonies grew louder and louder, spearheaded by the thirteen British colonies in British North America. On July 4, 1776, the colonies declared independence, establishing the United States of America while the territory now known as Canada remained loyal to Britain.

Encouraged by the independence of the United States, a new wave of demands for independence arose in the colonies outside of the Americas. After a long and arduous struggle, these colonies all gained their independence.

 

Five: Emerging from the Middle Ages

 Emerging from the Middle Ages had completely opposite consequences for the East and the West. Western Europe’s creativity exploded after many years of constraint, propelling it to the forefront of the world. Meanwhile, in the East, creativity, which had previously been in the lead, became inexplicably suppressed, gradually falling behind.

In Europe, the writings and ideology of Classical Era Greek rationalist thinkers had been forgotten and lost. Taken by the Arabs to study, these writings gained new splendor. When the Crusades moved East in the conquest of the Muslims, Christians unintentionally discovered these works that had originally belonged to their ancestors. They translated the works of Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, and Ptolemy from Arabic into Latin. The rediscovery of these rationalist masterpieces refreshed the minds of scholars who had long been confined by religious doctrines, igniting new sparks in the hearts of people, and finally erupting into the magnificent Renaissance movement.

The Renaissance took place from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century, starting in Italy and later extending into other parts of Europe. It flew the banner of European Classicism Revival, promoting an anti-church theocracy, anti-feudal ideology liberation movement. This movement was far-reaching in its influence; it sounded the horn for the development of modern civilization. In this movement, a large number of ideological liberation pioneers emerged, including poets, writers, playwrights, and scientists. Dante, Boccaccio, Shakespeare, Copernicus, and Bruno are some outstanding representatives.

The sixteenth-century religious reformation movement was a direct assault on the Catholic Church. The reform was sparked by the Holy See’s selling of indulgences. According to the Church, people were born guilty, and only through purchasing the indulgences sold by the church could they find redemption. This was a barely disguised attempt at extortion. The frequent issuance of indulgences caused widespread resentment among the people. The German Martin Luther wrote a series of opposing articles attacking the sale of indulgences and introducing different religious ideologies. Following Luther, Calvin and King Henry VIII also spearheaded new movements of Christian doctrines.

The Protestant Reformation created a new Protestant Church, separated from the Catholic Church. Many people chose to convert to Protestantism, which was a heavy blow to the Holy See. Without the support of the Renaissance movement, this religious reform would have been impossible to achieve.

The Enlightenment movement was the second ideological liberation movement following the Renaissance. It originated in Western Europe, centered in France, but soon spread to other parts of Europe and the United States. Enlightenment thinkers held rationalism in high regard, aggressively criticizing theological dogma and resisting religious superstition with atheism. They opposed autocratic hierarchy with ideas of social equality; combated ignorance with science and knowledge; suggested freedom, equality, and universal love; and proposed models of ideal social systems. During the Enlightenment, a number of great thinkers like Locke, Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Grotius, Jefferson, and Paine emerged.

The Enlightenment directly led to the establishment of modern democratic countries and the advent of the Industrial Revolution, propelling Western civilization ahead of Eastern civilization to occupy center stage of the modern world and lead the development of human history.

Enlightenment thinkers designed an ideal system that would ensure democracy and freedom by separating and facilitating mutual restraint between executive power, legislative power, and judicial power. This system is also known as the separation of powers. The nation established by the American Revolution was the first modern democratic country to be built on the separation of powers.

 France was the center of the Enlightenment; the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 was astounding. The revolution sent King Louis XVIII to the guillotine and established a modern democratic regime. The success of the French Revolution shook Europe; it was without a doubt a great threat to the feudal autocratic regimes of other European countries. Major European powers joined to forcefully intervene in the French Revolution, and it was under these circumstances that Napoleon came to power.

Napoleon was an outstanding tactical genius. The European anti-French alliance united seven times, bringing together nearly all the major countries of Europe to attack France. Under such disparaging conditions, Napoleon’s army was unstoppable, occupying most of Europe at one point. However, due to an erroneous decision to attack Russia, Napoleon’s forces were almost completely annihilated. In the face of a joint offensive from strong foreign enemies, Napoleon was finally defeated. Nevertheless, the great influence of the French Revolution and the personal military genius of Napoleon lingers on.

As the Western world was being shaken by phenomenal changes, the East was still continuing in its old social order, stuck in a stagnant state. In the Muslim world, Ottoman Turkey ruled the Balkans and Middle East; the state was seemingly strong, but petrifying from within. Along its European border, it could vaguely feel the changes in Europe, but it remained untouched itself.

The ruling Mughal Empire of India had once been very strong, but its sun was starting to set as well. The empire was in a divided state. This internal division—as well as the conflict between the Muslim rulers and the Hindus, who made up the majority of the population—provided opportunity for subsequent colonial invasion.

Caught between these two major Muslim powers was the Muslim Safavid Empire, located in the Iranian Plateau. During the first half of the seventeenth century, the Safavid Empire reached its heyday, but it suffered greatly through a series of peasant uprisings, thus beginning its decline.

The most closed off of all was the Chinese Empire in the Far East. During this time, China had been ruled by the Ming and Qing dynasties. Since the early days of the Ming dynasty, the Chinese Empire had adopted an isolationist strategy, not only refusing to initiate contact with the other world, but also taking strict precautions against passive contact. The empire refused to deal in foreign trade and even strictly prohibited the people from going to sea. At the same time, the Japanese Empire ruled by the Tokugawa Shogunate also adopted a closed-door policy, missing the opportunity to communicate with and learn from the West.

 

 Six: The West Reaches Its Summit

The Western world managed to reap huge benefits during the Discovery Era. Regardless of whether the means of obtaining such benefits were righteous or not, the end results were enormously lucrative. A series of ideologically liberating movements like the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment produced great social evolution. They removed the shackles of religious theocracy and the fetters of feudal despotism, forming an ideological environment and social system conducive to promoting a liberation of productive forces. It was against this backdrop that a historic opportunity once again occurred in the West: the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution propelled the West from its already advantageous position to a historical peak.

The Industrial Revolution started in the mid-eighteenth century in Britain, beginning with a series of inventions in the textile industry. The invention and application of James Watt’s steam engine was an important landmark, as it drove the Industrial Revolution to develop further in depth.

The true leap of the Industrial Revolution came after the merging of science and technology. In the early days of the revolution, the application of technology was based solely on the use of practical technological inventions. However, it was only possible to create simple, intuitive inventions by relying solely on experience to solve technological problems. After applying the use of scientific theory as a guide to technology, more complex and abstract inventions were created, fostering rapid development in productivity. The combination of technology and science that took place in the late nineteenth century is called the Second Industrial Revolution.

The Industrial Revolution promoted the advent of the industrial culture in human society, and it also changed the political, economic, and military order of the world. Propelled by the Industrial Revolution, the British economy grew rapidly, eventually becoming known as “the world factory.” Britain’s subsequent domination of the world was entirely due to the results of the Industrial Revolution. The earliest country to accept the results of the British Industrial Revolution was the United States, while France was the first to do so in Europe. Russia also embarked on the road of industrialization after its serfdom reform. At this time, Germany and Italy were still rent by disunity.

From the years 1848–1870, Italy experienced twenty-two years of bitter, tortuous struggle before finally winning its independence. Germany’s unification was entirely due to the Prussian president, Bismarck. After uniting into one, Germany began to move on the world stage as a leading power.

In 1492, when Columbus discovered the New World, most nations were still living in their own fixed areas. This situation changed drastically in the middle of the nineteenth century, when almost the whole world came under the control of Europeans, the Americas included. Although most American countries had gained independence, such independence was still under European rule or in the context of European culture. This situation held true in most other continents as well.

Europeans entered Asia on a large scale during this time. As a result, the divided and overly populated Indian Mughal dynasty was slowly swallowed by constant British attacks, until it was completely occupied and became a British colony in 1849. Although China had also undergone heavy blows from peasant risings, the country was still strongly united and the Chinese army desperately resisted European invaders. Sadly, the vast disparity in weaponry and technology was difficult to surmount. Although China managed to retain a nominal independence, it had in fact become a semicolony. The neighboring states of China were all reduced to colonies by the invaders.

Almost at the same time, Japan was also forced to sign unequal treaties under the threat of American gunboats. Although China and Japan had suffered the same fate, the two countries later adopted completely different national strategies. Suddenly aware of how far they had lagged behind, Japan went through the Meiji Restoration and received desired results. It only took them forty years or so to catch up with the pace of the world.

In 1904 and 1905, Japan and Russia broke out in large-scale war over interests in Northeast China. In that war, Japan defeated the Russian army both on land and at sea, winning a brilliant victory. The Russo-Japanese war was the first time a European country lost to a non-European country; it signified that a non-European country had entered the ranks of world powers for the first time. Prior to this, Europeans controlled all the nations and regions of the world. European history had reached an unprecedented peak.

 

Seven: The Modern World

The great wealth brought on by the Industrial Revolution invigorated the Europeans, yet war loomed over Europe at the turn of the twentieth century. To seek military balance, Britain, Russia, France, Germany, Italy, Austria, and other strong powers struggled to find alliances. Finally, two camps formed: the Allied Powers led by Britain, France, and Russia, and the Central Powers led by Germany, Italy, and Austria. Each camp sought their own advantages in order to overwhelm their opponents; every country bargained with its opponents for their own interest, ready to sell out allies at any time. In 1914, crisis finally ignited, and the First World War broke out, quickly spreading from Europe to the entire world. At that time, World War I was unprecedented in its destruction.

During the First World War, a revolution took place in Russia that had far-reaching repercussions. The Bolsheviks of the proletarian party led by Lenin established the world’s first socialist country on November 7, 1917. The victory of the Russian socialist revolution put Marx’s theory into practice for the first time, profoundly impacting the world order. After this, many countries embarked on a socialist path as well; the banner of socialism covered half the world at one point.

The great destruction brought on by World War I left a deep impression on people’s minds. In order to avoid similar disasters from occurring again, the leaders of the major victorious countries met to discuss an establishment that could end war. At the suggestion of US President Woodrow Wilson, the League of Nations was established as the first centralized international organization in human history. Its main purpose was to promote international cooperation and ensure international peace and security. The establishment of the League of Nations was the first important attempt to use international organizations to stop the spread of war.

Unfortunately, the League of Nations did not curb bloodshed. Only ten years later, a second world war would break out on an even larger scale. World War II once again set an unprecedented scope in the history of human warfare. The deep impressions it left were not only due to the huge casualties and destruction caused, but also due to the development and successful application of the atomic bomb. The two atomic bombs launched by the United States landed in Japan’s Hiroshima and Nagasaki, instantly razing the two cities to the ground. Such destructive power had been unimaginable to people in the past, and it led humans to question if humanity would one day be destroyed by their own scientific and technological achievements.

After the Second World War, people thought long and hard. The leaders of the major victors met again and decided to learn from the lesson of the League of Nations and form a new international organization to safeguard against war and preserve global peace. As a result, the United Nations was formally established on October 24, 1945. Shortly after the founding of the United Nations, two military and political groups, headed respectively by the United States and Russia, formed on opposing sides. The two sides existed in strained rivalry for a nearly fifty-year period known as the Cold War. Only after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 did the Cold War come to an end.

The so-called Cold War was in reality quite heated. The Korean War broke out shortly after World War II, and the Vietnam War followed after that. Other minor battles ensued frequently in various other parts of the world as well. While the United Nations did its best to stop wars, it simply could not do anything once the interests of major powers were concerned. After the Cold War, the world remained strained. The United States rose to become the number one superpower, with China rising rapidly and following on its heels. Other powerful countries like Russia, Japan, Germany, Britain, and France held strong positions as well. The United Nations was powerless to stop the actions of such countries; none of the major wars that took place after the Cold War were authorized by the UN.

 A new way of killing is becoming increasingly threatening: terrorist attacks. Terrorist organizations have resorted to various means to carry out large-scale attacks on innocent civilians, often leading to casualties totaling hundreds of thousands. This has become a new kind of disaster in the world.

Looking into the development and formation of human society, we can clearly see that the cycles of human society are shortening. Before the Agricultural Revolution, the changes in human society were measured in hundreds of thousands of years; after the Agricultural Revolution, they were measured in thousands of years. The Industrial Revolution further shortened that time to mere decades. In today’s world, the Information Revolution and Biotechnology Revolution characterized by atomic energy development and computer technology have sped up the development of human society even more. This rapid increase in speed causes great uncertainty, and it means that the world will undergo great change every few years, or even every few decades. This change is reflected in human individuals and family units; in cities and villages; in the political, economic, and cultural aspects of a country; and in the overall world order. The driving force behind the shortening of human cycles is the power of science and technology.

We find that war and crime constantly accompany humans. The evolutionary phenomenon of internal competition where the strong bully the weak is fully demonstrated by humanity. Occupying the wealth of others for fun and sacrificing others’ happiness for personal fulfillment has become an ironclad law of human society. In particular, it can be seen that war has always been a main theme of human history. Human society is built upon the killing of each other.

In their attitude towards nature, mankind went from passively adapting to nature, to actively adapting to nature, to actively adapting nature. Humans’ demand for material wealth is endless, the demand on nature is endless, and the demand for science and technology is endless. No manner of wealth can satisfy this type of demand. Looking back at what we’ve lost and gained, we will see that material wealth did not bring happiness and satisfaction, but instead brought psychological pressure and a loss of security.

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