Political history of the world

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The political history of the world is the history of the various political entities created by the human race throughout their existence and the way these states define their borders. Throughout history, political entities have expanded from basic systems of self-governance and monarchy to the complex democratic and totalitarian systems that exist today. In parallel, political systems have expanded from vaguely defined frontier-type boundaries, to the national definite boundaries existing today.

Prehistoric era

The first forms of human social organization were families living in band societies as hunter-gatherers.[1]

After the invention of agriculture around the same time (7,000-8,000 BCE) across various parts of the world, human societies started transitioning to tribal forms of organization.[2]

There is evidence of diplomacy between different tribes, but also of endemic warfare.[3] This could have been caused by theft of livestock or crops, abduction of women, or resource and status competition.[4]

Ancient history

The early distribution of political power was determined by the availability of fresh water, fertile soil, and temperate climate of different locations.[5] These were all necessary for the development of highly organized societies.[5] The first empires were those of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.[5] Smaller kingdoms existed in North China Plain, Indo-Gangetic Plain, Central Asia, Anatolia, Eastern Mediterranean, and Central America, while the rest of humanity continued to live in small tribes.[5] Both Egypt and Mesopotamia had been able to take advantage of their large rivers with irrigation systems, enabling higher productivity in agriculture and thereby sustaining surpluses and population growth.[6]

Middle East and the Mediterranean

Upper and Lower Egypt were unified around 3150 BCE by Pharaoh Menes.[6] Nevertheless, political competition continued within the country between centers of power such as Memphis and Thebes.[6] The geopolitical environment of the Egyptians had them surrounded by Nubia in the smaller southern oases of the Nile unreachable by boat, as well as by Libyan warlords operating from the oases around modern-day Benghazi, and finally by raiders across the Sinai and the sea.[7]

Mesopotamia is situated between the major rivers of Tigris and Euphrates, and the first political power in the region was the Akkadian Empire starting around 2300 BCE.[8] They were later followed by Sumer, Babylon, and Assyria. They faced competition from the mountainous areas to the north, strategically positioned above the Mesopotamian plains, with kingdoms such as Mitanni, Urartu, Elam, and Medes.[8] The Mesopotamians also innovated in governance by writing the first laws.[8]

The first states of sorts were those of early dynastic Sumer and early dynastic Egypt, which arose from the Uruk period and Predynastic Egypt respectively at approximately 3000BCE.[9] Early dynastic Egypt was based around the Nile River in the north-east of Africa, the kingdom's boundaries being based around the Nile and stretching to areas where oases existed.[10] Early dynastic Sumer was located in southern Mesopotamia with its borders extending from the Persian Gulf to parts of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers.[9]

A dry climate in the Iron Age caused turmoil as movements of people put pressure on the existing states resulting in the Late Bronze Age collapse, with Cimmerians, Arameans, Dorians, and the Sea Peoples migrating among others.[11] Babylon never recovered following the death of Hammurabi in 1699 BCE.[11] Following this, Assyria grew in power under Adad-nirari II.[12] By the late ninth century BCE, the Assyrian Empire controlled almost all of Mesopotamia and much of the Levant and Anatolia.[13] Meanwhile, Egypt was weakened, eventually breaking apart after the death of Osorkon II until 710 BCE.[14] In 853, the Assyrians fought and won a battle against a coalition of Babylon, Egypt, Persia, Israel, Aram, and ten other nations, with over 60,000 troops taking part according to contemporary sources.[15] However, the empire was weakened by internal struggles for power, and was plunged into a decade of turmoil beginning with a plague in 763 BCE.[15] Following revolts by cities and lesser kingdoms against the empire, a coup d'état was staged in 745 by Tiglath-Pileser III.[16] He raised the army from 44,000 to 72,000, followed by his successor Sennacherib who raised it to 208,000, and finally by Ashurbanipal who raised an army of over 300,000.[17] This allowed the empire to spread over Cyprus, the entire Levant, Phrygia, Urartu, Cimmerians, Persia, Medes, Elam, and Babylon.[17] But by 650 Assyria had started declining as a severe drought hit the Middle East and an alliance was formed against them.[18] Eventually they were replaced by the Median empire as the main power of the region following the Battle of Carchemish (605) and the Battle of the Eclipse (585).[19]

Indian subcontinent

Build around the Indus River, by 2500 BCE the Indus Valley Civilization, located in modern-day India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, had formed. The civilization's boundaries extended to 600 km from the Arabian Sea.[20] After its cities Mohenjo-daro and Harappa were abandoned around 1900 BCE, no political power replaced it.[21] States began to form in the 6th century BCE with the Mahajanapadas.[22]

China

In the North China Plain, the Yellow River allowed the rise of states such as Wei and Qi.[23] This area was first unified by the Shang dynasty around 1600 BCE, and replaced by the Zhou dynasty in the Battle of Muye in 1046 BCE, with reportedly millions taking part in the fighting.[23] The victors were however hit by internal unrest soon after.[24] The main rivals of the Zhou were the Dongyi in Shandong, the Xianyun in Ordos, the Guifang in Shanxi, as well as the Chu in the middle reaches of the Yangtze.[25] Starting in the eight century, China fell into a state of anarchy for five centuries, during the Spring and Autumn (771-476) and Warring States periods (476-221).[26]

Americas

The Olmecs were the first major Indigenous American culture, with some smaller ones such as the Chavín culture amongst mainly hunter-gatherers.[27] The Olmecs were limited by the dense forests and the long rainy season, as well as the lack of horses.[28]

Europe

336 BCE saw the rise of Alexander the Great, who forged an empire from various vassal states stretching from modern Greece to the Indian subcontinent, bringing Mediterranean nations into contact with those of central and southern Asia, much as the Persian Empire had before him. The boundaries of this empire extended hundreds of kilometers.[29]

Post-classical era

The Tang dynasty in 700 CE

When China entered the Sui Dynasty,[30] the government changed and expanded in its borders as the many separate bureaucracies unified under one banner.[31] This evolved into the Tang Dynasty when Li Yuan took control of China in 626.[32] By now, the Chinese borders had expanded from eastern China, up north into the Tang Empire.[33] The Tang Empire fell apart in 907 and split into ten regional kingdoms and five dynasties with vague borders.[34] Fifty-three years after the separation of the Tang Empire, China entered the Song Dynasty under the rule of Chao K'uang, although the borders of this country expanded, they were never as large as those of the Tang dynasty and were constantly being redefined due to attacks from the neighboring Tartar(Mongol) people known as the Khitan tribes.[35]

After the death of Prophet Muhammad in 632, the Quran and the teachings of Islam inspired the genesis of a new civilization. In less than a century, the Islamic Caliphate rapidly extended its reach from the Atlantic Ocean and Andalusia in the west to Central Asia in the east. The subsequent Muslim empires of the Umayyads, Abbasids, Fatimids, Ghaznavids, Seljuqs, Safavids, Mughals, and Ottomans were among the most influential and distinguished powers in the world during Middle Ages. The period between the 8th and 13th century saw a flourishing of trade, as well as several advances in science, engineering, medicine and mathematics. Western Europe, briefly mostly united into a single state under Charlemagne around 800CE, a few countries, including England, Scotland, Iceland and Norway, had already effectively become nation states by 1,000CE, with a kingdom (Commonwealth in Iceland's case) largely co-terminus with a people mostly sharing a language and culture.[citation needed]

The Carolingian Empire under Charlemagne around 800 CE, with modern borders in orange.

Over most of the continent, the peoples were emerging around ethnic, linguistic and geographical groups, but this was not reflected in political entities. In particular, France, Italy and Germany, though recognised by other nations as countries where the French, Italians and Germans lived, did not exist as states largely matching the countries for centuries, and struggles to form them, and define their borders, as states were a major cause of wars in Europe until the 20th century. In the course of this process, some countries, such as Poland under the Partitions and France in the High Middle Ages, almost ceased to exist as states for periods. The Low Countries, in the Middle Ages as distinct a country as France, became permanently divided, today into Belgium and the Netherlands. Spain was formed as a nation state by the dynastic union of small Christian kingdoms, augmented by the final campaigns of the Reconquista against Al-Andaluz, the vanished country of Islamic Iberia.[citation needed]

In 1299 CE,[36] the Aztec empire arose in lower Mexico, this empire lasted over 300 years and at their prime, held over 5,000[dubious ] square kilometers of land.[37][38]

The Aztec Empire in 1519 CE

200 years after the Aztec and Toltec empires began, northern and central Asia saw the rise of the Mongol empire. By the late 13th century, the Empire extended across Europe and Asia, briefly creating a state capable of ruling and administrating immensely diverse cultures.[39] In 1299, the Ottomans entered the scene. These Turkish nomads took control of Asia Minor along with much of south-eastern Europe over a period of 370 years, providing what may be considered a long-lasting Islamic counterweight to Christendom.[40]

Exploiting opportunities left open by the Mongolian advance and recession as well as the spread of Islam, Russians took control of their homeland around 1613, after many years being dominated by the Tartars (Mongols). After gaining independence, the Russian princes began to expand their borders under the leadership of many tsars.[35] Notably, Catherine the Great seized the vast western part of Ukraine from the Poles, expanding Russia's size massively. Throughout the following centuries, Russia expanded rapidly, coming close to its modern size.[41]

Early modern era

In the 15th and 16th centuries three major Muslim empires formed: the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East, the Balkans and Northern Africa; the Safavid Empire in Greater Iran; and the Mughul Empire in South Asia. These imperial powers were made possible by the discovery and exploitation of gunpowder and more efficient administration. By the end of the 19th century, all three had declined, and by the early 20th century, with the Ottomans' defeat in World War I, the last Muslim empire collapsed.

Silesia's position in Europe (in red)

In 1700, Charles II of Spain died, naming Phillip of Anjou, Louis XIV's grandson, his heir. Charles' decision was not well met by the British, who believed that Louis would use the opportunity to ally France and Spain and attempt to take over Europe. Britain formed the Grand Alliance with Holland, Austria and a majority of the German states and declared war against Spain in 1702. The War of the Spanish Succession lasted 11 years, and ended when the Treaty of Utrecht was signed in 1714.[42]

Less than 50 years later, in 1740, war broke out again, sparked by the invasion of Silesia, part of Austria, by King Frederick II of Prussia. Britain, the Netherlands and Hungary supported Maria Theresa. Over the next eight years, these and other states participated in the War of the Austrian Succession, until a treaty was signed, allowing Prussia to keep Silesia.[43][44] The Seven Years' War began when Theresa dissolved her alliance with Britain and allied with France and Russia. In 1763, Britain won the war, claiming Canada and land east of the Mississippi. Prussia also kept Silesia.[45]

Interest in the geography of the Southern Hemisphere began to increase in the 18th century.[46] In 1642, Dutch navigator Abel Tasman was commissioned to explore the Southern Hemisphere; during his voyages, Tasman discovered the island of Van Diemen's Land, which was later named Tasmania, the Australian coast, and New Zealand in 1644.[47] Captain James Cook was commissioned in 1768 to observe a solar eclipse in Tahiti and sailed into Stingray Harbor on Australia's east coast in 1770, claiming the land for the British Crown.[48] Settlements in Australia began in 1788 when Britain began to utilize the country for the deportation of convicts,[49] with the first free settles arriving in 1793.[50] Likewise New Zealand became a home for hunters seeking whales and seals in the 1790s with later non-commercial settlements by the Scottish in the 1820s and 30s.[51]

In Northern America, revolution was beginning when in 1770, British troops opened fire on a mob pelting them with stones, an event later known as the Boston Massacre.[52] British authorities were unable to determine if this event was a local one, or signs of something bigger[53] until, in 1775, Rebel forces confirmed their intentions by attacking British troops on Bunker Hill.[54] Shortly after, Massachusetts Second Continental Congress representative John Adams and his cousin Samuel Adams were part of a group calling for an American Declaration of Independence. The Congress ended without committing to a Declaration, but prepared for conflict by naming George Washington as the Continental Army Commander.[53] War broke out and lasted until 1783, when Britain signed the Treaty of Paris and recognized America's independence.[55] In 1788, the states ratified the United States Constitution, going from a confederation to a union[53] and in 1789, elected George Washington as the first President of the United States.[56]

By the late 1780s, France was falling into debt, with higher taxes introduced and famines ensuring.[57] As a measure of last resort, King Louis XVI called together the Estates-General in 1788 and reluctantly agreed to turn the Third Estate (which made up all of the non-noble and non-clergy French) into a National Assembly.[58] This assembly grew very popular in the public eye and on July 14, 1789, following evidence that the King planned to disband the Assembly,[57] an angry mob stormed the Bastille, taking gunpowder and lead shot.[58] Stories of the success of this raid spread all over the country and sparked multiple uprisings in which the lower-classes robbed granaries and manor houses.[57] In August of the same year, members of the National Assembly wrote the revolutionary document Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen which proclaimed freedom of speech, press and religion.[57] By 1792, other European states were attempting to quell the revolution. In the same year Austrian and German armies attempted to march on Paris, but the French repelled them. Building on fears of European invasion, a radical group known as the Jacobins abolished the monarchy and executed King Louis for treason in 1793. In response to this radical uprising, Britain, Spain and the Netherlands join in the fight with the Jacobins until the Reign of Terror was brought to an end in 1794 with the execution of a Jacobin leader, Maximilien Robespierre. A new constitution was adopted in 1795 with some calm returning, although the country was still at war. In 1799, a group of politicians led by Napoleon Bonaparte unseated leaders of the Directory.[58]

Modern era

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