Tuesday, January 20, 2015

World changing developments

I read a lot of history stuff at the beginning of this year, where my focus was on breadth rather than depth. I did not study in great detail about any one period, wanting instead to get some sort of a hang of everything. Of course, I failed miserably. But I did come out at the end of those five or six days subconsciously wondering about the developments, from a very wide angle camera, that I thought really changed the world the most. Even though a lot of entries on my list are so obvious when I look at the list ex-post that I wonder why I needed to spend those days to arrive at it, but, in any case, here's my list:

1) Discovery of fire - Because duh uh.

2) Discovery that seeds can be cultivated - This was the single most important developments that changed humans from hunting gathering nomads to co-existing people in civilizations.

3) Mass Production and standardized parts - Pioneered by the development of the Chinese crossbow

4) Concrete - Changed the way structures were built forever. Introduced by the Roman emperor Claudius while getting Aqua Claudia built, an aqueduct colossal even by modern standards.

5) Printing Press - Because it changed literacy from 2-3% to 70-80% in the western world in a matter of decades. That is a great leap for mankind.

6) Steam Engine - Because it paved the way for the Industrial revolution which would give us trains, cars, other engines, heavy machinery, and pretty much everything.

6) Malaria and Polio vaccines - Because you can now expect to celebrate your kindergarten birthday party.

7) Internet - Because I say so.

And now, some trivia that I found fascinating. Two of the greatest empires - the Egyptian and the Roman - were decimated by people one would never guess were capable of it. The Egyptian one, the largest empire of its time and perhaps the most long lasting one ever with a period of continuous rule between 1000 to 1500 years, was brought down by people nobody knew at that time even existed, and historians still don't know where they came from. They were people whom the Egyptians called "People of the Sea", because they came from the sea. The Roman empire, the biggest  ever, was brought down, once again, by a small tribe of germanic people called The Vandals under the leadership of Gaiseric - not by another big empire of that time such as the Persian or the Chinese.

Finally, next on my history reading is "Guns, Germs and Steel", again a book that focuses on breadth (history of the world from pre-civilization to today) rather than depth into a particular place or era, although it does supposedly go into great depths vis-a-vis outlining some specific themes that pervade all of history. I have heard good things about the book, but I cannot say when I will get around to it. 

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