Human history, also called world history, is the narrative of humanity's past. It is understood and studied through anthropology, archaeology, genetics, and linguistics. Since the invention of writing, human history has been studied through primary and secondary source documents.
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Humanity's written history was preceded by its prehistory, beginning with the Paleolithic ("Old Stone Age") era. This was followed by the Neolithic ("New Stone Age") era, which saw the Agricultural Revolution begin in the Middle East around 10,000 BCE. During this period, humans began the systematic husbandry of plants and animals. As agriculture advanced, most humans transitioned from a nomadic to a settled lifestyle as farmers in permanent settlements. The relative security and increased productivity provided by farming allowed communities to expand into increasingly larger units, fostered by advances in transportation.
The earliest complex societies appeared in fertile river valleys. As farming developed, grain agriculture became more sophisticated and prompted a division of labour to store food between growing seasons. Labor divisions led to the rise of a leisured upper class and the development of cities, which provided the foundation for civilization. The growing complexity of human societies necessitated systems of accounting and writing. Hinduism developed in the late Bronze Age on the Indian subcontinent, while the Axial Age witnessed the introduction of religions such as Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism.
With civilizations flourishing, ancient history saw the rise and fall of empires. Post-classical history (the "Middle Ages" from about 500 to 1500 CE) witnessed the rise of Christianity, the Islamic Golden Age, and the Renaissance (from around 1300 CE). The 15th-century introduction of movable type printing in Europe revolutionized communication and facilitated widespread dissemination of information, hastening the end of the Middle Ages and ushering in the Scientific Revolution. The early modern period lasted from about 1500 to 1800 CE. Events during this period included the Age of Discovery and the Age of Enlightenment. By the 18th century, the accumulation of knowledge and technology had reached a critical mass that brought about the Industrial Revolution and began the late modern period, which started around 1800 CE and continues.
The above scheme of historical periodization (dividing history into antiquity, post-classical, early modern, and late modern periods) was developed for, and applies best to, the history of the Old World, particularly Europe and the Mediterranean. Outside this region, including Chinese and Indian civilizations, historical timelines unfolded differently up to the 18th century. By that century, due to extensive international trade and colonization, the histories of most civilizations had become substantially intertwined. Over the last quarter-millennium, the rates of growth of population, agriculture, industry, commerce, scientific knowledge, technology, communications, weapons destructiveness, and environmental degradation have greatly accelerated.