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In this section, we will read about two themes relating to early societies. The first is about the beginnings of human existence, from the remote past, millions of years ago. You will learn how humans first emerged in Africa and how archaeologists have studied these early phases of history from remains of bones and stone tools.
Over the two millennia that followed the establishment of empires in Mesopotamia, various attempts at empirebuilding took place across the region and in the area to the west and east of it.
By the sixth century BCE, Iranians had established control over major parts of the Assyrian empire. Networks of trade developed overland, as well as along the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea.
We have seen how, by the ninth century, large parts of Asia and America witnessed the growth and expansion of great empires – some nomadic, some based on well-developed cities and trading networks that centred on them. The difference between the Macedonian, Roman and Arab empires and the ones that preceded them (the Egyptian, Assyrian, Chinese, Mauryan) was that they covered greater areas of territory, and were continental or trans-continental in nature. The Mongol empire was similar.
In the previous section you have read about certain crucial developments in the medieval and early modern world – feudalism, the European ‘Renaissance’ and the encounters between Europeans and the peoples of the Americas. As you would have realised, some of the phenomena that contributed to the making of our modern world gradually evolved in this period, and especially so from the mid-fifteenth century onwards. Two further developments in world history created a context for what has been called ‘modernisation’. These were the Industrial Revolution and a series of political revolutions that transformed subjects into citizens, beginning with the American Revolution (1776-81) and the French Revolution (1789-94).