A Short History of Western Civilization in one-thousand one-hundred and forty-five words and one paragraph
100,000 years ago, mankind evolved from his apish forebears. For 95,000 he moped about and did nothing of particular note. Then the Mesopotamians invented writing, banking, and mathematics and built great ziggurats of mud brick. The Egyptians did them one better by building with marble and granite. Then The Medes took over Asia Minor and the old Mesopotamian Empire and the Persian plateau and created the first truly multinational empire. But they made the mistake of taking on the independent Hellene city-states, led by Athens and Sparta, who fought them to a standstill. Macedonia, under the leadership of Alexander the Great, who took what was best in Greek thought and military acumen, conquered the Medes. But he died too soon and his empire split apart into Greek-run fiefdoms. In the western Mediterranean, the Roman Republic fought and eventually defeated the Carthaginians, the heirs of the Levantine trading empire of the Phoenicians. The Romans were organized fighters and men of great civic virtue. They soon conquered the whole of Europe around the Mediterranean. They conquered the celtic Gauls of present-day France. Civil wars ravaged the Roman world, as those who would seek monarchic rule fought those who would seek a return to republicanism. Under Augustus, the monarchists won, and the Empire started its decline. It would Christianize, and split into an eastern and western halves. The Western half would soon fall to German barbarians, themselves fleeing the predations of hordes from the Asiatic steppe. The eastern half, centered in Constantinople, would survive until 1453, when it fell to the Moslems, who had been gradually scavenging the remnants of the Eastern Empire for 700 years. In the West, the warring German tribes eventually reached some sort of equilibrium under the Frankish Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne. Soon after the reconquest of the Iberian peninsula began and would be complete as Constantinople fell. Then in the greatest bit of serendipity ever, Columbus discovered America. This vast hemisphere of easily conquered, killed and enslaved people, and great natural wealth would become a dynamo of economic growth and trade, fueled by European immigration and the slave trade from Africa. In Europe, religious wars between Christian factions, the “Catholics” and the “Protestants”, led the rise of strong nation states, like France and England and multinational empires, Like the Hapsburg. There was a rise of secular power of the state. Increased industry and trade saw a shift from agrarian economies to more civil power, led by the bourgeoisie. These factors and an increased interest in the rational philosophy of the ancient Greeks and the civic virtues of the Roman law and tradition, as well as advances in science by men like Isaac Newton and in political science by men like Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, saw the ascendance of Humanism, culminating in the Revolutions in England, the British Colonies (which became the United States of America), and France, which sparked the steady decline of European monarchy and religious dominance. Napoleon’s failed attempt at European hegemony saw Great Britain ascendant and master of a vast global trade empire, Germany united under the militaristic Prussians and militarily supreme over continental Europe, and eastern Europe under the sway of the pan-Slavic ambitions of the Russian Romanov empire. A terrible civil war in America saw the first devastating example of industrial warfare and the final triumph of centralized federalism and American imperial ambitions. Modern European governments started the First World War, sparked by squabbles over the spoils of the decaying Ottoman Empire and German imperial ambitions. The devastation of the First World War, which saw the worst battlefield casualties in the history of man, and the following Great Depression, which was a collapse of the free-wheeling robber-baron market economies of the 19th centuries, saw the rise of Communism in Russia, and Fascism in Germany, Italy, Central Europe, Iberia and an ascendant Japan, which had rapidly modernized in the space of fifty years, starting to encroach upon perceived European and American colonial ambitions in Eastern Asia and the Pacific. Democratic Socialism suppressed popular discontent in America and Western Europe. Tensions between Communists, Fascists, and Democrats sprang into bloody reality in the Second World War. While battlefield deaths were less than those of the First World War, the wholesale massacre, even genocide, of civilians, even by their own governments in the case of Russia and Germany, was unparalleled in brutal efficient ghastliness in the history of the world. Russia’s, Japan’s and Germany’s massacres were an extension of their own internal pogroms and “economic plans”, a deadly pattern followed by a communist China decades later. Nuclear bombs, dropped by the American over civilian targets in Japan, brought the end of The Second World War, with Germany and Japan annihilated, Western Europe bankrupt and exhausted, China in civil war with the Communists soon to emerge victorious and Communist Russia holding central and eastern European countries as fiefdoms. Europe had to give up its vast colonial holdings in Asia and Africa. Joseph “Albert” Billaux, the author’s paternal grandfather, bravely fought for the French against the devastating German Blitzkrieg. Nicholas Evanchik, the author’s father, served aboard the USS Idaho in the battle for the Pacific between America and Japan. At the end of the Second World War, America alone was economically unscathed and provided the economic and industrial leadership to rebuild the world, or at least its half. The reformed liberal democratic socialist victor states of Western Europe and America, and a rebuilding Germany and Japan saw themselves at loggerheads with the Communists of Russia and China. They fought faced each other in essential stalemate, a “Cold War” with the threat of nuclear annihilation constraining both sides (as the Soviet Russians soon had the nuclear bomb) from decisive action. Regional conflicts around the world came and went as the two sides, Communist and Democratic, fought wars by proxy. 1989 saw the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent break up of the Soviet Empire and the rise of the “Euro” zone of a democratic Europe. China switched to quasi-capitalism and became an industrial dynamo, fueled by Western investors hungry for cheap labor. Africa saw the last bastion of white rule disappear in South Africa as the continent continues its’ miseries. A stagnant Latin America is largely irrelevant to the rest of the world, except as a source of cheap emigrant labor. The Moslem world, financed by petrodollars, is torn by religious frictions as fundamentalist yahoos feed off of popular discontent at economic stagnation and corrupt government, blaming Western-inspired secular liberalization and modernization and inspiring jingoistic antipathy against the western democracies and a tiny democratic country of Israel. The United States of America teeters between corrupt plutocracy and authentic liberal democracy, its population growing thanks to an influx of poor Asian and Latin American immigrants. Japan and Europe, while very prosperous, suffer from malaise and declining populations, and guilt over past perceived colonial injustices.
Written all from memory without any outside reference. China and India are largely left out as I know very little about their histories, beyond the modern era, but it should be noted that Asian wealth and prosperity were the goad for Columbus’ voyage of discovery.