Universal history is the presentation of the history of humankind as a whole, as a coherent unit. It is basic to the Western tradition of historiography, especially the Abrahamic wellspring of that tradition. A universal chronicle or world chronicle traces history from the beginning of written information about the past up to the present (contemporary time). As understood by historians, universal history embraces the events of all times and nations with the only limitation being that they should be ascertained as to make a scientific treatment of them possible.
Universal history is the representation of general facts both of entire nations and of individuals. Its uses are manifold. It teaches human nature and the experience of all centuries. Universal history is commonly divided into three parts, viz. ancient, medieval, and modern time.
The roots of historiography in the 19th century are bound up with the concept that history written with a strong connection to the primary sources could, somehow, be integrated with "the big picture", i.e. to a general, universal history. For example, Leopold von Ranke, probably the pre-eminent historian of the 19th century, founder of "Rankean positivism," the classic mode of historiography that now stands against postmodernism, attempted to write a Universal History at the close of his career. The work of Oswald Spengler and Arnold J. Toynbee are two examples of attempts to integrate primary source -based history and Universal History. Spengler's work is more general; Toynbee created a theory that would allow the study of "civilizations" to proceed with integration of source-based history writing and Universal History writing. Both writers attempted to incorporate teleological theories into general presentations of the history.
Instances and Description
In Greco-Roman antiquity, the first universal history was written by Ephorus (fl. 4th century BC). This work has been lost, but its influence can be seen in the ambitions of Polybius (203–120 BC) and Diodorus (fl. 1st century BC) to give comprehensive accounts of their worlds. Metamorphoses by Ovid has been considered as a universal history because of its comprehensive chronology—from the creation of mankind to the death of Julius Caesar a year before the poet's birth. In Leipzig are preserved five fragments dating to the 2nd century AD and coming from a world chronicle. Its author is unknown, but was perhaps a Christian. Later, universal history provided an influential lens on the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire in such works as Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History, Augustine's City of God, and Orosius' History Against the Pagans.
During the Han Dynasty (202 BCE – 220 CE) of China, Sima Qian (145–86 BC) was the first Chinese historian to attempt a universal history—from the earliest mythological origins of his civilization to his present day—in his Records of the Grand Historian. Although his generation was the first in China to discover the existence of kingdoms in Central Asia and India, his work did not attempt to cover the history of these regions.
The first five books of the Bible constitute a primary example of such a history. To the extent that the Pentateuch presents itself as an account of humankind as a whole, from creation to the death of Moses, it is universal history. The story progresses according to a universal principle: the Bible posits that the history of humankind is governed by Yawveh, and that his will is manifest in every event that takes place. The destiny of all humankind, according to this idea, is governed by humans' relationship with God. This idea naturally flows into the story of the Children of Israel, whose patriarchs conversed with God and made various covenants with Him. These covenants governed humankind's destiny. This idea extends into the New Testament, which posits that the sacrifice of Jesus now affects every person, and every generation since His resurrection, into the limitless future.
The universal chronicle traces history from the beginning of the world up to the present and was an especially popular genre of historiography in medieval Western Europe. The universal chronicle differs from the ordinary chronicle in its much broader chronological and geographical scope, giving, in principle, a continuous account of the progress of world history from the creation of the world up to the author's own times, but in practice often narrowing down to a more limited geographical range as it approaches those times.
The Chronica of Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 275–339) is considered to be the starting point of this tradition. The second book of this work consisted of a set of concordance tables (Chronici canones) that for the first time synchronized the several concurrent chronologies in use with different peoples. Eusebius' chronicle became known to the Latin West through the translation by Jerome (c. 347–420).
Universal chronicles are sometimes organized around a central ideological theme, such as the Augustinian idea of the tension between the heavenly and the earthly state, which plays a major role in Otto von Freising's Historia de duabus civitatibus. In other cases, any obvious theme may be lacking. Some universal chronicles bear a more or less encyclopedic character, with many digressions on non-historical subjects, as is the case with the Chronicon of Helinand of Froidmont.
Other notable universal chroniclers of the Medieval West include Bede (c. 672 or 673–735), the Christherre-Chronik, Helinand of Froidmont (c. 1160—1237?), Isidore of Seville (c. 560–636), Jans der Enikel, Matthew Paris (c. 1200-1259), Ranulf Higdon (c. 1280-1363), Rudolf von Ems, Sigebert of Gembloux (c. 1030–1112), Otto von Freising (c. 1114–1158), and Vincent of Beauvais (c. 1190-1264?).
The tradition of universal history can even be seen in the works of medieval historians whose purpose may not have been to chronicle the ancient past, but nonetheless included it in a local history of more recent times. One such example is the Decem Libri Historiarum of Gregory of Tours (d. 594), where only the first of his ten books describes creation and ancient history, while the last six books focus on events in his own lifetime and region. While this reading of Gregory is currently a widely accepted hypothesis in historical circles, the central purpose of Gregory's writing is still a topic of hot debate.
In the medieval Islamic world (13th century), universal history in this vein was taken up by Muslim historians such as Ta' rīkh-i jahān-gushā (History of the World Conqueror) by Ala'iddin Ata-Malik Juvayni, Jami al-Tawarikh ("Compendium of Chronicles") by Rashid-al-Din Hamadani (now held at the University of Edinburgh) and the Muqaddimah by Ibn Khaldun.
The Secret History of the Mongols (1240) by an unknown author, is a source of the first magnitude for the social history of the Asian nomadic civilization of the Mongols before the establishment of what was the world's greatest empire in the 13th century. It contains historical events over a vast area of Eurasia 800 years ago.
An early European project was the Universal History of George Sale and others, written in the mid-18th century. In the 19th century, universal histories proliferated. Philosophers such as Kant, Schiller and Hegel, and political philosophers such as Marx, presented general theories of history that shared essential characteristics with the Biblical account: they conceived of history as a coherent whole, governed by certain basic characteristics or immutable principles. For example, Hegel presented the idea that progress in history is actually the progress not of humankind's material existence, but of humanity's spiritual development. Concomitantly, Hegel presented a developmental theory of how the human spirit progresses: through the dialectic of synthesis and antithesis. Marx's theory of dialectic materialism is essential to his general concept of history: that the struggle to dominate the means of production governs all historical development.
Pop universal history
Basic ideas of universal history are so prevalent that they are difficult to separate from basic Western assumptions of how the world is or should be. Outside some intellectuals, such ideas continue to predominate as core assumptions. The teleological aspects of universal history remain entrenched. Many people believe that the events of our world, and more specifically, the events within the human community, are directed toward an end or tending toward an end of some sort. 'Linear' pre-suppositions of the theory are no less prevalent. Most people living in Western cultures conceive of time, and therefore of history, as a line or an arrow, that is proceeding from past to future, toward some end. In contrast to this view, Social cycle theories are among the earliest social theories in sociology. Sociological cycle theory argues that events and stages of society and history are generally repeating themselves in cycles.
- Dates are approximate, consult particular article for details.
Ancient history is the study of the past from the beginning of recorded human history to the Early Middle Ages. In India, the period includes the early period of the Middle Kingdoms, and, in China, the time up to the Qin Dynasty is included.
The Bronze Age forms part of the three-age system. In this system, it follows the Neolithic Age in some areas of the world. In the 24th century BC, the Akkadian Empire was founded. The First Intermediate Period of Egypt (c. 22nd century BC) was followed by the Middle Kingdom of Egypt between the 21st to 17th centuries BC. The Sumerian Renaissance also developed c. 21st century BC. Around the 18th century BC, the Second Intermediate Period of Egypt began. By 1600 BC, Mycenaean Greece developed, the beginning of the Shang Dynasty in China emerged and there was evidence of a fully developed Chinese writing system. Also around 1600 BC, the beginning of Hittite dominance of the Eastern Mediterranean region is seen. The time between the 16th to 11th centuries BC around the Nile is called the New Kingdom of Egypt. Between 1550 BC and 1292 BC, the Amarna Period developed.
The Iron Age is the last principal period in the three-age system, preceded by the Bronze Age. Its date and context vary depending on the country or geographical region. During the 13th to 12th centuries BC, the Ramesside Period occurred in Egypt. Around c. 1200 BC, the Trojan War was thought to have taken place. By c. 1180 BC, the disintegration of the Hittite Empire was underway.
In 1046 BC, the Zhou force, led by King Wu of Zhou, overthrows the last king of the Shang Dynasty. The Zhou Dynasty is established in China shortly thereafter. In 1000 BC, the Mannaeans Kingdom begins in Western Asia. Around the 10th to 7th centuries BC, the Neo-Assyrian Empire forms in Mesopotamia. In 800 BC, the rise of Greek city-states begins. In 776 BC, the first recorded Olympic Games are held.
- Dates are approximate, consult particular article for details
The Middle Ages is a historical period following the Iron Age, fully underway by the 5th century and lasting to the 15th century, and preceding the early Modern Era. In Europe, the period saw the large-scale European Migration and fall of the Western Roman Empire. In South Asia, the middle kingdoms of India were the classical period of the region. The "Middle" period on the Indian subcontinent lasts for some 1,500 years, and ends in the 13th century. During the late Middle Ages, several Islamic empires were established in the Indian subcontinent. In East Asia, the Mid-Imperial China age begins with the reunification of China and ends with China was conquered by the Mongol Empire. The Golden Horde invaded North and West Asia and parts of eastern Europe in the 13th century and established and maintained their khanate until the end of the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages is the middle period in a three-period division of history: Classic, Medieval, and Modern. The precise dates of the beginning, culmination, and end of the Middle Ages are more or less arbitrarily assumed according to the point of view adopted. Any hard and fast line drawn to designate either the beginning or close of the period in question is arbitrary. The widest limits given, viz., the irruption of the Visigoths over the boundaries of the Roman Empire, for the beginning, and the middle of the 16th century, for the close, may be taken as inclusively sufficient, and embrace, beyond dispute, every movement or phase of history that can be claimed as properly belonging to the Middle Ages.
The Early Middle Ages saw the continuation of trends set up in ancient history (and, for Europe, late Antiquity). The period is usually considered to open with those migrations of the German Tribes which led to the destruction of the Roman Empire in the West in 375, when the Huns fell upon the Gothic tribes north of the Black Sea and forced the Visigoths over the boundaries of the Roman Empire on the lower Danube. A later date, however, is sometimes assumed, viz., when Odoacer deposed Romulus Augustulus, the last of the Roman Emperors of the West, in 476. Depopulation, deurbanization, and increased barbarian invasion were seen across the Old World. North Africa and the Middle East, once part of the Eastern Roman Empire, became Islamic. Later in European history, the establishment of the feudal system allowed a return to systemic agriculture. There was sustained urbanization in northern and western Europe.
During the High Middle Ages in Europe, Christian-oriented art and architecture flourished and Crusades were mounted to recapture the Holy Land from Muslim control. The influence of the emerging states in Europe was tempered by the ideal of an international Christendom. The codes of chivalry and courtly love set rules for proper European behavior, while the European Scholastic philosophers attempted to reconcile Christian faith and reason.
During the Late Middle Ages in Europe, the centuries of prosperity and growth came to a halt. The close of the Middle Ages is also variously fixed; some make it coincide with the rise of Humanism and the Renaissance in Italy, in the 14th century; with the Fall of Constantinople, in 1453; with the discovery of America by Columbus in 1492; or, again, with the great religious schism of the 16th century. A series of famines and plagues, such as the medieval Great Famine and the Black Death, reduced the population around half before the calamities in the late Middle Ages. Along with depopulation came social unrest and endemic warfare. Western Europe experienced serious peasant risings: the Jacquerie, the Peasants' Revolt, and the Hundred Years' War. To add to the many problems of the period, the unity of the Catholic Church was shattered by the Western Schism. Collectively the events are a crisis of the Late Middle Ages.
Modern history describes the historical period after the Middle Ages. Modern history can be further broken down into the early modern period and the late modern period after the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. Contemporary history describes the span of historic events that are immediately relevant to the present time.
The modern era began approximately in the 16th century. Many major events caused Europe to change around the start of the 16th century, starting with the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, the fall of Muslim Spain and the discovery of the Americas in 1492, and Martin Luther's Protestant Reformation in 1517. In England the modern period is often dated to the start of the Tudor period with the victory of Henry VII over Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Early modern European history is usually seen to span from around the start of the 15th century, through the Age of Reason and the Age of Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries, until the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century.
- World-systems theory, Metanarrative, Cliometrics, Big History
- Historical Materialism, The End of History and the Last Man
- What is history?: Five lectures on the modern science of history By Karl Lamprecht. Pages 181-227.
- Epitome of ancient, mediaeval and modern history By Carl Ploetz. Introduction, pages ix–xii.
- Jacques Bénigne Bossuet, James Elphinston. An universal history: from the beginning of the world, to the Empire of Charlemagne. R. Moore, 1810. page 1-6 (introduction)
- History begins at the point where monuments become intelligible and documentary evidence of a trustworthy character is fortheoming but from this point onwards the domain is boundless for Universal History as understood. (Universal history: the oldest historical group of nations and the Greeks by Leopold von Ranke. Preface, pg. x)
- Leopold von Ranke. Universal history: the oldest historical group of nations and the Greeks. Scribner, 1884.
- An epitome of universal history By A. Harding. Page 1.
- H. M. Cottinger. Elements of universal history for higher institutes in republics and for self-instruction. Charles H. Whiting, 1884. pg. 1.
- Solodow, Joseph B. (1988). The World of Ovid's Metamorphoses. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. p. 18. ISBN 9780807817711.
- Wood, Ian. Gregory of Tours. (Bangor: Headstart History, 1994.)
- Mitchell, Kathleen and Wood, Ian, eds.. The World of Gregory of Tours. (Boston: Brill, 2002).
- Bossuet, J. B. Discours sur l'histoire universelle (Paris, Furne et cie, 1853).
- Elphinstone, M. (1889). The history of India. London: Murray.
- Smith, V. A. (1904). The early history of India from 600 B.C. to the Muhammadan conquest, including the invasion of Alexander the Great. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
- Hoernle, A. F. R., & Stark, H. A. (1906). A History of India. Cuttack: Orissa mission Press.
- Foster, S. (2007). Adventure guide. China. Hunter travel guides. Edison, NJ: Hunter Publishing. Page 6–7 (cf., "Qin is perceived as 'China's first dynasty' and [... developed] writing.)
- Gernet, J. (1996). A history of Chinese civilization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Wells, H. G. (1921). The outline of history, being a plain history of life and mankind New York: Macmillan company. Page 137.
- Strauss, Barry S. (2006) The Trojan War: A New History. Simon & Schuster ISBN 0-7432-6442-8
- Intrinsic to the English language, "modern" denotes (in reference to history) a period that is opposed to either ancient or medieval — modern history comprising the history of the world since the close of the Middle Ages.
- The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia, Page 3814
- Dunan, Marcel. Larousse Encyclopedia of Modern History, From 1500 to the Present Day. New York: Harper & Row, 1964.
- Helen Miller, Aubrey Newman. Early modern British history, 1485-1760: a select bibliography, Historical Association, 1970
- Early Modern Period (1485-1800), Sites Organized by Period, Rutgers University Libraries
- An universal history: in twenty-four books, Volume 1 By Johannes von Müller, James Cowles Prichard
- Bonnaud, Robert, The System of History, Fayard 1989, 334 pages (not yet translated).
- "List of Historical Works of Universal History". (Visual tour)
- Guha, Ranajit, "History at the Limit of World-History" (Italian Academy Lectures), Columbia University Press 2002.
- Sale, George, Archibald Bower, and George Psalmanazar, "An Universal History, from the Earliest Account of Time". Millar, 1747.
- Wilson, Horace Hayman, "A manual of universal history and chronology". 1835.
- Jones, Lynds Eugene, George Palmer Putnam, and Simeon Strunsky, "Tabular Views of Universal History". G. P. Putnam's sons, 1907. 313 pages.
- Fisher, George Park, "Outlines of Universal History". Ivison, Blakeman, Taylor, and company, 1885. 674 pages.
- Georg Weber, "Outlines of Universal History: From the Creation of the World to the Present Time". Hickling, Swan and Brewer, 1859. 559 pages. (ed. Translated by M. Behr).
- Ollier, Edmund, "Cassell's illustrated universal history" Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co., 1885.
- Clare, Israel Smith, "Library of Universal History". R. S. Peale, J. A. Hill, 1897.
- U.S. Patent 1,406,173, Chart for Teaching Universal History, Nov 1, 1920.
- Hegel, GWF. Philosophy of Right. TM Knox, tr. Oxford UP: New York, 1967. para. 341-360 (pp. 216–223). As a point of clarification, Hegel writes of World History, although this is somewhat identical to Universal History.
- Mink, Louis O. “Narrative Form as a Cognitive Instrument.” In Historical Understanding. Brian Fay, et al., eds. Cornell UP: Ithaca, 1987. pp. 182–203.
- Kant, Immanuel. “Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View.” In Philosophical Writings. Ernest Behler, ed. Lewis W Beck, tr. Continuum: New York, 1986. pp. 249–262.
- White, Hayden. Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe. Johns Hopkins UP, 1975.