Mapping the most important events in history is a daunting task. With all that has happened over the course of 5,000 years of human history, how, you might be asking, can we dwindle it down to 25 things? Obviously, there were plenty of other events that occurred which had wide-ranging consequences. Out of all the kings, rulers, leaders, assassinations, wars, and innovations changing the progress of mankind, what were some of the most consequential that reverberated throughout the world? That’s what we’re here to discover. So, ready to hop into a time machine and travel back in time? Here are 25 Most Important Events In History.
It might not seem like it, but the Greco-Persian Wars were a huge turning point in human history. If the Greeks had fallen and lost against the Persian Empire, like everyone else in the known world, the Western World would likely not have the democratic politics, art, literature, and science it does today. The Greeks not only won against the Persians, but they thrived thereafter all the way up to Alexander the Great.
Alexander the Great
Speaking of Alexander the Great, when the Greek city-states were growing in their power, he rose up as a Macedonian Ruler that would use his charm, cunning, and ruthlessness to conquer Persia, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and some parts of India. Not only did he build a massive empire, but his influence on culture ushered in the Hellenistic Period, a heavy mixture of Greek and Asian culture that would dominate the world for centuries.
Pax Romana, which means “Roman Peace,” was a period of peace and stability over the Roman Empire. It started at the reign of Caesar Augustus when Rome had ruled Europe, North Africa, and Palestine and lasted for two hundred years afterward. This stability allowed for further advances in art, culture, and technology and established much of what would become modern-day Germany, France, and England.
The Life of Jesus
The life of Jesus was a major historical event which came about during the reign of Caesar Augustus and Pax Romana. Regardless if you believe Jesus’s teachings, few deny how big an impact he left on human history and the massive religion that would soon follow. Christianity has impacted many elements throughout Western culture, shaping it for thousands of years to the modern day. With millions around the world worshiping Jesus as God, his influence has lasted far longer than most.
The Life of Muhammad
Born in 570 CE, Muhammad was born in Mecca, and at the age of 40, he claimed to receive a vision from the angel Gabriel. He continued to receive these revelations, which became the Quran. His teachings and message drew crowds but also swift opposition. He took his followers out of Mecca to Medina but eventually would gather so many followers, he’d return to conquer Mecca. As we know today, his impact on Middle Eastern culture and the world grew with the religion of Islam, becoming the second most popular religion in the world.
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Genghis Khan's Mongol Empire
Let’s hop over to Asia now and look at Genghis Khan, the ruler of one of the largest empires in human history. Few would actually point to Khan as someone who radically changed history, but his Mongol Empire had sweeping effects in their time and beyond. First, the Mongolian army was a terror, conquering, slaughtering, and pillaging wherever they went. But they were also good at being pragmatic and including and adopting all cultures to please the masses and maintain control. By almost uniting Eurasia, they were able to spread technologies like paper, gunpowder, the compass, and even trousers.
The Black Death
The Black Death, also known as the Bubonic Plague, earned its name by spreading across Europe and leaving thousands of dead bodies in its wake. By the end, 75 million people are estimated to have died. Afterward, with a human shortage in Europe, serfs could now have their pick of who to work for, resulting in better conditions for them and their families. People were much more bitter towards the Catholic Church, and anti-Semitism grew with many claiming the Jews started it in the first place.
The Fall of Constantinople
Built by the Roman Emperor Constantine in 330 CE, Constantinople served as the Byzantine Empire’s capital for centuries. Famous for its impervious walls, few thought it could actually be conquered. However, with the rise and spread of Islam, the capital eventually fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. With the Ottoman Turks now having a foothold in Europe, the balance of power suddenly changed. Many Greeks converted to Islam or fled west. The conquest symbolized a victory for Islam as they saw Constantinople as an affront to them.
During the time of the Middle Ages and the Black Death, education and knowledge were relatively stagnant. But starting in the 15th century, there was a rebirth of knowledge, art, and culture that started in Italy and spread across Europe. This Renaissance (rebirth) brought with it new technologies and advancements, which created more prosperity and wealth.
The Gutenberg Printing Press
One of the greatest inventions of the Renaissance was The Gutenberg Printing Press. Gutenberg took the idea of printing from Asia but made it much easier and more efficient with his press. The first books he printed were Bibles, and they were all sold before he even finished them. The printing press fanned the flames of reading, education, and knowledge with the new capability of mass printing books that would have previously been copied by hand.
Something else that came out of the Renaissance, with the help of the printing press, was the Protestant Reformation. Starting with Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, which argued against the Pope’s use of indulgences, the Reformation grew with others like John Calvin and Henry VIII questioning the Pope’s and the Catholic Church’s authority. These grievances caused the church to split into various denominations such as the Lutheran Church and the Anglican Church. Both positives and negatives grew from this split, including bloody persecutions on the one hand and strengthened universities, art, and education on the other.
Roughly from the 1500’s to 1960’s, Europe expanded all across the globe. From the New World to Africa, India, and Asia, Europe created colonies on almost every continent on the Earth. With colonialism came greater trade…which meant greater wealth for the Europeans and mostly slavery and impoverishment for everyone else. As time went on, many of the colonies sought independence, and after World War II, a devastated Europe began to lose control.
The American Revolution of the 13 British Colonies was a major shift in the status quo. Originally fought over taxation without representation, the revolution expanded into Enlightenment ideals and giving rights to all people. With the colonies beating back the English and winning the war, the Americans not only won a war for themselves but for the entire world, inspiring many other countries to fight against the ruling classes.
Inspired out of the American Revolution, the French Revolution changed France and Europe forever. What began as a protest against the French monarchy and the elite turned into a discourse of republicanism, human rights, and citizenship. Unfortunately, it became bloody and violent and rather than leading to the latter ideals became entrenched in nationalism and dictatorship. While the revolution was messy, out of it came Enlightenment-based philosophy which also reverberated around the world.
The American Civil War
Many believe The American Civil War was a mere family matter which only impacted the United States, but in reality, it had wide-ranging effects across the globe. For many in Europe, the American Civil War was evidence of Republicanism crumbling. America was a shining example of the experiment, and if it couldn’t withstand and stay united, what hope was left? Thankfully, the North succeeded and reunited with the South, surprising many but also proving Republican institutions can remain intact after a hard and bloody war. Also, with America making slavery illegal, the slave trade virtually collapsed with other countries in the Americas, like Cuba and Brazil, also abolishing it. It’s quite possible that if the North had not won, legalized slavery would have continued on into the modern day.
From the 18th and the 19th centuries, something amazing came out of Britain. Before, manufacturing mostly came out of people’s homes or at shops but suddenly all that shifted to major factories with machines helping mass-produce all kinds of textiles. It’s called the Industrial Revolution, and it changed Britain, Europe, and America from mostly agrarian societies to urban and industrial. Out of it came major innovations like trains and automobiles. Even though it provided serious challenges for the poorer classes, it improved the lives of the middle class.
The Medical Revolution
Before the early parts of the 19th century, medicine was pretty much still in the dark ages. Some strides had been made, but it wasn’t until the Medical Revolution that things began to change. It came out of the Industrial Revolution and the discovery that disease was caused by microorganisms. With the ability to mass produce new medicines in pill form and create anesthetics, health care took on a new form and would lead to some of the greatest discoveries in human history, like vaccinations and antibiotics.
Want more details? Check out 25 Incredible Medicines That Have Changed World.
Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand II
The Industrial Revolution changed a lot of things, but one major ramification was the growing sense of identity and nationalism. By 1914, with new technological innovations like tanks, machine guns, and deadly gases, Europe had become a powderkeg of factions just waiting to go to war. So, on June 28th, 1914, Arch-Duke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, toured Sarajevo to inspect the armed forces in Bosnia, something Serbian Nationalists weren’t happy about. Ferdinand and his wife were shot by Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian Nationalist. The Serbian government was blamed for the attack which sparked World War I.
While many of Europe’s revolutions saw changes toward Republicanism, Russia’s October Revolution (aka the Bolshevik Revolution) saw their politics moving in a totally different direction towards Communism. Led by Vladamir Lenin and the Bolsheviks against the Tsar and his ruling class, the October Revolution was complete in 1917. Tsar Nicholas II was overthrown and executed, ushering in the Soviet era.
With World War I over, the 1920’s brought about rapid economic growth in the United States, but it all came to a screeching halt with the crash in 1929. Millions of investors’ dollars were lost, banks had collapsed, and 15 million Americans were unemployed. This created a ripple effect across the globe with almost every country seeing largescale unemployment and deflation. It lasted a decade and resulted in major changes in financial institutions, economic policy, and theory. While the United States and other countries began to see signs of a recovery by 1939, World War II gave it a final push.
World War II
While many thought World War I was over, deep roots of resentment and anger still existed in certain parts of Europe. With the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, the war started with the invasion of Poland in 1939 and continued as they began to advance on France and Belgium. The war included all parts of the world, such as the Soviet Union, China, and Japan. By the end of the war, millions of lives had been lost, Europe was a devastated wasteland, and new superpowers such as the Soviet Union and the United States rose up to create a new order and new conflicts.
With the end of World War II came a new type of war, the Cold War. The Soviet Union advanced on Eastern Europe, trying to spread Communism, while the West held onto Democracy, creating the Iron Curtain. With the threat of nuclear weapons wiping out millions in a matter of seconds, the Cold War was born and would continue for decades, using a war of undercover intelligence, words, and diplomacy. The Cold War ended in 1991 with the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe and Russia.
During the Cold War, new tensions rose with the Soviet Union launching Sputnik, the first satellite into space. It shocked the United States and sparked a space race between the two countries. The technological achievements created out of the Space Race included advanced weaponry, the ability for man to land on the Moon, artificial limbs, water purifiers, and satellite TV.
President John F. Kennedy championed many efforts during his time as United States president, including softening tensions during the Cold War, advancing the space program, and fighting for Civil Rights. But with his assassination, much of his efforts were suddenly thrown into limbo. Luckily, his successor President Lyndon Johnson helped push forward his vision, and Johnson used JFK’s legacy as a way to push Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act as well as fund NASA. Consequently, however, the biggest impact of the JFK assassination could arguably be the continuation of the Vietnam War. With his reluctance to put boots on the ground, many historians don’t believe JFK would have heated up the war like LBJ. Without a Vietnam War, the world would have looked much different.
With the advancement of computers and the internet, the Digital Revolution has and continues to change the economic and information landscape. In many parts of the world, new businesses and jobs have grown out of the creation of the Internet, but it also has provided challenges. With hackers stealing millions of dollars and identities, the mass spying from the NSA, and the use of false information to disrupt democracies, we certainly live in a brave new world.
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