A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich

I recently read A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich (Amazon UK, US). It’s a great read, designed for, I guess, “young adults” but nicely written and really good as an overview of how lots of things fit together. I can imagine re-reading it every so often, as it’s a great foundational structure on which to build other learning.

I love timelines, so I noted down all the important events mentioned that were assigned a date. This timeline is very hit and miss: there are important events whose dates weren’t given or that are unknown; many big events were glossed over because everything can’t be covered; the book is pretty focussed on Europe and the Middle East. Don’t treat this as gospel. But I find it useful as a reminder occasionally, and it gives you a flavour of the book’s scope, if not its friendly storytelling style.

  • 70,000-50,000 BC Neanderthals.
  • 4000 Start to discover metals.
  • 3100 Menes rules Egypt. Sumerians had already built houses and temples of brick, eg, at Ur.
  • 2500 Cheops rules Egypt. Mohenjo Daro, a big city, was in India.
  • 2100 Rebellion in Egypt (then back to normal).
  • 1700 King Hammurabi rules Babylonia, oldest law book. Abraham leaves Ur. Cretans have built palaces etc.
  • 1500 Joseph taken to Egypt.
  • 1370 Akhenaton rules Egypt (you must worship the Sun only).
  • 1250 Moses leads Jews from Egypt to desert.
  • 1200 Crete has been destroyed. Greek tribes (Dorians, Ionians, Aeolians) conquer Mycenae(?). Dorians found Sparta. Ionians settle in Attica, found Athens.
  • 1000 Kong Solomon in Jerusalem. After, country split into Israel and Judah.
  • 776 First Olympiad.
  • 753 Romulus and Remus found Rome.
  • 722 Israel destroyed by Assyrians.
  • 600 Nebuchadnezzar, last great Babylonian king.
  • 594 Solon introduces laws to Athens instituting democracy.
  • 586 Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem, leads Jews to captivity in Babylon.
  • 538 Babylonia destroyed by Persians. Cyrus frees the Jews, they return to homeland. Old Testament first written. Cyrus’s son conquers Egypt.
  • 500 Gautama/Buddha experiences his Enlightenment in India. Confucius in China, and Lao-tzu writes of the Tao.
  • 490 Persians, under Darius, now have a huge empire. Attack Athens but are defeated.
  • 480 Persians, under Darius’s son Xerxes, attack Athens, defeat Spartans (Athens’ ally) at Thermopylae, but are repelled from Athens after razing it.
  • 430 Athens and Sparta in the Peloponnesian War, Sparta wins.
  • 338 King Philip’s Macedonia conquers Greece.
  • 332 Alexander, Philip’s son, conquers Persia-controlled Egypt, founds Alexandria.
  • 331 Alexander conquers Persia.
  • 327 Alexander reaches India, heads back west.
  • 323 Alexander dies age 32 in Babylon, his empire falls apart.
  • 241 Romans gain Sicily from Carthaginians.
  • 220ish Hannibal in Italy.
  • 213 Shih Huang-ti, the first emperor of China, ordered all old books, records etc. to be destroyed, started building the Great Wall of China.
  • 202 Romans conquer Carthage, Hannibal commits suicide, Romans go on to capture Greece from the Macedonians.
  • 146 Rome destroys Carthage.
  • 71 Spartacus’s revolt in Rome put down.
  • 58-51 Gaius Julius Caesar conquered Gaul for Rome.
  • 44 Caesar murdered in the Roman Senate.
  • 31 Caesar’s adoptive son, Augustus, becomes first Roman Emperor.
  • 0-30 AD Jesus.
  • 100ish Trajan rules Rome.
  • 161-180 Marcus Aurelius rules Rome.
  • 284 Diocletian begins his reign and tries to rebuild the now ruined Roman Empire.
  • 313 Emperor Constantine decrees that Christians should no longer be persecuted. He ruled from Byzantium (later Constantinople, then Istanbul), not Rome.
  • 380 Christianity becomes official religion of the Empire.
  • 395 Roman Empire has two states: Western, Latin-speaking and Eastern, Greek-speaking.
  • 410 Visigoths sack Rome, having already sacked Athens and Constantinople. More Germanic tribes follow.
  • 439 Vandals capture Carthage.
  • 444 Attila, king of the Huns, at height of his power.
  • 451 Huns and Roman armies meet on the Catalaunian plains in Gaul. Pope Leo persuades Attila to leave Italy.
  • 476 Romulus Augustulus, the final Roman Emperor, deposed. Goths begin to rule Italy.
  • 527 Justinian rules Constantinople. Eventually recaptures Italy.
  • 586 The Lombards, from Germany, recapture Italy.
  • 600ish Orders of monks spread across northern Europe, more people convert to Christianity.
  • 622 Muhammed flees Mecca — the Emigration — to Medina, to escape assassins who wanted to stop his preaching.
  • 632 Muhammed dies. Arabs go on to conquer Palestine, Persia, Egypt, Alexandria, Cyprus, Sicily, Spain.
  • 733 The Franks, under Charles Martel, defeat the Arabs at Tours and Poitiers.
  • 768 Charlemagne, grandson of Martel, becomes king of the Franks, soon conquered rest of France, goes to Italy and gives the Lombards’ land to the Pope.
  • 800 Charlemagne crowned Roman Emperor.
  • 814 Charlemagne dies. Germany, France and Italy shared among his three grandsons.
  • 955 Otto the Great forces the Magyars, who had attacked Germany, back into Hungary.
  • 962 Otto crowned Roman emperor after declaring Lombardy, and other areas, German fiefdoms.
  • 1016 Cnut, from Denmark, conquers England.
  • 1066 William, king of the Normans, conquers England.
  • 1096 The first crusade sets off along the Danube, under Godfrey of Bouillon, to Constantinople then Jerusalem, which they conquered.
  • 1215 The Magna Carta, giving the English nobility rights over their king.
  • 1241 The Mongols, under Genghis Khan, reach Germany after conquering China and Persia. They turn back when Khan dies.
  • 1273 The first Habsburg, Rudolf, elected king of the Germans.
  • 1305/9-1376 The French, the most powerful in Europe, forced the Popes to live in Avignon.
  • 1337 The Hundred Years War starts as England and France fight over independence. Joan of Arc leads French to drive England out.
  • 1420 The Renaissance starts in Florence.
  • 1431 English kill Joan of Arc.
  • 1450 Gutenberg invents movable type in Germany.
  • 1453 The Turks conquer Constantinople and establish the Ottoman empire, covering the old Roman Empire of the East.
  • 1492 Columbus, sailing from Spain, discovers America.
  • 1517 Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, nails his theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany, protesting at the Catholic church’s selling of indulgences. He and followers soon excommunicated and the Reformation begins.
  • 1519 Cortez heads inland and discovers Mexico, later conquers it.
  • 1526 The Ottomans, under Suleiman the Magnificent, conquer most of Hungary.
  • 1527 Italy falls to Germany after a long fight between the latter and France.
  • 1533 Henry VIII withdraws England from the Roman Catholic Church, but continues to persecute Luther’s followers.
  • 1543 Copernicus publishes his discovery that the Earth moves around the Sun.
  • 1545-1563 At a gathering of the Catholic Church at Trent, in the Southern Tirol, reforms are agreed, eg, taking better care of the poor and educating the people. The Counter-Reformation.
  • 1571 The Spanish, and a Venetian fleet, destroy the Turkish fleet.
  • 1579 The Low Countries, Protestants, rebel against their Spanish Catholic rulers and gain independence.
  • 1588 The Spanish Armada is sent to conquer Protestant England, under Elizabeth I, but is defeated.
  • 1618 Discontented Protestants in Prague throw the Habsburg emperor’s Catholic councillors from a window, beginning the Thirty Years War across Europe. The only country to gain anything was France, gaining a few German towns. Germany loses half its population.
  • 1643-1715 King Louis XIV rules France, the most powerful country in Europe.
  • 1649 Charles I of England is beheaded and Oliver Cromwell takes control briefly.
  • 1683 At the behest of Hungary, the Turks besiege Vienna but are finally repelled by Austrian, German and Polish reinforcements. Austria takes Hungary from the Turks.
  • 1689 Peter the Great comes to power in Russia.
  • 1697 King Charles XII comes to power in Sweden. Goes on to repel Russia and conquer Poland.
  • 1709 Charles XII of Sweden’s troops defeated in Russia.
  • 1740 First experiments with spinning machines and mechanical looms.
  • 1753 Telegraph first thought of.
  • 1769 James Watt patents steam engine.
  • 1776 America throws off British rule.
  • 1789-1795 French revolution, Louis XVI overthrown.
  • 1796 Napoleon’s army conquers northern Italy to make it a republic like France and Belgium.
  • 1798 Napoleon attacks Britain’s Egypt.
  • 1799 Napoleon takes command of France, declares himself emperor in 1804.
  • 1803 First steamship, on the Seine, and first steam engine on rails.
  • 1805 Napoleon defeats enemy armies from the rest of Europe at Austerlitz, installs relatives to rule other countries.
  • 1806 The German emperor, Francis, gives up the title of emperor, ending the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.
  • 1813 Death penalty introduced in Britain for anyone guilty of destroying a machine.
  • 1812 Napoleon’s army defeated by attack on Moscow and retreat. He finally loses all power in 1815.
  • 1825 First railway line, between Stockton and Darlington.
  • 1837 Samuel Morse sends first telegraph.
  • 1848 Revolution in Paris. Metternich in Vienna overthrown. Emperor Ferdinand forced to abdicate.
  • 1861-65 American Civil War.
  • 1866 Italy is unified as a country.
  • 1905 War between Russia and Japan.
  • 1914-1918 World War I, most countries against Germany and Austria.
  • 1917 Revolution in Russia.
  • 1939-1945 World War II.
  • 1945 Atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  • 1989 Communism in Eastern Europe and Russia collapses.

14 Jan 2011 at Twitter

  • 09:57am: Cyclists: You should only disobey the rules of the road if you have an alien in your basket and are trying to escape the secret service.
  • 10:03am: @maxgadney Good, nothing as satisfying as a policeman berating errant cyclists.
  • 10:07am: @gilest I want the "Change iTunes playlist to what Giles has tweeted" AppleScript. Doing it manually every time is a faff. (Love that album)
  • 10:09am: @morrick They don't need to feel spoiled in order to break the rules unfortunately. (I say all this as a cyclist myself.)
  • 10:09am: @maxgadney Maybe just some polite clapping next time.
  • 10:22am: @scaryredhair @danhon No, I'm not going to SXSW this year. Have fun!
  • 10:41am: @gilest "It's not too soon," he said / "It's not too soon at all" / "You might as well be dead," he said / "If you're afraid to fall."
  • 10:44am: Wanted: iTunes plugin that, between tracks, plays the sound of a 7" falling from a stack to the turntable, then vinyl crackling...
  • 10:57am: (If people love their dumb retro photo filters, why aren't there retro audio filters: AM Radio; Crackly Vinyl; Stretched Tape?)
  • 11:04am: @sam_andrews Yeah. People show off photos+effects, while music listening is purely personal. But still, why like old visuals, but not audio?
  • 11:06am: @imakec02 Not for bog-standard consumer listening, like photo filters.
  • 11:14am: @imakec02 Garageband is a long, long way from Instagram or the sepia filter on your digital camera.
  • 11:15am: Folks, please don't take an analogy crammed into 140 characters *too* seriously. I'll have to blog if you carry on :)
  • 11:25am: @paulpod Ha yes. Also, the "Peel filter" which every so often plays a track too fast or slow.
  • 11:34am: RT @dorianfm: http://t.co/frPV6LZ "Option to add a subtle record hiss/pops to your songs as they play" // And there we go!
  • 01:48pm: @chrislunch Ssshhh, don't mention Douglas the Lurpak man. It's off-brand and they'll get ad-spasms.
  • 02:26pm: @stml No it doesn't.
  • 02:27pm: @abscond Does it?
  • 02:46pm: @jwheare No it's not.
  • 02:51pm: @jwheare @abscond Good, I'm glad we've agreed on that.
  • 10:15pm: @suegyford I assumed it was something everyone would have seen already, but apparently not!
  • 10:21pm: @tomcoates Oh, thank god for that.

Music listened to most that week

  1. Throwing Muses (19)
  2. Brian Eno (18)
  3. Sun Kil Moon (13)
  4. The Mountain Goats (13)
  5. Girl Talk (12)
  6. Pantha du Prince (11)
  7. Darkstar (10)
  8. Warpaint (9)
  9. PJ Harvey (8)
  10. Terror Danjah (5)

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