Wikijunior:Introduction to History
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The Beginnings of the Modern Age
Religious leaders, philosophers, and scientists
A wise king can make a difference in the lives of his subjects, and a cruel or stupid king can cause a great deal of suffering, but few kings have any lasting effect on their society. So much of written history is about kings because kings are powerful enough to make sure their names get written down a lot. However, people who made long lasting differences were also religious leaders, philosophers, and scientists.
Between the building of the pyramids more than four thousand years ago and the Greek attack on Troy about three thousand years ago, one of the world's leading religions began in India. The Hindu religion has more than 800,000,000 followers, about 90% of them on the Indian subcontinent. If you want to learn about Hinduism, a good place to start is by reading the Bhagavad Gita, which is a conversation between a man, Prince Arjuna, and his charioteer Lord Krishna, who just before an epic battle reveals himself as, Vishnu, God Incarnate.
A few hundred years after the Greeks invaded Troy, the Greek poet, Homer, wrote down the story of the Trojan War in two epic poems, The Iliad and The Odyssey. Greek writers and thinkers treated these two books in much the same way that Christian writers and thinkers draw on the Bible, as a source inspiration.
Midway between the Trojan war and the days of the Caesars, about 400 B.C., several great philosophers and religious leaders lived.
In China, Kung Fu Tze (sometimes called Confucius) wrote The Analects, one of the most influential books in history. Confucius taught that respect for order, for family, for authority, and for ancestors was the cornerstone of all right action. In India, Guatama Buddha taught that the cause of all suffering is desire. In Greece, the philosopher Plato wrote a number of dialogs which still make delightful reading today, and the philosopher Aristotle became the first person to write down the rules of logical thinking. Greek speaking people, especially Euclid, in Egypt, and Archimedes, in Sicily, wrote down the foundations of modern science and mathematics, but the people of Europe turned away from science and mathematics and toward religion and superstition. After age of the Greeks there were no new scientific or mathematical discoveries in Europe for more than a thousand years.
While Augustus Caesar was ruling the Roman Empire, Jesus Christ was born. We date our calendar from the approximate year of his birth. Jesus Christ was a Jew, and the Christian religion was based on the Hebrew religion. The Christian holy book, the Bible, includes two parts. The Old Testament describes how God created the world, and includes Jewish law, history, philosophy, and song. The New Testament describes the life of Jesus Christ and his followers. Jesus summed up his message in these words, in Matthew 22: 37-39, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."
Between the days of the Caesars, and the conquest of England by William the Conqueror, Muhammad founded the religion of Islam. A follower of Islam is called a Muslim. The teachings of Muhammad are given in the Koran. The Five Pillars of Islam are profession of faith, ritual prayer five times each day, fasting during Ramadan, charity given to the needy, and pilgrimage to Mecca.
In the year 1543 of the Common Era, in Poland, Nicholas Copernicus published a book demonstrating that the Earth circles the sun. This was the beginning of the Age of Science. Galileo used the telescope to examine the planets of the solar system; Isaac Newton invented the mathematics called calculus, and was the father of modern physics; Charles Darwin spent many years traveling around the world, observing nature, and discovered evolution; Albert Einstein defined relativity and discovered the photoelectric effect.
Science, democracy, and capitalism remade the world into a place far richer that it had ever been before, richer in material goods, in knowledge, in health, in art, and in ideas.
When your grandparents were young
The best way to learn history is to talk to people who are older than you. Many people love to talk about when they were young. When you read about the past in a history book, it can be hard to remember that real people lived through all of those famous events. By talking to someone about their life you can hear what happened in history first hand!