Periods of World History: Overviews of Eras from 8000 B.C.E to the Present

Lesson Transcript
Nate Sullivan

Nate Sullivan holds a M.A. in History and a M.Ed. He is an adjunct history professor, middle school history teacher, and freelance writer.

Expert Contributor
Lesley Chapel

Lesley has taught American and World History at the university level for the past seven years. She has a Master's degree in History.

In this lesson, we will look at the six periods of world history. We will learn the defining characteristics of each and highlight the major themes associated with each period.

Classifying the Past

The Gilded Age. The Bronze Age. The Enlightenment Era. The Industrial Revolution. The Neolithic Revolution. What do these all have in common? Well, they are all periods or eras of history. There are many different ways to divide up, or classify, history. For example, historical time is divided between B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini). More recently, it has become popular to use the term B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) and C.E. (Common Era), but the idea is the same. Another common way world history is divided is into three distinct ages or periods: Ancient History (3600 B.C.-500 A.D.), the Middle Ages (500-1500 A.D.), and the Modern Age (1500-present).

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: What is a Civilization? - Definition & Common Elements

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 Classifying the Past
  • 1:04 Six Periods of World History
  • 8:04 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Six Periods of World History

AP World History divides history up into six periods. Let's take an in-depth look at these six periods, which include: Period 1 - Technological and Environmental Transformations, from 8000 B.C. to 600 B.C.; Period 2 - Organization and Reorganization of Human Societies, from 600 B.C. to 600 A.D.; Period 3 - Regional and Transregional Interactions, from 600 to 1450; Period 4 - Global Interactions, from 1450 to 1750; Period 5 - Industrialization and Global Integration, from 1750 to 1900; and Period 6 - Accelerated Global Change and Realignments, from 1900 to the present. Each period has its own distinct characteristics. Let's take a look at each of the six periods and learn about their defining characteristics.

Period 1 - Technological and Environmental Transformations, from 8000 B.C. to 600 B.C.

This period draws attention to a number of important themes concerning mankind's early history. During the Paleolithic Period, humans migrated throughout various parts of the world. We can call this 'the peopling of the Earth.' During the Paleolithic Period, humans relied on primitive stone tools to hunt for food. They also gathered food. For example, they might pick berries. Humans had not developed sophisticated agriculture yet.

A term associated with Period 1 is big geography. Big geography is exactly what it sounds like. Big geography is the global view of world history. It concerns the peopling of the Earth, where different groups of people settled and why, and how these different people groups interact with one another.

About 10,000 years ago, a major shift in human development took place. We call this the Neolithic Revolution. Humans in various parts of the world developed settled agriculture. This was a monumental change. Instead of wandering around hunting and gathering food, humans could now grow their own. They also began pastoralization, or raising livestock. This helped lead to permanent settlements and the rise of civilizations.

Period 2 - Organization and Reorganization of Human Societies, from 600 B.C. to 600 A.D.

This period concerns the rise of powerful early civilizations, such as the Greek and Roman empires. During this period, religious, political, and ethnic differences became pronounced, dividing humans into a host of different groups. Belief systems and culture became codified. Civilizations became more advanced as the state emerged as a powerful entity. Increasingly, people groups became subjugated to other people groups. Transregional trade also became important, as groups from Europe, for example, traded with Asian groups via the Silk Road.

Period 3 - Regional and Transregional Interactions, from 600 to 1450 A.D.

This period emphasizes the continued advances in commerce and communication throughout various world regions. During this period, cross-cultural interactions led to the diffusion of new ideas and technologies. The state assumed a central role in promoting commerce. During this time, Islam, a religion based on the teaching of the prophet Muhammad, emerged in the Arabian peninsula. Clashes between Christians and Muslims, epitomized by the Crusades, became common. Innovations in industry and agriculture spread throughout Eurasia and Africa.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Additional Activities

Prompts About Periods of World History:

Graphic Organizer Prompt 1:

Create a poster, chart, or some other type of graphic organizer that lists the three main ages of world history. Also make sure your graphic organizer defines the use of BC/BCE and AD/CE.

Example: The Modern Age refers to 1500 to the present.

Graphic Organizer Prompt 2:

Make a poster, chart, or some other type of graphic organizer that lists and briefly describes the six periods of AP world history. Make sure you list the dates of each period and note the characteristics of each.

Example: Period 3, the period of Regional and Transregional Interactions, lasted from 600CE-1450 CE, and saw the growth of the Islamic religion.

Essay Prompt 1:

In at least one page, write an essay that describes Period 1 of the Six Periods of World History mentioned in the lesson. Make sure that your essay explains the significance of the Neolithic Revolution, as well as the concept of big geography.

Example: During the Neolithic Revolution, human beings developed farming.

Essay Prompt 2:

Write an essay of at least three to four paragraphs that describes the characteristics of Periods 2 and 3 of world history. It might be helpful to compare and contrast these two periods.

Example: Trade was important in Period 2 and increased in importance in Period 3.

Essay Prompt 3:

In approximately one to two pages, write an essay that explains the themes in Periods 4, 5, and 6 of world history. It might be helpful to discuss each period's similarities and differences. Also make sure that your essay defines capitalism and imperialism, and explains how these concepts have been integral in world history.

Example: In Period 4, seafaring exploration led to a new awareness of the world and also to colonization.

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it now
Create an account to start this course today
Used by over 30 million students worldwide
Create an account