How to Divide History into Phases?

Everyone has his/her own way of dividing history into phases, depending upon the perspective used. An economist would divide the history in accordance with the dominant mode of production. On the other hand, a political scientist would divide it according to dominant mode of governance . I prefer to divide history according to the revolutionary inventions which changed the course of history- fire, wheel, printing press, steam and internet- each being driver of that age as well as representing its essence
Pre-Historic Phase: 10,000 to 3500 BCE/ Age of Fire
Harnessing of fire by the humans started the Globalisation process and aided it in several ways. In addition to acting as a heat source, protection against predators and extending the shelf life of their food supplies, fire made food tastier as well as easier to chew and digest. Consequently, early humans could spend less time gnawing away uncooked food, and a lot of those extra calories went to nourishing their growing brains. With more brain power, men learnt how to slash and burn forest and carve out land for starting agriculture, building houses and perfecting tools for agricultural operations.
Start of agriculture with new crop varieties, techniques of production and domestication of animals led to food surpluses and consequently in population explosion. Improved agriculture led to tribal settlements which later merged into villages. Small villages merged into towns where service delivery needed state apparatus such as craft specialists and professional bureaucrats and soldiers. They were needed not only for monopolization of means of violence for state but also for rule application and precise accounting of food surpluses. Their emergence, besides running the state, helped the rulers in acquisition of new territories and establishment of permanent trade rules. Thus, started the process of globalization which was initially slowly due to limited technology to cover space and spread information. Only at the end of this stage, centrally administered forms of agriculture, religion, bureaucracy and welfare state became active agents of globalization
Historic Phase: 3500 to 1500 BCE/Age of Wheel
Invention of writing in Fertile Crescent and China and invention of wheel in Southwest Asia around 3000 BCE accelerated the globalization process. Wheel spurred animal driven carts and construction of roads, while writing facilitated the spread of ideas and inventions. Both helped coordinating complex social activities and thus, encouraged large state formulations/empires leading to wars, conquests and thus spread of technology, communication / inventions and migration of people resulting in urban growth. Auspicious east-west orientation of Eurasia’s major continental axis facilitated spread of crops and animals helped in diffusion of technologies, network of inter-locking trade routes and spread of religions. 15th century voyages of Christopher Columbus, Vasco DA Gama, etc made possible Europe’s colonial empires to generate wealth and power for these European powers
Early Modern Period:1500-1750 CE/Age of Printing Press:
The printing press, invented by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440 changed the world by increasing the quantity, quality, access and affordability of getting information and gaining knowledge. In 1620, British philosopher Francis Bacon wrote that printing, gunpowder, and the compass were the three inventions that “have changed the appearance and state of the entire world.” It accelerated the Renaissance and ushered in the Scientific Revolution, Enlightenment, and Modern Age. From here forward, information was democratized and literacy spread. With the invention of the printing press, power over the written word moved away from the monasteries and into the hands of private publishers who sought markets for their books. The biggest markets were found in books published not in Latin but in various local languages. From the early eighteenth century onwards Latin was no longer the dominant language of learning. As a result, it was suddenly far more difficult for Europeans to understand each other.
Soon after the creation of the printing press, we get the first modern universities, although it wouldn’t be until 1800 when non-religious education took root. that eventually resulted in industrialisation in Britain, international mass industrialisation and then Globalisation. Benefiting from technological diffusion of Islamic and Chinese Civilizations, Europe started of modernization/ enlightenment-objective science, universal morality and law, rational mode of thinking and became the agent for globalization. Technological inventions/innovations such as mechanized printing, sophisticated wind and water mills, extension in postal services, advanced navigation technology etc further accelerated the globalization
The Modern Period-1750 to 1950/Age of Steam:
This period can also be called Pax Britannica. Although Industrial Revolution had started earlier than the Steam Revolution, it was the latter which galvanized the Industrial Revolution, leading to greater need for resources and markets which in turn accelerated the Globalisation process through colonization. Now factories could be built anywhere, not just along fast-flowing rivers, transportation of raw material to the factories and their finished products inside the country was now speedy and convenient through locomotive engines, Similarly, steam ships perform these functions in case of foreign countries. Transportation was one of those important beneficiaries. By the early 1800s, high-pressure steam engines had become compact enough to move beyond the factory, prompting the first steam-powered locomotive to hit the rails in Britain in 1804. Steam ships and railroads made it economical to consume goods that were made faraway. With things being made in one country and consumed in another, trade boomed. With reduction in trade costs and time, Globalisation process accelerated.
The Contemporary Period-1950 CE Onwards/ Age of Internet:
If previous period can be called as Pax Britannica, then the contemporary period starting from the end of the 2nd WW can be described as Pax Americana. In this phase, there is no doubt, internet and the information technology has played a pivotal role in rapid Globalisation. By facilitating outsourcing of production and transfer of technology, information technology has radically transformed global production, consumption and trading patterns.
In his remarkable book “The World is Flat” Friedman has captured the essence of the fifth generation of Globalisation. He believes the world has become flat in the sense that there is a level-playing field for any entrepreneur belonging to any country-rich or poor due to his access to internet. In fact, he maintains, individual entrepreneurs as well as companies, both large and small, are becoming part of a large, complex, global supply chain extending across oceans, with competition spanning entire continents.
Taken from Chapter 2 of my Ebook “20 Global Issues-A Handbook” 20 Global Issues: A Handbook eBook: Shahid Hussain Raja: Kindle Store

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