A Short History of the World

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A Short History of the World

Author

H. G. Wells

About this book

A Short History of the World is an account of human history by English author H. G. Wells. It was first published in 1922 by Cassell & Company and The Macmillan Company.

Contents (67)

I THE WORLD IN SPACE
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II THE WORLD IN TIME
III THE BEGINNINGS OF LIFE
IV THE AGE OF FISHES
V THE AGE OF THE COAL SWAMPS
VI THE AGE OF REPTILES
VII THE FIRST BIRDS AND THE FIRST MAMMALS
VIII THE AGE OF MAMMALS
IX MONKEYS, APES AND SUB-MEN
X THE NEANDERTHALER AND THE RHODESIAN MAN
XI THE FIRST TRUE MEN
XII PRIMITIVE THOUGHT
XIII THE BEGINNINGS OF CULTIVATION
XIV PRIMITIVE NEOLITHIC CIVILIZATIONS
XV SUMERIA, EARLY EGYPT AND WRITING
XVI PRIMITIVE NOMADIC PEOPLES
XVII THE FIRST SEAGOING PEOPLES
XVIII EGYPT, BABYLON AND ASSYRIA
XIX THE PRIMITIVE ARYANS
XX THE LAST BABYLONIAN EMPIRE AND THE EMPIRE OF DARIUS I
XXI THE EARLY HISTORY OF THE JEWS
XXII PRIESTS AND PROPHETS IN JUDEA
XXIII THE GREEKS
XXIV THE WARS OF THE GREEKS AND PERSIANS
XXV THE SPLENDOUR OF GREECE
XXVI THE EMPIRE OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT
XXVII THE MUSEUM AND LIBRARY AT ALEXANDRIA
XXVIII THE LIFE OF GAUTAMA BUDDHA
XXIX KING ASOKA
XXX CONFUCIUS AND LAO TSE
XXXI ROME COMES INTO HISTORY
XXXII ROME AND CARTHAGE
XXXIII THE GROWTH OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE
XXXIV BETWEEN ROME AND CHINA
XXXV THE COMMON MAN’S LIFE UNDER THE EARLY ROMAN EMPIRE
XXXVI RELIGIOUS DEVELOPMENTS UNDER THE ROMAN EMPIRE
XXXVII THE TEACHING OF JESUS
XXXVIII THE DEVELOPMENT OF DOCTRINAL CHRISTIANITY
XXXIX THE BARBARIANS BREAK THE EMPIRE INTO EAST AND WEST
XL THE HUNS AND THE END OF THE WESTERN EMPIRE
XLI THE BYZANTINE AND SASSANID EMPIRES
XLII THE DYNASTIES OF SUY AND TANG IN CHINA
XLIII MUHAMMAD AND ISLAM
XLIV THE GREAT DAYS OF THE ARABS
XLV THE DEVELOPMENT OF LATIN CHRISTENDOM
XLVI THE CRUSADES AND THE AGE OF PAPAL DOMINION
XLVII RECALCITRANT PRINCES AND THE GREAT SCHISM
XLVIII THE MONGOL CONQUESTS
XLIX THE INTELLECTUAL REVIVAL OF THE EUROPEANS
L THE REFORMATION OF THE LATIN CHURCH
LI THE EMPEROR CHARLES V
LII THE AGE OF POLITICAL EXPERIMENTS; OF GRAND MONARCHY AND PARLIAMENTS AND REPUBLICANISM IN EUROPE
LIII THE NEW EMPIRES OF THE EUROPEANS IN ASIA AND OVERSEAS
LIV THE AMERICAN WAR OF INDEPENDENCE
LV THE FRENCH REVOLUTION AND THE RESTORATION OF MONARCHY IN FRANCE
LVI THE UNEASY PEACE IN EUROPE THAT FOLLOWED THE FALL OF NAPOLEON
LVII THE DEVELOPMENT OF MATERIAL KNOWLEDGE
LVIII THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
LIX THE DEVELOPMENT OF MODERN POLITICAL AND SOCIAL IDEAS
LX THE EXPANSION OF THE UNITED STATES
LXI THE RISE OF GERMANY TO PREDOMINANCE IN EUROPE
LXII THE NEW OVERSEAS EMPIRES OF STEAMSHIP AND RAILWAY
LXIII EUROPEAN AGGRESSION IN ASIA AND THE RISE OF JAPAN
LXIV THE BRITISH EMPIRE IN 1914
LXV THE AGE OF ARMAMENT IN EUROPE, AND THE GREAT WAR OF 1914-18
LXVI THE REVOLUTION AND FAMINE IN RUSSIA
LXVII THE POLITICAL AND SOCIAL RECONSTRUCTION OF THE WORLD

I THE WORLD IN SPACE

The story of our world is a story that is still very imperfectly known. A couple of hundred years ago men possessed the history of little more than the last three thousand years. What happened before that time was a matter of legend and speculation. Over a large part of the civilized world it was believed and taught that the world had been created suddenly in 4004 B.C., though authorities differed as to whether this had occurred in the spring or autumn of that year. This fantastically precise misconception was based upon a too literal interpretation of the Hebrew Bible, and upon rather arbitrary theological assumptions connected therewith. Such ideas have long since been abandoned by religious teachers, and it is universally recognized that the universe in which we live has to all appearances existed for an enormous period of time and possibly for endless time. Of course there may be deception in these appearances, as a room may be made to seem endless by putting mirrors facing each other at either end. But that the universe in which we live has existed only for six or seven thousand years may be regarded as an altogether exploded idea.

The earth, as everybody knows nowadays, is a spheroid, a sphere slightly compressed, orange fashion, with a diameter of nearly 8,000 miles. Its spherical shape has been known at least to a limited number of intelligent people for nearly 2,500 years, but before that time it was supposed to be flat, and various ideas which now seem fantastic were entertained about its relations to the sky and the stars and planets. We know now that it rotates upon its axis (which is about 24 miles shorter than its equatorial diameter) every twenty-four hours, and that this is the cause of the alternations of day and night, that it circles about the sun in a slightly distorted and slowly variable oval path in a year. Its distance from the sun varies between ninety-one and a half millions at its nearest and ninety-four and a half million miles.

LUMINOUS SPIRAL CLOUDS OF MATTER

“LUMINOUS SPIRAL CLOUDS OF MATTER”
(Nebula photographed 1910)
Photo: G. W. Ritchey

About the earth circles a smaller sphere, the moon, at an average distance of 239,000 miles. Earth and moon are not the only bodies to travel round the sun. There are also the planets, Mercury and Venus, at distances of thirty-six and sixty-seven millions of miles; and beyond the circle of the earth and disregarding a belt of numerous smaller bodies, the planetoids, there are Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune at mean distances of 141, 483, 886, 1,782, and 1,793 millions of miles respectively. These figures in millions of miles are very difficult for the mind to grasp. It may help the reader’s imagination if we reduce the sun and planets to a smaller, more conceivable scale.

THE  NEBULA SEEN EDGE ON

THE NEBULA SEEN EDGE-ON
Note the central core which, through millions of years, is cooling to solidity
Photo: G. W. Ritchey

If, then, we represent our earth as a little ball of one inch diameter, the sun would be a big globe nine feet across and 323 yards away, that is about a fifth of a mile, four or five minutes’ walking. The moon would be a small pea two feet and a half from the world. Between earth and sun there would be the two inner planets, Mercury and Venus, at distances of one hundred and twenty-five and two hundred and fifty yards from the sun. All round and about these bodies there would be emptiness until you came to Mars, a hundred and seventy-five feet beyond the earth; Jupiter nearly a mile away, a foot in diameter; Saturn, a little smaller, two miles off; Uranus four miles off and Neptune six miles off. Then nothingness and nothingness except for small particles and drifting scraps of attenuated vapour for thousands of miles. The nearest star to earth on this scale would be 40,000 miles away.

These figures will serve perhaps to give one some conception of the immense emptiness of space in which the drama of life goes on.

For in all this enormous vacancy of space we know certainly of life only upon the surface of our earth. It does not penetrate much more than three miles down into the 4,000 miles that separate us from the centre of our globe, and it does not reach more than five miles above its surface. Apparently all the limitlessness of space is otherwise empty and dead.

The deepest ocean dredgings go down to five miles. The highest recorded flight of an aeroplane is little more than four miles. Men have reached to seven miles up in balloons, but at a cost of great suffering. No bird can fly so high as five miles, and small birds and insects which have been carried up by aeroplanes drop off insensible far below that level.