The emergence of Islam introduced a new monotheistic religion and gave birth to an Arab empire and a rich civilization. Across a massive expanse of territory, Islam provided the inspiration for art, architecture, literature, and philosophy. In Africa, as in other parts of the world, civilization emerged in areas where farming was mastered. Some civilizations later became wealthy by trading gold and other goods. In Asia, the years from 400 to 1500 were marked by periods of invasion and civil war interspersed with periods of unification, expanding trade, and economic prosperity. A new European civilization emerged in which monarchs competed for supremacy with the nobility and the Roman Catholic Church. The Byzantine Empire became the seat of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Section 1 The World of Islam
For centuries the Arabian Peninsula was inhabited by nomadic Arabs who traced their ancestry to Abraham. Arabs placed special emphasis on the god Allah and on the Kaaba in the town of Makkah where Muhammad grew up. Out of Muhammad's revelations came the Quran, the holy book of Islam. After Muhammad's death, the Arabs rapidly embarked on a period of massive conquest. Because there was no established line of succession, disputes and assassinations marked the rein of the early Muslim rulers of the Umayyad and Abassid dynasties. Seljuk Turks began to take over parts of the empire, and a century later, Mongol invaders swept through the region. Egypt became the center of Islamic civilization. Overall, the Arab Empire was prosperous. Aided by the development of banking, the Arabs carried on extensive trade. Islam offered answers concerning politics, economics, and social life. Arabs made major cultural contributions, including advancements in science, architecture, and the translation of the works of major Greek philosophers.
Section 2 Early African Civilizations
Africa is a large continent with several geographical and climatic zones. The first civilizations emerged in areas where farming was mastered, including Kush and Axum. Several powerful trading empires developed in West Africa beginning in the fifth century. Ghana, Mali, and Songhai each enjoyed centuries as a powerful trading empire based on commodities such as gold before being surpassed or conquered. East Africa also saw the emergence of trading empires and the development of trading ports along the coast. African kings had greater contact with their subjects than Asian rulers did. For most Africans, family relationships were important.
Section 3 The Asian World
After years of disorder and civil war in China, three dynasties reunified the empire. Important reforms were reinstated. However, periods of peace and stability were interspersed with invasions and civil wars. Still, this nearly 700-year period included major economic, technical, and cultural achievements. The Mongols eventually took control of China. After the death of Genghis Khan, the Mongol empire was divided into khanates. The Chinese government adopted Confucianism, and art and literature flourished. Early Japan was a decentralized farming society dominated by aristocratic families. During one of the more stable periods, central military rulers called shoguns held the aristocrats in check. Manufacturing and foreign trade began during the Kamakura period. After the fall of the Guptas, Islam spread in India, and Muslim rulers created the Sultanate of Delhi. Although the Muslims showed tolerance toward the Hindu majority, Muslims and Hindus had a tense relationship. In Southeast Asia, geographical barriers resulted in the survival of many distinct cultures, languages, and religions. The formation of states was based on Chinese or Indian models. Wealth was concentrated in the cities, but most people were subsistence farmers.
Section 4 Emerging Europe and the Byzantine Empire
After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the blending of German and Roman cultures formed a new society in which the Church played a growing role. Clovis established the Frankish Kingdom, and Charlemagne expanded it into the vast Carolingian Empire. After Charlemagne's death, central governments collapsed and a new political and social system called feudalism developed. During the High Middle Ages, European monarchs began to extend their power and build strong states. In England and France, pressure from the nobility and other social groups led to the granting of parliamentary representation. Italy and Germany remained decentralized and without a national monarchy. The Slavic peoples of central Europe had become divided into three major groups. Slavs who settled in present-day Ukraine and Russia were dominated first by Viking rulers and later by Mongols. The Byzantine Empire was home to the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Seljuk Turk invasion led to a series of European-led Crusades to liberate the Holy Land.