History of Western civilization
Western civilization traces its roots back to Europe and the Mediterranean. It is linked to the former Western Roman Empire and with Medieval Western Christendom who emerged from feudalism to experience such transformative historical episodes as the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and the development of liberal democracy. Western civilization has spread to produce the dominant cultures of modern North America, South America, and Oceania, and has had immense global influence in recent centuries.The civilizations of Classical Greece and Rome as well as Ancient Israel and early Christendom are considered seminal periods in Western history; cultural contributions also emerged from the pagan peoples of pre-Christian Europe. Following the 5th century Fall of Rome, Europe entered the Middle Ages, during which period the Catholic Church filled the power vacuum left in the West by the fallen Roman Empire, while the Byzantine Empire endured for centuries, becoming a Hellenic Eastern contrast to the Latin West. By the 12th century, Europe was experiencing a flowering of art and learning, propelled by the construction of cathedrals and the establishment of medieval universities. Christian unity was shattered by the Reformation from the 14th century. A merchant class grew out of city states, initially in the Italian peninsula (see Italian city-states), and Europe experienced the Renaissance from the 14th to the 17th century, heralding an age of technological and artistic advance and ushering in the Age of Discovery which saw the rise of such global European Empires as those of Spain, Portugal and Britain.The Industrial Revolution began in Britain in the 18th century. Under the influence of the Enlightenment, the Age of Revolution emerged from the United States and France as part of the transformation of the West into its industrialised, democratised modern form. The lands of North and South America and Australia became first part of European Empires and then home to new Western nations, while Africa and Asia were largely carved up between Western powers. Laboratories of Western democracy were founded in Britain's colonies in Australasia from the mid-19th centuries, while South America largely created new autocracies.In the 20th century, absolute monarchy disappeared from Europe, and despite episodes of Fascism and Communism, by the close of the century, virtually all of Europe was electing its leaders democratically. Most Western nations were heavily involved in the First and Second World Wars and protracted Cold War. World War II saw Fascism defeated in Europe, and the emergence of the United States and Soviet Union as rival global powers and a new ""East-West"" political contrast. Other than in Russia, the European Empires disintegrated after World War II and civil rights movements and widescale multi-ethnic, multi-faith migrations to Europe, the Americas and Oceania altered the earlier predominance of ethnic Europeans in Western culture. European nations moved towards greater economic and political co-operation through the European Union. The Cold War ended around 1990 with the collapse of Soviet imposed Communism in Central and Eastern Europe. In the 21st century, the Western World retains significant global economic power and influence.The West has contributed a great many technological, political, philosophical, artistic and religious aspects to modern international culture: having been a crucible of Christianity, democracy, industrialisation; the first major civilisation to seek to abolish slavery during the 19th century, the first to enfranchise women (beginning in Australasia at the end of the 19th century) and the first to put to use such technologies as steam, electric and nuclear power. The West invented cinema, television, the personal computer and the Internet; produced artists such as Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Mozart and The Beatles; developed sports such as soccer, cricket, golf, tennis and basketball; and transported humans to an astronomical object for the first time with the 1969 Apollo 11 Lunar Landing.