Post-classical history

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Post-classical history (also called the Post-Antiquity era, Post-Ancient Era, or Pre-Modern Era) is a periodization commonly used by the school of "world history" instead of Middle Ages (Medieval) which is roughly synonymous.[1] The period runs from about 500 to 1450 AD though there may be regional differences and debates. The era was globally characterized by the expansion of civilizations geographically, the development of three of the great world religions (Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism), and development of networks of trade between civilizations.[2][1]

In Asia, the spread of Islam created a new empire and Islamic Golden Age with trade between the Asian, African and European continents, and advances in science in the medieval Islamic world. East Asia experienced the full establishment of power of Imperial China, which established several prosperous dynasties influencing Korea, Vietnam, and Japan. Religions such as Buddhism and Neo-Confucianism spread. Gunpowder was originally developed in China during the post-classical era. The Mongol Empire connected Europe and Asia creating safe trade and stability between the two regions.

Terminology and periodization issues

Leonardo Bruni was a Renaissance historian who helped develop the concept of the Middle Ages.

Post-classical history is a periodization used by historians employing a "world history" approach to history, specifically the school developed during the late 20th and early 21st centuries.[1] Outside of world history, it is also sometimes used to avoid erroneous pre-conceptions around the terms "Middle Ages", "Medieval" and "Dark Ages" (see medievalism).

Post-classical corresponds roughly from 500 to 1450 AD.[1] Beginning and ending dates might change depending on the region, with the period beginning at the end of the previous classical period: Han China (ending in 220), the Western Roman Empire (in 476), the Gupta Empire (in the 550s), and the Sasanian Empire (in 651).

Post-classical is one of the five or six major periods world historians use: (1) early civilization; (2) classical societies; (3) post-classical; (4) early modern; (5) long nineteenth century; and (6) contemporary or modern era.[1] Sometimes the 19th century and modern are combined.[1] Although post-classical is synonymous with the Middle Ages of Western Europe, the term "post-classical" is not necessarily a member of the three traditional divisions of Western European history: classical, middle and modern (see tripartite periodisation).

World history looks at common themes occurring across multiple cultures and regions. It recognizes that post-classical history is mainly in the sphere of Afro-Eurasia.[1] Historians recognize the difficulties of periodization and common themes for the Americas since they were following their own historical developments before the Columbian Exchange.[1]

Main trends

The Nazca Lines from the Nazca culture were one of the first major organized societies of South America. Photograph by Diego Delso.

The Post-classical era saw several common developments or themes. There was the expansion and growth of civilization into new geographic areas; the rise and/or spread of the three major world, or missionary, religions; and a period of rapidly expanding trade and trade networks.

First was the expansion and growth of civilization into new geographic areas across Asia, Africa, Europe, Mesoamerica, and western South America. However as noted by world historian Peter N. Stearns, there were no common global political trends during the post-classical period, rather it was a period of loosely organized states and other developments, but no common political patterns emerged.[1] In Asia, China continued its historic dynastic cycle and became more complex, improving its bureaucracy. The creation of the Islamic Empires established a new power in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia. Africa created the Songhai and Mali kingdoms in the West. The fall of Roman civilization not only left a power vacuum for the Mediterranean and Europe, but forced certain areas to build what some historians might call new civilizations entirely.[3] An entirely different political system was applied in Western Europe (i.e. feudalism), as well as a different society (i.e. manorialism). But the once East Roman Empire, Byzantium, retained many features of old Rome, as well as Greek and Persian similarities. Kiev Rus' and subsequently Russia began development in Eastern Europe as well. In the isolated Americas, Mesoamerica saw the building of the Aztec Empire, while the Andean region of South America saw the establishment of the Inca Empire.

Siege of Acre (1191), religious wars were common in Post-classical times. One of the largest of such wars were the Crusades. Picture dated from 1280.

The growth and geographical spread of the three major world, or missionary, religions occurred, with Islam seeing a large expansion during this time. Christianity continued into Scandinavia, the Baltic area, and the British Isles – ousting the old pagan religions;[4] an attempt was even made to incur upon the Middle East during the Crusades. The split of the Catholic Church in Western Europe and the Orthodox Church in Eastern Europe encouraged religious and cultural diversity in Eurasia. Additionally, Buddhism spread from India into China and flourished there briefly before using it as a hub to spread to Japan, Korea, and Vietnam;[5] a similar effect occurred with Confucian revivalism in the later centuries. Once again, however, the most prominent world religion at the time was Islam. Starting in the Arabian Peninsula, it unified the warring Bedouin clans and through conquest, trade, and missionaries, spread to Persia, Indonesia, Central Asia, India, North Africa, and the Iberian Peninsula.

Finally, communication and trade across Afro-Eurasia increased rapidly. The Silk Road continued to spread cultures and ideas through trade and throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa. Trade networks were established between West Europe, Byzantium, early Russia, the Islamic Empires, and the Far Eastern civilizations. The Islamic Empires adopted many Greek, Roman, and Indian advances and spread them through the Islamic sphere of influence, allowing these developments to reach Europe, North and West Africa, and Central Asia. Islamic sea trade helped connect these areas, including those in the Indian Ocean and in the Mediterranean, replacing Byzantium in the latter region. The Christian Crusades into the Middle East (as well as Muslim Spain and Sicily) brought Islamic science, technology, and goods to Western Europe.[4] Western trade into East Asia was pioneered by Marco Polo. Importantly, China began the sinicization (or Chinese influence) of regions like Japan,[5] Korea, and Vietnam through trade and conquest. Finally, the growth of the Mongol Empire in Central Asia established safe trade such as to allow goods, cultures, ideas, and disease to spread between Asia, Europe, and Africa.


Medieval ploughing, most Europeans in the Middle Ages were landless pesants called serfs who worked in exchange for military protection. After the Black Death of the 1340s, a labor shortage caused serfs to demand wages for their labor. Drawing from 1300 AD

In Europe, Western civilization reconstituted after the Fall of the Western Roman Empire into the period now known as the Early Middle Ages (500–1000), during which the Catholic Church unified the region. The Early Middle Ages saw a continuation of trends begun in Late Antiquity: depopulation, deurbanization, and increased barbarian invasion. In Eastern Europe, the Eastern Roman Empire survived in what is now called the Byzantine Empire. Ruled by a religious Christian Orthodox emperor, Byzantium flourished as the leading power and trade center in its region until it was overshadowed by the Islamic Empires near the end of the Middle Ages.

Later in the period, the creation of the feudal system allowed greater degrees of military and agricultural organization. There was sustained urbanization in northern and western Europe. Later developments were marked by manorialism and feudalism, and evolved into the prosperous High Middle Ages. During the High Middle Ages (c. 1000–1300), Christian-oriented art and architecture flourished and the Crusades were mounted to recapture the Holy Land from Muslim control. The influence of the emerging nation-state was tempered by the ideal of an international Christendom. The codes of chivalry and courtly love set rules for proper behavior, while the Scholastic philosophers attempted to reconcile faith and reason. This time would be a major underlying cause for the Renaissance.

The term "Middle Ages" first appears in Latin in the 15th century and reflects the view that this period was a deviation from the path of classical learning, a path supposedly reconnected by Renaissance scholarship.

Middle East

6th century Sassanid defense lines in modern day Derbent, Dagestan Russia. Prior to the Muslim conquest of Persia, Sassanid Persia with its Zoroastrian Religion controlled most of the Middle East. Photograph provided by Wikipedia User Oscar11234

The Arabian peninsula and the surrounding Middle East and Near East regions saw dramatic change during the Postclassical Era caused primarily by the spread of Islam and the establishment of the Arabian Empires.

In the 5th century, the Middle East was separated by empires and their spheres of influence; the two most prominent were the Sasanian Empire of the Persians in what is now Iran and Iraq, and the Byzantine Empire in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey). The Byzantines and Sasanians fought with each other continually, a reflection of the rivalry between the Roman Empire and the Persian Empire seen during the previous five hundred years. The fighting weakened both states, leaving the stage open to a new power. Meanwhile the nomadic Bedouin tribes who dominated the Arabian desert saw a period of tribal stability, greater trade networking and a familiarity with Abrahamic religions or monotheism.

While the Byzantine Roman and Sassanid Persian empires were both weakened by the Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628, a new power in the form of Islam grew in the Middle East under Muhammad in Medina. In a series of rapid Muslim conquests, the Rashidun army, led by the Caliphs and skilled military commanders such as Khalid ibn al-Walid, swept through most of the Middle East, taking more than half of Byzantine territory in the Arab–Byzantine wars and completely engulfing Persia in the Muslim conquest of Persia. It would be the Arab Caliphates of the Middle Ages that would first unify the entire Middle East as a distinct region and create the dominant ethnic identity that persists today. These Caliphates included the Rashidun Caliphate, Umayyad Caliphate, Abbasid Caliphate, and later the Turkic based Seljuq Empire.

Anatomy of a horse from the 15th century. The Golden Age of Islam made advances in medicine and other sciences. Egyptian document at the University Library, Istanbul.

After Muhammad introduced Islam, it jump-started Middle Eastern culture into an Islamic Golden Age, inspiring achievements in architecture, the revival of old advances in science and technology, and the formation of a distinct way of life. Muslims saved and spread Greek advances in medicine, algebra, geometry, astronomy, anatomy, and ethics that would later finds it way back to Western Europe.

The dominance of the Arabs came to a sudden end in the mid-11th century with the arrival of the Seljuq Turks, migrating south from the Turkic homelands in Central Asia. They conquered Persia, Iraq (capturing Baghdad in 1055), Syria, Palestine, and the Hejaz. This was followed by a series of Christian Western Europe invasions. The fragmentation of the Middle East allowed joint European forces mainly from England, France, and the emerging Holy Roman Empire, to enter the region. In 1099 the knights of the First Crusade captured Jerusalem and founded the Kingdom of Jerusalem, which survived until 1187, when Saladin retook the city. Smaller crusader fiefdoms survived until 1291. In the early 13th century, a new wave of invaders, the armies of the Mongol Empire, swept through the region, sacking Baghdad in the Siege of Baghdad (1258) and advancing as far south as the border of Egypt in what became known as the Mongol conquests. The Mongols eventually retreated in 1335, but the chaos that ensued throughout the empire deposed the Seljuq Turks. In 1401, the region was further plagued by the Turko-Mongol, Timur, and his ferocious raids. By then, another group of Turks had arisen as well, the Ottomans.


During the Postclassical Era, Africa was both culturally and politically affected by the introduction of Islam and the Arabic empires.[6] This was especially true in the north, the Sudan region, and the east coast. However, this conversion was not complete nor uniform among different areas, and the low-level classes hardly changed their beliefs at all.[7] Prior to the migration and conquest of Muslims into Africa, much of the continent was dominated by diverse societies of varying sizes and complexities. These were ruled by kings or councils of elders who would control their constituents in a variety of ways. Most of these peoples practiced spiritual, animistic religions. Africa was culturally separated between Saharan Africa (which consisted of North Africa and the Sahara Desert) and Sub-Saharan Africa (everything south of the Sahara). Sub-Saharan Africa was further divided into the Sudan, which covered everything north of Central Africa, including West Africa. The area south of the Sudan was primarily occupied by the Bantu peoples who spoke the Bantu language.

East Asia

In China public examinations gave citizens the opportunity to be employed by the Imperial Government through meritocracy. The examination system reached its maximum effectiveness in the 11th–12th centuries. Painting from Ming Dynasty era

During this period, the Eastern world empires continued to expand through trade, migration and conquests of neighboring areas. Japan and Korea went under the process of sinicization, or the impression of Chinese cultural and political ideas. This was partly due to conquest, specifically in Vietnam. Korea and Japan sinicized mostly because their emperors and other leaders at the time were largely impressed by China's bureaucracy. The major influences China had on these countries were the spread of Confucianism, the spread of Buddhism, and the establishment of a bureaucracy (although it was vulnerable to favoritism towards the wealthy).

The times of the Sui, Tang and Song dynasty (581–1279), China remained the world's largest economy and most technologically advanced society.[8] Inventions such as gunpowder, woodblock printing and the magnetic compass were improved upon. China stood in contrast to other areas at the time as China exhibited concentrated central authority instead of feudalism.

China exhibited much interest in foreign affairs, though this occurred in two phases. From the 7th through the 10th China was focused on securing the Silk Road as the sell of its goods westwards was central to the nation's economy. For a time China, successfully integrated its northern neighbors such as the Gokturks into their civilization.

The Tang dynasty expanded into Central Asia and received tribute from Eastern Iran. Wars with Arabia's Umayyad Caliphate and the An Lushan rebellion which resulted in an deadly but uncertain death toll of millions.[9] This came at the cost of military affairs and the Song became open to invasions from the north. China became as Song's norther lands were conquered by the Jurchen People. By 1200 there were five Chinese kingdoms stretching from modern day Turkestan to the Pacific Ocean including the Western Liao, Western Xia, Jin, Southern Song and Dali. Because these states competed with each other they all were eventually annexed by the rising Mongol Empire.

Southeast Asia

View of Borobudur, from center point of view. Located in Megelang, Central Java, Indonesia. Built in the 9th century Borobudur is the largest Buddhist Temple in the world.

From the 8th century onward Southeast Asia stood to benefit from the trade taking place between South and East Asia, numerous kingdoms arose in the region due to the flow of wealth passing through the Strait of Malacca. While Southeast Asia had numerous outside influences India was the greatest source of inspiration for the region. North Vietnam as an exception was culturally closer to China for centuries due to conquest.

Since rule from the third century B.C.E North Vietnam continued to be subjugated by Chinese states, although they continually resisted periodically. There were three periods Chinese Domination that spanned near 1100 years. Vietnam gained long lasting independence in the 10th century as China was engulfed in civil war. Nonetheless even as an independent state sort of begrudging sinicization occurred. By the end of the Postclassical Era, Vietnam would be in control of its own Nguyễn dynasty. South Vietnam, was governed by the Hindu Champa Kingdom which was never governed by any Chinese state.

The spread of Hinduism, Buddhism and maritime trade between China and South Asia created the foundation for Southeast Asia's first major empires. The Khemer Empire from Cambodia and Sri Vijaya from Indonesia both profited from maritime trade. During the Khmer Empire's height in the 12th century the city of Angkor Thom was among the largest of the pre-modern world. King Jayavarman II constructed over a hundred hospitals throughout his realm.[10]

Srivijaya from the 7th through 14th century was a Thalassocracy that focused on maritime city states and trade. Controlling the vital choke points of the Sunda and Malacca straits it became rich from trade ranging from Japan through Arabia. Gold, Ivory and Ceramics were all major commodities traveling through port cities. The Empire was also responsible for the construction of wonders such as Borobudur.

Over time changing economic and political conditions else where and wars weakened the traditional empires of South East Asia. While the Mongol Invasions did not directly annex Southeast Asia their destruction paved way for the rise of new nations. In the 15th century the Khmer Empire was supplanted by the Thai Ayutthaya Kingdom and Sri Vijaya was overtaken by the Majapahit and later the Islamic Malacca Sultante.


The Silk Road

Main routes of the Silk Road

The Silk Road was a Eurasian trade route that played a large role in global communication and interaction. It stimulated cultural exchange; encouraged the learning of new languages; resulted in the trade of many goods, such as silk, gold, and spices; and also spread religion and disease.[11] It is even claimed by some historians – such as Andre Gunder Frank, William Hardy McNeill, Jerry H. Bentley, and Marshall Hodgson – that the Afro-Eurasian world was loosely united culturally, and that the Silk Road was fundamental to this unity.[11] This major trade route began with the Han dynasty of China, connecting it to the Roman Empire and any regions in between or nearby. At this time, Central Asia exported horses, wool, and jade into China for the latter's silk; the Romans would trade for the Chinese commodity as well, offering wine in return.[12] The Silk Road would often decline and rise again in trade from the Iron Age to the Postclassical Era. Following one such decline, it was reopened in Central Asia by General Ban Chao during the 1st century.[13]

Central Asian Buddhist Monks, the Silk Road allowed for the exchange for ideas as well as goods. A Caucasian looking Buddhist teacher possibly Sogdian instructs an East-Asian monk. Dated from 9th-century AD near Turfan, Xinxiang, China

The Silk Road was also a major factor in spreading religion across Afro-Eurasia. Muslim teachings from Arabia and Persia reached East Asia. Buddhism spread from India, to China, to Central Asia. One significant development in the spread of Buddhism was the carving of the Gandhara School in the cities of ancient Taxila and the Peshwar, allegedly in the mid 1st century.[13]

The route was also vulnerable to spreading plague. The Plauge of Justinian originated in East Asia and had a major outbreak in Europe in 542 causing the deaths of a quarter of the Mediterranean's population. Trade between Europe and Asia along the route was at least partially responsible for spreading the plague.

There were vulnerabilities as well to changing political situations. The rise of Islam changed the Silk Road, because Muslim rulers generally closed the Silk Road to Christian Europe. To an extent Europe would be cut off from Asia for centuries.

The Silk Road flourished again in the 13th century during the reign of the Mongol Empire, which through conquest had brought stability in Central Asia comparable to the Pax Romana. It was claimed by a Muslim historian that Central Asia, "enjoyed such a peace that a man might have journeyed from the land of sunrise to the land of sunset with a golden platter upon his head without suffering the least violence from anyone."[14] As such, trade and communication between Europe, East Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East required little effort. Handicraft production, art, and scholarship prospered, and wealthy merchants enjoyed cosmopolitan cities.[14]

Exhibit depicting a miniature from a 14th century Belgium manuscript at the Diaspora Museum, Tel Aviv – Beit Hatefutsot. The Silk Road contributed to the spreading of the Black Death

The Silk Road trade played a role in spreading the infamous Black Death. Originating in China, the bubonic plague was spread by Mongol warriors catapulting diseased corpses into enemy towns in the Crimea. The disease, spread by rats, was carried by merchant ships sailing across the Mediterranean that brought the plague back to Sicily, causing an epidemic in 1347.[15] Nevertheless, after the 15th century, the Silk Road disappeared from regular use. This was primarily a result from the growing sea travel pioneered by Europeans, which allowed the trade of goods by sailing around the southern tip of Africa and into the Indian Ocean.

Mongol Empire

Expansion of the Mongol Empire 1206–1294

The Mongol Empire which existed during the 13th and 14th centuries, was the largest continuous land empire in history.[16] Originating in the steppes of Central Asia, the Mongol Empire eventually stretched from Central Europe to the Sea of Japan, extending northwards into Siberia, eastwards and southwards into the Indian subcontinent, Indochina, and the Iranian plateau, and westwards as far as the Levant and Arabia.

The Mongol Empire emerged from the unification of nomadic tribes in the Mongolia homeland under the leadership of Genghis Khan, who was proclaimed ruler of all Mongols in 1206. The empire grew rapidly under his rule and then under his descendants, who sent invasions in every direction.[17][18][19][20][21][22] The vast transcontinental empire connected the east with the west with an enforced Pax Mongolica allowing trade, technologies, commodities, and ideologies to be disseminated and exchanged across Eurasia.[23][24]

Mounted warriors pursue enemies. Illustration of Rashid-ad-Din's Gami' at-tawarih. Tabriz (?), 1st quarter of 14th century.

The empire began to split due to wars over succession, as the grandchildren of Genghis Khan disputed whether the royal line should follow from his son and initial heir Ögedei, or one of his other sons such as Tolui, Chagatai, or Jochi. After Möngke Khan died, rival kurultai councils simultaneously elected different successors, the brothers Ariq Böke and Kublai Khan, who then not only fought each other in the Toluid Civil War, but also dealt with challenges from descendants of other sons of Genghis.[25] Kublai successfully took power, but civil war ensued as Kublai sought unsuccessfully to regain control of the Chagatayid and Ögedeid families.

The Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260 marked the high-water point of the Mongol conquests and was the first time a Mongol advance had ever been beaten back in direct combat on the battlefield. Though the Mongols launched many more invasions into the Levant, briefly occupying it and raiding as far as Gaza after a decisive victory at the Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar in 1299, they withdrew due to various geopolitical factors.

Letter from the Mongolian-Persian Ilkhanate to France, 1305. The Chinese language stamp was used as the official symbol of the Khans and their messengers

By the time of Kublai's death in 1294, the Mongol Empire had fractured into four separate khanates or empires, each pursuing its own separate interests and objectives: the Golden Horde khanate in the northwest; the Chagatai Khanate in the west; the Ilkhanate in the southwest; and the Yuan dynasty based in modern-day Beijing.[26] In 1304, the three western khanates briefly accepted the nominal suzerainty of the Yuan dynasty,[27][28] but it was later overthrown by the Han Chinese Ming dynasty in 1368. The Genghisid rulers returned to Mongolia homeland and continued rule the Northern Yuan dynasty.

The Americas

The Postclassical Era of the Americas can be considered set at a different time span from that of Afro-Eurasia. As the developments of Mesoamerican and Andean civilization differ greatly from that of the Old World, as well as the speed at which it developed, the Postclassical Era in the traditional sense does not take place until near the end of the Medieval Age in Afro-Eurasia. As such, for the purposes of this article, the Classic stage of the Americas will be discussed here, which takes place from about 400 to 1400. For the technical Postclassical stage in American development, see Post-Classic stage.

South America

South American civilization was concentrated in the Andean region which had already hosted complex cultures since 2,500 B.C.E. Outside of the Andean region natives east of the Andes were generally semi nomadic. The Amazon River Basin likely had a pre-contact population of five million people.

Andean Region

In the Andean region of South America the Inca Empire rose to annex all other nations in the area. Led by their, sun-god king, Sapa Inca, they slowly conquered what is now Peru, and built their society there. Although the Incas spoke the Quechua languages, they did not have any writing system but relied on a series of knotted strings to communicate messages. Incas have also been known to have used abacuses to calculate mathematics. The Inca Empire is known for some of its magnificent structures, such as Machu Picchu in the Cusco region.

North America

As a continent there was little unified trade or communication. Advances in agriculture spread northward from Measoamerica indirectly through trade. Major cultural areas however still developed independently of each other.

Northern Areas

A map showing approximate areas of various Mississippian and related cultures. Cahokia is located near the center of this map in the upper part of the Middle Mississippi area.

In northern North America, many hunter-gatherer and agricultural societies thrived in the diverse region. Native American tribes varied greatly in characteristics some, including the Mississippian culture and the Ancestral Puebloans were complex chiefdoms. Others nations which inhabited the states of the modern northern United States and Canada had less complexity and did not follow technological changes as quickly. Approximately around the year 500, Native Americans began to transition to bows and arrows from spears for hunting and warfare.[29] Technological advancement however was uneven. During the 12th century was the widespread adoption of Corn as a staple crop in the Eastern United States. Corn would continue to be the staple crop of natives in the Eastern United States and Canada until

Mississippi Pipe bowl chunkey player EthnM

the Colombian Exchange.

Across the United States there were many sites that constructed large burial mounds and population centers that can be described as cities. There were two large independent cultures that were the basis of many settlements. In the Eastern United States, the Mississippi Culture created advanced cities between the Mississippi River and the Application Mountains. In the western United States the Ancestral Pueblo Peoples constructed buildings which were the largest in the United States until the rise of skyscrapers. Both cultures developed and declined at similar times.

In The Eastern United States rivers were the medium of trade and communication. Cahokia located in the modern U.S state of Illinois was among the most significant within the Mississippi Culture. Focused around Monks Mound archeology indicates the population increased exponentially after 1000 because it manufactured important tools for agriculture and cultural attractions. Around 1350 Cahokia was abandoned, environmental factors have been proposed for the city's decline.

Stonework Mesa Verde National Park Colorado USA

At the same time Ancestral Puebloans constructed clusters of buildings in the Chaco Canyon site. Individual houses may had been occupied by more than 600 residents at any one time. Chaco Canyon was the only pre-Columbian site in the United States to build paved roads.[30] Pottery indicates a society that was becoming more complex, Turkeys for the first time in the continental United States were also domesticated. Around 1150 the structures were abandoned, likely as a result of severe drought. There were also other Pueblo complexes in the Southeastern United States

After reaching climaxes Native American complex societies declined and did not entirely recover before European Contact.

Norse Contact
Authentic reconstruction of Norse site at L'Anse aux Meadows. Photo provided by Dylan Kereluk.

While there was little regular contact between the Americas and the Old World the Norse Vikings explored and even colonized Greenland and Canada as early as 1000. None of these settlements survived past Medieval Times. Outside of Scandinavia knowledge of the discovery of the Americas was interpreted as a remote island or the North Pole. Later European Explorers were seemingly unaware of Norse Discoveries.

The Norse arriving from Greenland settled Greenland from approximately 980 to 1450. The Norse arrived in southern Greenland prior to the approach of Inuit Thule people in the area. The extent of the interaction between the Norse and Thule is unclear. Greenland was valuable to the Norse due to trade of Ivory that came from the tusks of Walruses. The Little Ice Age adversely effected the colony and it vanished. Greenland would be lost to Europeans until Danish Colonization in the 18th century.

The Norse also explored and colonized farther south in Newfoundland Canada at L'Anse aux Meadows referred to by the Norse as Vinland. The colony at most existed for twenty years and resulted in no known transmission of diereses or technology to native Americans. To the Norse Vinland was known for plentiful grape vines to make superior wine. One reason for the colony's failure was constant violence with the native Beothuk tribe who the Norse referred to as Skraleing

The farthest extent of Norse exploration in North America is unknown but likely extended southwards of Newfoundland Island. Surviving records from Medieval Iceland indicate some sporadic voyages to a land called Markland possibly the coast of Labrador as late as the 1300s presumably to collect wood for treeless Greenland.


Toltec Atlantean Figures at the Tula site. The Toltec Civilization inspired the later Aztecs.Photograph provided by the Wikipedia User Luidger

The Classic Period of Mesoamerican civilization begins with the decline and fall of the Toltec and Mayan civilizations. The resulting anarchy in the modern-day Mexico region consisted of various tribes and factions fighting for power.

In the 1300, a small band of violent, religious radicals called the Aztecs began minor raids throughout the area. Eventually they began to claim connections with the Toltec civilization, and insisted they were the rightful successors. They began to grow in numbers and conquer large areas of land. Fundamental to their conquest, was the use of political terror in the sense that the Aztec leaders and priests would command the human sacrifice of their subjugated people as means of humility and coercion. Most of the Mesoamerican region would eventually fall under the Aztec Empire. On the Yucatan Peninsula most of the Mayan People continued to be independent of the rising Aztecs but their traditional civilization had declined

Aztec feast from the Florentine Codex

The Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, was founded 1325 on a small island in Lake Texcoco. This was in accordance with a legend stating wherever an eagle was seen devouring a snake on a cactus, a great city must be built. Its religion was based on several gods some of which would affect nature, and some of which required sacrifice. According to Aztec religion, the gods supported the universe, and human blood supported the gods; if there was not a steady flow of sacrifice, the universe would die. Aztec developments expanded cultivation, applying the use of chinampas, irrigation, and terrace agriculture; important crops included maize, sweet potatoes, and avocados. Aztecs spoke the Nahuatl language.

In 1430 the city of Tenochtitlan allied with other Nahuatl speaking cities such as Texcoco and Tlacopan to create the Aztec Empire which was called the Triple Alliance in its time. Though referred to as an empire the Aztec Empire functioned as a system of tribute collection. Due to its size and increasing religious importance Tenochtitlan grew more powerful than its allies.

Aztec Bloodletting, priests conduct a heart sacrifice, from the Tudela Codex, 16th century.

The institutional desire for sacrifice led to the ritualistic flower war where Aztec warriors would attempt to prove their physical superiority in close, sometimes personal combat before taking captives to be sacrificed. The specific rules of Flower War also permitted the Aztecs to concentrate their armies on multiple fronts. By the turn of the 16h century the ritual wars between the Aztecs and rival states such as Tlaxcala had continued for over fifty years. Upon contact with Europeans the Aztecs would find themselves isolated as traditional enemies allied with new comers to punish the Aztecs for continued executions of their people.

End of the period

The fall of Greek Byzantine Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453 brought the last remnants of the Classical Roman Empire to an end. Notice the word CONSTANTINOPLE at the top of the canvas. Painting is from a Venetian private collection from the 15th century.

As the postclassical era draws to a close in the 15th century, many of the empires established throughout the period were in decline. The Byzantine Empire would soon be overshadowed in the Mediterranean by Italian city states such as Venice and Genoa and the Ottoman Turks. Additionally, they would suffer losses from Western Europe, losing territory in Italy. The Byzantines face repeated attacks from eastern and western powers during the Fourth Crusade, until the loss of their capital to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.

The largest change came in terms of trade and technology. The global significance of the fall of the Byzantines was the disruption of overland routes between Asia and Europe. Traditional dominance of Nomadism in Eurasia declined and the Pax Mongolia which had allowed for interactions between different civilizations was no longer available. China, which had engaged in expansion and innovation during the Tang and Song dynasties became isolationist in the 14th century and would remain so until the Industrial Revolution. Southwest Asia and South Asia were conquered by Gunpowder Empires which successfully utilized advances in gunpowder technology but closed the Silk Road.

The Landing of Columbus upon the New World at Hispaniola was part of the beginning of a new global era. Oceanic travel, discovery and conquest would define the Early modern period. Painting by John Vanderlyn

Europeans specifically the Kingdom of Portugal and various Italian explorers intended to replace land travel with sea travel. Originally European exploration merely looked for new routes to reach known destinations. Portuguese Explorer Vasco De Gama traveled to India by sea in 1498 by circumnavigating Africa. India and the coast of Africa was already known to Europeans but none had attempted a large trading mission prior to that time. Due to navigation advances Portugal would create a global colonial empire beginning with the conquest of Malacca in modern day Malaysia from 1511.

Other Explorers such as the Spanish sponsored Italian Christopher Columbus intended to engage in trade by traveling on unfamiliar routes west from Europe. The resulting European discovery of the Americas in 1492 resulted in the Colombian exchange and the world's first globalization. Spanish Explorer Ferdinand Magellan performed the first known circumnavigation of Earth in 1521, The transfer of goods and diseases across oceans was unprecedented in creating a more connected world. From developments in navigation and trade the Early modern period began.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Peter N. Stearns (2017). "Periodization in World History: Challenges and Opportunities". In R. Charles Weller. 21st-Century Narratives of World History: Global and Multidisciplinary Perspectives. Palgrave. ISBN 978-3-319-62077-0. 
  2. ^ The Post‐Classical Era Archived 2014-10-31 at the Wayback Machine. by Joel Hermansen
  3. ^ Birken 1992, pp. 451–461.
  4. ^ a b Thompson et al. 2009, p. 288.
  5. ^ a b Bowman 2000, pp. 162–167.
  6. ^ Stearns et al. 2011, p. 184.
  7. ^ "Trade and the Spread of Islam in Africa". Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  8. ^ Bulliet & Crossley & Headrick & Hirsch & Johnson 2014, p. 264.
  9. ^ After the collapse of the Tang dynasty and subsequent civil wars the second phase of Chinese interest in forgein countries. Unlike the Tang, the Song specialized in overseas trade and peacefully created a maritime network. Chinese merchant ships reached Indonesia, India and Arabia. Southeast Asia's economy flourished from trade with Song China. With the country's emphasis on trade and economic growth, Song China began to use machines to manufacture goods and coal as a source of energy. The advances of the Song in the 11th/12th centuries have been considered an early industrial revolution.Patterson, F.So L.; Schafer, J. F. (1978). "Registration of Clintland 60 and Clintland 64 Oats (Reg. No. 280 and 281)". Crop Science. 18 (2): 354. doi:10.2135/cropsci1978.0011183x001800020049x. ISSN 0011-183X. 
  10. ^ Cœdès, George (1968). The Indianized states of Southeast Asia. Honolulu: East-West Center Press. ISBN 9780824803681. OCLC 961876784. 
  11. ^ a b Christian 2000, pp. 1–21.
  12. ^ Bowman 2000, p. 101.
  13. ^ a b Bowman 2000, p. 568.
  14. ^ a b Stearns et al. 2011, p. 321.
  15. ^ Thompson et al. 2009, p. 310.
  16. ^ Morgan. The Mongols. p. 5.
  17. ^ Diamond. Guns, Germs, and Steel. p. 367.
  18. ^ The Mongols and Russia, by George Vernadsky
  19. ^ The Mongol World Empire, 1206–1370, by John Andrew Boyle
  20. ^ The History of China, by David Curtis Wright. p. 84.
  21. ^ The Early Civilization of China, by Yong Yap Cotterell, Arthur Cotterell. p. 223.
  22. ^ Mongols and Mamluks: The Mamluk-Ilkhanid War, 1260–1281 by Reuven Amitai-Preiss
  23. ^ Guzman, Gregory G. (1988). "Were the barbarians a negative or positive factor in ancient and medieval history?". The Historian. 50 (4): 568–570. doi:10.1111/j.1540-6563.1988.tb00759.x. JSTOR 24447158. 
  24. ^ Allsen. Culture and Conquest. p. 211.
  25. ^ Michael Biran. Qaidu and the Rise of the Independent Mongol State in Central Asia. The Curzon Press, 1997, ISBN 0-7007-0631-3
  26. ^ The Cambridge History of China: Alien Regimes and Border States. p. 413.
  27. ^ Jackson. Mongols and the West. p. 127.
  28. ^ Allsen. Culture and Conquest. pp. xiii, 235.
  29. ^ "American Indian Archery Technology | The Office of the State Archaeologist". Retrieved 2018-05-26. 
  30. ^ Carballo, David M. "Trade Routes in the Americas Before Columbus". 
Works Cited

External links

  • Asia for Educators The Mongols' effects on world history
  • BBC's World Service Historical summaries of African societies
Preceded by
Ancient history
History by period
5th Century – 15th Century
Succeeded by
Early modern period
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