Explore the history of the world, starting with the beginning of civilization as humans began to domesticate animals and engage in agriculture in the Neolithic Era (8000–5000 BCE). The development of agriculture allowed humans to form communities and engage in trade. These communities grew into civilizations, with some of the earliest located in Sumer, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Indus Valley (Harappa), Andes, China, and Mesoamerica.
Starting around 3100 BCE, empires began to form through military conquest and strengthened through trade, the first being established in Egypt. Major empires to follow included the Persian, Greek, Macedonian, Seleucid, Xiongnu, Han, and Roman empires. The collapse of the Roman Empire around 476 CE introduced the period known as the Middle Ages or Dark Ages in Europe, from which it would not emerge until the Renaissance in the 14th century. Also, in the 5th century, Chinese dynasties were weakened by invaders, while the Mayan civilization in Central America became prominent in that region.
Islam developed in the 7th century and spread rapidly through military conquest in the Middle East and beyond. Major Islamic empires (or caliphates) include Rashidun, Umayyad, Abbasid, and Ottoman. Other important empires from around 600 to 1450 include the Byzantine, Mongol, Song, Mayan, Aztec, and Incan empires.
The Industrial Revolution in Europe began in the 18th century, significantly modernizing technologies and concentrating more people in cities to work in factories. The European powers began a period of colonization that brought much of the world under their control, with the British, Dutch, Spanish, and Portuguese being the most prominent.
The age of empire effectively ended by the mid-20th century as colonies gained their independence. Instead of empires, nations sought to exert their influence globally in trade and diplomacy. Technology continued to shape modern societies as computers and information technology developed and became integrated into everyday life. The 21st century saw increasing globalization but also increasing threats to the environment that could threaten future human progress.