I sometimes get comments about how difficult it is to place different historical periods in time. Some people have not heard the various terms used by historians, and some have only a vague idea of when a historical period is or what it signifies. If you don’t spend your time immersed in history, it can be difficult to keep them all straight.
I’ve been keeping a running list of those terms and thought I’d go through them a little at a time. For more information on anything I mention here, use your favorite search engine and prepare to get lost in the links.
There are other time periods in recorded history between wars, but this usually refers to the period between World War I (1914-1918) and World War II (1939-1945). These two decades are important not only because it is between two wars that both involved most of the globe, but because in many ways the results of the first war led to the second.
During this period, many countries were recovering from the first war, both physically and economically. Partly because a war had just ended, and partly because stuff happens, there were changes socially, economically, and politically. One of the political changes was the growth of fascism.
After losing the first war, Germany was presented with (and agreed to) what they saw as humiliating peace terms. These included the loss of all colonies and other territory, a prohibition against raising and maintaining a real military, and the requirement that they pay war reparations to other countries.
In 1933 the German people backed a new leader, Hitler, who convinced them they didn’t have to follow those terms. They began building a military and nobody stopped them. The peace that ended World War I led to World War II after only twenty years.
What else was happening during this period? In the U.S. we had the Roaring Twenties, a time of wealth and prosperity, and then starting in 1929, the Great Depression, which also effected other parts of the world. In Europe there was the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), which drew interest and fighters from other countries.
The Ming Dynasty ruled China from 1368 to 1644, a period of almost 300 years.
Considered one of the golden ages of Chinese history, here are some of the accomplishments during that period.
- Much of the parts of the Great Wall that remain today were built during this period.
- The incredible sailing fleet of Zheng He and his Indian Ocean voyages that expanded trade. I’m a fan of Zheng He and have written about him in earlier posts, The Cure for Scurvy and The Diversity of Eunuchs.
- The arts flourished, including a great expansion of printing and literacy.
- Construction of the Forbidden City.
- The creation of the largest written encyclopedia, which was not exceeded in size until Wikipedia in 2007.
- Blue and white porcelain, which became famous around the world.
- The expansion of trade and contact with other parts of the world.
But not all was golden. There were still wars, politics, palace intrigue, natural disasters like flooding, famine, and a 1556 earthquake that is estimated to have killed 820,000 to 830,000 people. Yes, that’s close to a million people.
Peasants, starving and not able to pay their taxes, formed rebel bands. In 1644 Beijing fell to a rebel army and the final Ming emperor hanged himself in the imperial garden.
What else was happening during this period? The Renaissance, the Reformation, and the last of the Mayan civilization.
That’s enough for today, but let me know if there are any historical time periods that particularly interest you. I would love to include them the next time I write about this.