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The land masses of Africa and Eurasia, together with adjacent islands, as a single spatial entity. The concept of Afroeurasia is useful in the study of both historical and contemporary social phenomena whose full geographical contexts overlap in one way or another the conventionally defined continents of Africa, Asia, and Europe. See also Afro-Eurasia.

Agrarian society
A society where agriculture, including both crop production and animal breeding, is the foundation of both subsistence and surplus wealth. To be distinguished from hunter-forager and pastoral nomadic societies.

The intentional cultivation of domesticated plants and animals.
Beginning about 12,000 years ago, the development of agriculture permitted unprecedented growth of human population and the emergence of towns, cities, and the centralized state. Scholars generally agree that agricultural economies developed in several parts of Afroeurasia and the Americas independently of one another.

AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)
A disease in which the immune system is weakened and less able to fight certain infections. AIDS is linked to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

A member of any of the native populations of the Americas; an American Indian or Native American.

A doctrine that the vital principle of organic development is immaterial spirit.

“Term coined in late nineteenth century that was associated with a prejudice against Jews and the political, social, and economic actions taken against them.” Jerry Bentley and Herb Ziegler, Traditions and Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past, 3rd ed., vol. 2 (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006).

A professional scholar in a branch of anthropology that documents similarities, differences and change among various human societies of the past. Archaeologists work with the material (physical) remains of societies. Their work provides the major source of information available on societies that did not have writing systems. Archaeologists also provide evidence that supplements written sources.

A privileged or ruling class, usually a small social minority. Often the hereditary nobility or major landowning class in a society. An “aristocrat” is a member of this upper class. Also “aristocratic,” as in “aristocratic government.” “Aristo” is from the Greek, meaning the “best.”

A group of hominid species ancestral to Homo sapiens. Australopithecines were bipedal but had brains about one third the size of modern Homo sapiens. These species appeared in Africa between four and three million years ago and died out about one million years ago. The best-known australopithecine remains are those of the creature named Lucy, who lived in what is today Ethiopia about 3.2 million years ago.

A state of economic self-sufficiency. A country’s policy of establishing economic self-sufficiency and independence.


The mutual transfer of goods or services not involving the exchange of money. Used as the common form of exchange before the invention of currency. The practice of bartering continues to one degree or another in all modern societies.

Belief system
A combination of ideas, values, and practices that serve a society's cultural needs. Belief systems include all religions, as well as philosophical, ethical, and moral systems.

Big Bang theory
The cosmological theory that the universe began as an infinitesimally small, dense, and hot entity. About 13 billion years ago the universe began to expand and continues to expand today.

The physical ability, characteristic of the genus Homo, to walk upright on two legs, thus freeing the hands to hold and manipulate objects or tools. “Homo sapiens is a bipedal species.”

Black Death
An infectious disease pandemic that spread from Inner Eurasia to China, the Mediterranean basin, and Europe in the mid-fourteenth century. The pandemic may have taken the lives of a quarter to a third of the populations of Europe, North Africa, and Southwest Asia. Scholars have conventionally attributed the pestilence to the infectious microorganism Yersinia pestis, which causes plague in both bubonic and pneumonic forms. Recent research, however, has challenged this theory, arguing that modern plague and the disease causing the Black Death are not identical.

A group of socialist revolutionaries which Vladimir Lenin led in a successful overthrow of the Provisional Government of Russia in 1917. The Bolsheviks founded the first Communist state in world history.

Literally, people of the bourg, or town. Men and women of the middle class, the mostly urban, affluent, business-oriented class. Historically, this group was situated socially between the landowning, aristocratic ruling class and the common population.


In Arabic, khalifa. In Sunni Muslim teaching, the successor to the Prophet Muhammad as rightful leader of the Muslim community chosen by a consensus of that community. In the Umayyad (661-750) and Abbasid (751-1258) dynasties, the Caliphs were also the heads of state and transmitted their authority to their descendants.

A person who designs or constructs maps or charts.

Cash crops
Crops grown for sale on the market rather than exclusively for local consumption and subsistence.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
Industrial chemicals that have contributed to ozone depletion in the stratosphere.

See Complex Society.

A form of social and political organization in which the fundamental principle of solidarity is kinship. Clans typically constitute two or more kinship groups within a tribe. Clan organization is common among pastoral nomadic and stateless societies.

Cold War
The ideological, political, and economic conflict and rivalry between the United States and its allies on one side and the Soviet Union and its supporters on the other side. Competition between the two alliances, which continued from the end of World War II in 1945 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, was carried on by strategies and tactics that did not involve sustained military conflict or, for the most part, the breaking of diplomatic relations.

Collective Learning
The view that the human species has a unique capacity to accumulate and share complex knowledge and to transmit this knowledge from one generation to the next.

The systematic exercise of political and military authority of an intrusive group of foreign origin over the population of a given territory. Often involves the colonizer asserting social and cultural domination of the indigenous population.

Columbian Exchange
The trans-oceanic transmission of plants, animals, microorganisms, and people that followed the establishment of regular contact between Afroeurasia and the Americas in the late fifteenth and the sixteenth centuries. Because life forms evolved separately in the Eastern and Western Hemispheres for millions of years, these transmissions had far-reaching biological, economic, cultural, and social effects on both American and Afroeurasian societies.

Commercial Diaspora
A network of merchants of common origin and shared cultural identity who lived as aliens in foreign towns to serve as agents and cross-cultural brokers for fellow merchants who moved along the trade routes connecting these towns. Examples are the ancient commercial diaspora of the Phoenicians and the medieval diaspora of Jewish merchants in the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean. Also trade diaspora. See diaspora.

Complex Society
A type of society characterized by all or most of the following features: dense population, agricultural economy, cities, complex social hierarchy, complex occupational specialization, centralized state, monumental building, a writing system, and a dominant belief system. To be distinquished generally from hunter-forager, pastoral nomadic, and small-scale agricultural societies. Civilization.

The fundamental laws, either written or unwritten, of a political body or state

Creation Myths
A type of myth that explains how the universe, the earth, life, and humankind came into being. Most societies in history have had creation myths.


The theory of biological evolution, including the principle of natural selection, based on the ideas of Charles Darwin (1809-1882).

The study of the size, growth, density, and other characteristics of human populations.

The scattering of a people of distinct regional, ethnic, or religious identity from the original homeland to other parts of the world. A diaspora may result from either voluntary or forced migration. Examples include the Jewish diaspora and the dispersion of people of African descent to the Americas and other regions as a result of slave trade. See Commercial Diaspora.

Divine Right
The theory that the legitimacy of a monarch or other head of state derives from God or other supernatural power. Contrasts with the modern theory that political sovereignty is determined by the will of the people.

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid)
The material inside the nucleus of a cell which carries genetic information for cellular reproduction.

The process whereby humans changed the genetic makeup of plants and animals by influencing the way they reproduced, thereby making them more appealing in taste, size, and nutrition, as well as easier to grow, process, and cook. Humans could not invent new plant species, but they could select plants that possessed certain observable mutations, that is, characteristics that made them desirable. Farmers could tend these mutants in ways that ensured their survival. The domestication of animals through selective breeding followed a similar process.


Ecological Niche
The environment within which an organism is adapted to live.

The aspect of biology concerned with the relations between organisms and their environment.

El Niño (El Niño Southern Oscillation)
The term describes both warming of the Pacific Ocean off Peru and Ecuador and the much more extensive interactions between sea and air that occur across the equatorial Pacific. An El Niño event involves warm changes in sea surface temperature combined with changes in sea level pressure across the tropical ocean. El Niño events typically last a year to eighteen months and may occur every few years. These events may bring torrential rains and floods to some regions of the world and prolonged droughts to others.

Prevalent in or peculiar to a certain area, region, or people, as an infectious disease.

A city whose commercial activity includes the transshipment or distribution of trade goods.

An individual who organizes, runs, and takes responsibility of a business or other enterprise; a business person; an employer; from the French verb entreprendre, meaning “to undertake” some task.

An outbreak of contagious disease affecting a significant portion of the population of a locality. See also Pandemic.

A single-celled or multicellular organism whose cells contain at least one nucleus. Animals, plants, and fungi, are all eukaryotes.

European Union
An institutional framework for achieving the economic, judicial, legislative, and social unification of Europe. Formally created in 1993, the European Union evolved from the European Community and earlier post-World War II institutions for cooperation among states.

"An increase in the range of humans wouthout any parallel increase in the average size or density of human communities, and consequently with little increase in the complexity of human societies. It involves the gradual movement of small groups into new lands, usually adjacent to and similar to those they have left." (David Christian, Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History [Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004], 190). Processes of extensification were characteristic of the paleolithic era in world history. See also Intensification.


The process of growing and harvesting domesticated plants and animals for food, fiber, and other commodities. Farming is characteristic of agrarian societies.

A political philosophy, movement, or government that exalts the nation, and often a socially defined race, above the individual and that advocates centralized autocratic government, strict economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition. Derived from the Italian fascismo and referring to a “bundle,” “fasces,” or “group,” specifically to a bundle of birch or elm sticks used in ancient Rome as a symbol of penal authority.

Fertile Crescent
An arc of
cultivable land characterized by wooded hillsides and alluvial valleys which runs northwestward along the Zagros Mountains of Iran, loops around the northern rim of the Syrian Desert, and extends southward parallel to the eastern shore of the Mediterranean. The Tigris-Euphrates and Jordan river valleys are also conventionally considered part of the Fertile Crescent. The earlist physical traces of farming settlements in the world are located in this region.
The Ameican scholar James Harvey Breasted invented the term in 1916.

Fossil Fuel Revolution
The extensive use of substances extracted from organic fossils, especially coal, coke, crude oil, and gasoline, as sources of energy. The fossil fuel revolution may be closely associated with the Industrial Revolution, initially with large-scale burning of coal to generate steam and to produce iron and steel in England in the later eighteenth century. In the past century the combustion of fossil fuels has contributed to increasing atmospheric pollution and global warming.


The process by which peoples around the world have become increasingly interconnected through rapid communication and transport. Globalization involves the intensification of economic, social, cultural, political, and biological interchange worldwide, resulting on the one hand in a general acceleration of change and on the other in efforts to strengthen the bonds of identity and community on the local and regional levels.

Global Warming
An increase in the earth's surface temperature caused by a rise in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide.

An organization having the power to make and enforce laws and to maintain social order over a territory or a group of people. A government may regulate society through a consensus of leaders, through democratic elections and decision-making, or through authoritarian force. In a state, the government is the central decision-making authority.

Great Arid Zone
The belt of arid and semi-arid land that extends generally northeastward across Afroeurasia from the Sahara Desert in the west to Manchuria (northern China) in the east. The Great Arid Zone has been home to both pastoral nomadic communities and to farming societies where water from rivers, wells, and periodic rainfall is available. In addition to the Sahara, the large deserts of the Great Arid Zone include the Arabian Desert, the Great Indian Desert, the Takla Makan Desert, and the Gobi Desert.

Great Depression
A period of global economic contraction that began in 1929 and that lasted in some regions until the late 1930s. The Great Depression affected production, trade, finance, employment, and standards of living throughout most of the world.

Great Dying
1. An extinction event that occurred about 250 million years ago and that wiped out many marine and land species.

2. The massive die-off of American Indian peoples that followed contact with humans from Afroeurasia beginning in the late fifteenth century. This mortality, which in some areas may have reduced populations by 90 per cent, followed the introduction from Afroeurasia of infectious disease microorganisms for which American Indians lacked immunities. Warfare, enslavement, and social disorder associated with European conquests in the Americas also contributed to high mortality. Only in the seventeenth century did indigenous populations begin to partly recover.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
The total market value of the goods and services that a country produces during a specific period of time. It includes final goods and services, that is, those that are not resold in any form. Per capita GDP in the total value of goods and services divided by the country’s population.


The Arabic term for the formal pilgrimage to the city of Mecca undertaken by Muslims as a religious duty. Islamic teaching enjoins Muslims to make the hajj at least once in their lifetime if they are physically and financially able.

The dominance or preponderant influence of one state or group over others. Hegemony may take military, political, economic, or cultural forms. Also “hegemonic,” as in “hegemonic power.”

This category in evolutionary biology includes all humans and their early ancestors within the primate family. Hominid species include the Australopithecines, Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Neandertal, and Homo sapiens. Until recently, most scholars agreed that all hominid species other than Homo sapiens became extinct about 28,000 years ago. Anthropolgists, however, have begun to study fossil evidence found in Indonesia that suggests the existence of a species (named Homo floresiensis) that may have lived as few as 13,000 years ago.

Homo Erectus
A hominid species and likely ancestor of Homo sapiens. Homo erectus was characterized by a prognathic jaw as well as a large brow and receeding forehead. This species emerged between and 2.4-1.6 million years ago and may have become extinct about 30,000 years ago.

Homo sapiens
The scientific name for anatomically modern humans, a hominid species that emerged between 150,000 and 150,000 years ago. eventually displacing all other hominid species. The development of the frontal lobe of the brain was a key factor differentiating this species from other hominid species. The average human brain is larger than that of other hominids. The oldest fossils have been found in Africa. Fossil evidence and more recent DNA analysis indicates that Homo sapiens evolved in East Africa and subsequently displaced the Neanderthals and any other hominid types that shared the planet.

Also hunter-foragers. Humans that rely on naturally occurring sources of food, obtained by scavenging, gathering, or hunting. Because hunter-gatherers require much more extensive land areas from which to secure food than do farmers or stock-raisers, their communities have necessarily been small. Hunter-gatherer communities were the exclusive form of human economic and social organization until the emergence of farming about 12,000 years ago. Today, hunter-gatherer groups account for only a tiny percent of the human population.


Import substitution industrialization (ISI)
An economic policy that promotes substituting locally made products for imported products, usually manufactured goods. National advocates of import substitution typically support domestic industrialization and protective tariffs.

Indentured servant
A person who has contracted to perform labor for another for a specified period of time; an institution commonly used to acquire labor for service in European colonies in the Americas between the sixteenth and eighteenth century; the “indenture,” a form of contract, often included a provision to transport the laborer to the place of service free of charge.

Also the Industrial Revolution. The process beginning in the eighteenth century CE whereby humans exploited fossil fuels and related technologies to mass produce goods with machines on an unprecedented scale and to distribute those goods worldwide. Industrialization is also associated with an accelerating global population growth rate , large-scale urbanization, complex technological advances, and great intensification of human intercommunication and interchange.

Inner Eurasia
The huge interior land mass of Eurasia, whose dominant features are flat, semi-arid regions of steppe and forest. Inner Eurasia generally corresponds to the territories ruled by the Soviet Union before its collapse, together with Mongolia and parts of western China. Poland and Hungary to the west and Manchuria (northeastern China) to the east may be thought of as Inner Eurasia's borderlands. The northern margins are boreal forest and Arctic tundra. To the south are the Black and Caspian seas and the Himalayas and other mountain ranges. A mountain-free corridor connects Inner Eurasia to Iran.

"New technologies and lifeways that enabled humans to extract more resources from a given land area." (David Christian, Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History [Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004], 207). Intensification is associated with the emergence of agriculture about 12,000 years ago and with the subsequent unprecedented increase in the size and density of human populations in some regions. See also Extensification.




The title of a Turkic or Mongol tribal leader; a common title of sovereigns in Inner Eurasia. The feminine form is khatun, a title typically carried by wives and daughters of khans.


League of Nations
The predecessor of the United Nations, the League of Nations was created in 1919 in the aftermath of World War I for the purpose of mediating international disputes and preventing armed conflicts between countries.

A political and social philosophy rooted in eighteenth-century Europe that champions civil liberties, property rights, self-determination, and the reduction of the state's political and economic power over the individual. In the twentieth century, however, liberalism became associated in the United States and to some extent in Europe with advocacy of the use of government power to achieve more equitable distribution of wealth and to further the political rights and economic status of both the poor and disadvantaged minorities.

Life expectancy
The probable life span, or the expected age at death, of an individual; a statistical determination of the probable life span of an individual or category of persons.

A form of social and political organization in which the fundamental principle of solidarity is kinship. A lineage is typically a local kinship group of several generations, both living and deceased individuals. Several lineages may constitute a clan.

Logographic writing system
A system of writing in which signs, or characters represent meanings rather than the sounds of speech as in an alphabetic writing. In logographic systems a single character may represent an entire word or phrase.
Chinese is the most widely used logograhic system today.


Any warm-blooded vertebrate of the class Mammalia that feeds its young with milk from the female and that has body hair, for example, dogs, apes, and human beings.

Manhattan Project
A secret operation undertaken in the United States in 1942 to develop atomic weapons for potential use in World War II. The U.S. dropped two atomic bombs on Japan in 1945.

The formal or informal emancipation or freeing of a slave. Historically, manumission was often accomplished by legal action.

A variant of socialism based initially on the ideas of Karl Marx (1818-1883). A theory that economic interests fundamentally determine human behavior, that struggle among socio-economic classes is the drive-wheel of history, and that establishment of a “dictatorship of the proletariat” (working class) will lead to a classless society.

A city in the western Arabian Peninsula and birthplace of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, in the seventh century CE. Although Mecca never became a large city, it is Islam's holiest center and the principal destination of Muslim pilgrims making the Hajj.

An economic philosophy and set of state policies that encouraged government action to build the country’s wealth by increasing its reserves of precious metals. Mercantilism promoted state intervention to increase exports and limit imports in order to accumulate surpluses of gold. Mercantilist ideas guided European states in the early modern era up to the early nineteenth century, when the liberal ideology of free trade and limited government interference in commerce superseded it.

The part of North America that includes modern Mexico and the states of Central America.
Mesoamerican civilizations included the Olmec, Oaxacan, Teotihuancan, Maya, Toltec, and Aztec. The combining word "meso," meaning "middle," is from the Greek.

A person of mixed Spanish and Native American ancestry.

The political and administrative center from which an empire is ruled; an empire's "mother country." For example, France was the metropole of the French empire.

Modern Revolution
The profound changes for humankind and the earth’s natural and physical environment associated primarily with unprecedented global population growth, industrialization, and the accelerating consumption of fossil fuels (fossil fuel revolution). The Modern Revolution got underway in the eighteenth century CE and continues today.

Exclusive control of a product or service in a market; an exclusive privilege to undertake production or trade that is granted by a sovereign state; a firm or corporation that possesses exclusive control of a production process or commercial market, especially involving the ability to manipulate prices.

The doctrine or belief that there is one God.

A rainy season that endures for several months in a particular region. The term also typically refers to the seasonal winds that dominate the Indian Ocean basin. These winds blow generally from southwest to northeast in the summer months (April to October) and from the northeast to the southwest in the winter months (November to March). For thousands of years, knowledge of the monsoon wind cycle has allowed mariners to sail from one part of the Indian Ocean to another with fair speed and predictability.

Multinational corporation (MNC)
A corporation or other business enterprise that has significant production facilities or other fixed assets in more than one country; also, transnational corporation.


A community of people who believe they share a common culture, history, and future destiny. The members of the nation typically believe that they share rights, including the right to occupy a territory and to constitute a sovereign government to rule that territory.

A sovereign state that generally coincides with, or aspires to coincide with, a single national community or nation. A state, on the other hand, may also be multinational, for example, an empire.

The modern ideology based on the principle that an individual's loyalty and dedication to the national community or nation-state surpasses loyalty to any other group interest. The scholar Benedict Anderson characterized the national community as an “imagined community:” its members do not for the most part know one another but nonetheless have common bonds of aspiration and loyalty.

Natural philosophy
The study of nature and the physical universe. The intellectual discipline that prefigured modern science.

An ancient hominid species (Homo neandertalensis) that lived during the late Pleistocene Age mainly in
Europe, Southwest Asia, and North Africa. The species had more advanced tool-making ability than earlier species. Physically Neanderthals were characterized by thick bodies, a flat forehead, and a pronounced brow. The species had a brain case similar in size to humans, but the frontal area was less developed. There is no evidence that Neanderthals possessed language. Homo sapiens replaced Neanderthal populations throughout their habitat, leading to their extinction by about 28,000 years ago.

Neolithic Age
The period from about 12,000 to 6,000 years ago, when humans domesticated plants and animals and took up ways of life centered on agriculture. The invention of more sophisticated, versatile stone tools also characterized the period, thus neolithic, or "new stone" age.

Newly Industrialized Country (NIC)
A country that has developed an industrial economy in the later twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Among the mostly commonly cited NICs are Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, and Brazil.

Non-aligned state
A state that is not politically allied with any other state or bloc of states; politically neutral.

Non-governmental organization (NGO)
A voluntary, non-profit citizens' group organized on a local, national, or international scale to undertake a wide variety of projects, including advancement of human rights, social progress, citizen political participation, environmental protection, community development, and international cooperation.




A typically multi-storied memorial structure built in connection with a temple or monastery, usually Buddhist. .

Paleolithic Age
The era from approximately 2.5 million to 12,000 years ago when Homo sapiens and its hominid ancestors relied on a technology principally of tools and weapons fashioned principally of stone. Scholars commonly divide the paleolithic into three periods: lower (2.5 million - 300,000 years ago), middle (300,000 - 40,000 years ago), and upper (40,000 - 12,000 years ago). In each of these periods humans or their ancestors produced increasingly varied and useful stone technologies.

An expert on animal life of the distant past, studied mainly from evidence of fossilized remains.

An outbreak of contagious disease that is not confined to a single locality but spreads from one locality to the next, possibly over a great distance. The Black Death of the mid-fourteenth century was a pandemic that reached across Afroeurasia. The influenza pandemic of 1918 was worldwide. See also Epidemic.

Pastoral Nomadism
An economy and way of life centered on the raising of domesticated animals such as cattle, horses, sheep, or camels. This economy is an adaption to arid or semi-arid land, such as the steppes of Inner Eurasia, where farming is either limited or impossible. Pastoral nomadic communities typically move their herds or flocks seasonally in search of pasture and water. Pastoral nomadic societies probably emerged in the third millennium BCE.

A society in which males are socially and politically dominant over women. All complex societies have been more or less patriarchal, though in the past two centuries women have in many part of the world gained legal and civil rights that have helped to constrain patriarchal attitudes and behavior.

Pax Mongolica
Mongol Peace; the period from approximately 1260 to 1350 CE when Mongol states maintained order in a large part of Eurasia and when commercial and cultural exchange across Afroeurasia intensified.

In the study of history, periodization is the dividing or categorizing of time into separate sections. Historians periodize the past for a number of reasons. “One is simply to identify and isolate chunks of time in order to study them one by one, since all periods cannot be studied simultaneously. A second is to distinguish one cluster of interrelated historical events from another in order to discover patterns of change. A third is to identify significant shifts in those patterns in terms of discontinuities or turning points, which serve as the start and end of periods. A four is to highlight trends or events that appear dominant or important during a particular span of time.” (Ross E. Dunn, ed., The New World History: A Teacher’s Companion [Boston: Bedford St. Martin’s, 2000], 359.)

Plantation Complex
"An economic and political order centering on slave plantations in the New World tropics." Philip D. Curtin, The Rise and Fall of the Plantation Complex (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990), ix.

Plate Tectonics
The science dealing with the forces or conditions within the earth that cause movements in the earth's crust, notably the study of when and how large plates, or sections of the earth's crust moved, separated, and came together to form large land masses, or continents; the study of continental drift; because large land masses have in geologic time been joined or separated (sometimes by wide oceans) over spans of millions of years, the history of continental drift is closely related to evolutionary biology.

A political or social ideology emphasizing advancement of the rights and interests of common people. From the Latin word populus, the people.

Pre-Columbian America
The period of North and South American history before Christopher Columbus initiated sustained intercommunication between the Americas and Afroeurasia; history of the Western Hemisphere up to 1492; sometimes labeled the Pre-Contact Period.

Primary and secondary sources
Primary sources are items of historical evidence, including both written documents (legal contracts, government papers, personal letters, bills of sale, biographies) and artifacts (material objects, works of art, elements of language) that were generated during or relatively close to the historical period being studied. Secondary sources are documents, mainly books, articles, and illustrations, based on primary sources and generated some time after the historical event which they describe or interpret.

The order of mammals that are large-brained, live mostly in trees, and have the ability to see three-dimensionally.
This order includes humans, all hominids, apes, chimpanzees, and monkeys.

An economic philosophy or policy advocating government protection of domestic agriculture and industries from foreign competition by institution of tariffs, quotas, or other restrictions on foreign imports.




A drastic change in a political system, institution, condition, or idea. A revolution may be political, social, economic, or cultural.


Scientific Revolution
The intellectual and cultural movement centered in Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries which led directly to the emergence of the modern sciences; the method of scientific investigation was characterized by systematic observation of natural and physical phenomena, controlled experimentation, and the rendering of hypotheses and conclusions in mathematical formulas. The Scientific Revolution built on the great store of knowledge that had accumulated in Afroeurasia, notably in China, India, Southwest Asia, and North Africa, during preceding millennia.

Pertaining to worldly, as opposed to supernatural or religious, beliefs, values and behavior. Any movement that questions or rejects religious faith or the social influence of religious organizations and hierarchies. Secularization is any social process that strives to imbue society with secular values. In the Christian tradition, the term “secular” is also used to refer to members of the clergy who live “in the world,” that is, who have not taken monastic vows or live in a monastery.

The practice of residing iving in a specific locality, as opposed to a mobile way of life centered on hunting and gathering or on pastoral nomadism. Farming societies are necessarily sedentary.

An individual believed to have power to communicate with supernatural forces and through these interventions to heal, bring blessings, or foretell the future. Belief in the power of shamans, or shamanism, has been a mark of traditional religion among pastoral nomadic peoples of Inner Eurasia, though the term has been applied throughout the world to local healers, doctors, diviners, and others believed to have the ability to communicate with the world beyond.

Silk Roads
A 4,000 mile-long complex of trade routes that ran generally east and west across Inner Eurasia and that carried goods, people, technologies, and religious ideas between major centers of complex society. The term refers to the silk textiles that constituted an important item in overland trade from China to India, Persia, and the Mediterranean lands.

The state of an individual held in servitude as the property, or chattel, of another individual, a household, or the state; the practice of owning slaves. The legal, economic, moral, and personal condition of slaves have varied widely in history from one society to another.

Southwest Asia
The region of Afroeurasia extending from the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea to Afghanistan, including Turkey and the Arabian Peninsula. The common term for this region has conventionally been the Middle East or Near East. Many scholars, however, now regard these expressions as obsolete, except in the context of the history of the past century or so, because these terms evoke a specifically European perspective on the world, that is, that all of Afroeurasia may be thought of as constituting two primal zones, the West (Europe) and the East (all lands east of Europe).

A state’s authority, claimed to be absolute in matters of law within its own borders. Members of the United Nations, for example, are sovereign states. A monarch is also sometimes referred to as the “sovereign.”

Standard of living
The level of subsistence or comfort that a group or individual is able to maintain in daily life; an economy’s ability to produce the material goods and services that individuals want or need; a society’s average per capita gross domestic product.

A population and territory over which a central government holds authority.

Flat or rolling grassland characterized by semi-aridity. Equivalent to what Americans call "prairie" and Argentineans call "pampas."

A title designating rulership of a Muslim state, usually implying administrative and military authority as opposed to religious leadership. A sultanate is a state headed by a sultan.

A blend or combination of different beliefs and practices, usually religious; the adoption of one group’s religious or other cultural beliefs and practices by another group.


A form of authoritarian government in which the political and military leaders attempt to intervene in and control both the public and private lives of citizens, typically through coercion and violence.
The Soviet Union under Stalin and Nazi Germany under Hitler are the prime examples of totalitarian government in the twentieth century.

A form of social and political organization in which the fundamental principle of solidarity is kinship. The members of a tribe claim to be descended from a common ancestor. A tribe is typically the largest group in a region claiming shared descent. Tribal organization is common among pastoral nomadic and stateless societies. In tribal societies, individuals identify primarily with kinship groups rather than with a specific geographical territory.


Upper Paleolithic
The period from about 40,000 to 12,000 years ago when humans invented a range of new specialized tools, including fine, multi-purpose stone blades, that gave men and women increasing control over their local environments. Although recent evidence suggests that humans acquired symbolic language and the capacity for artistic expression in Africa between 75,000 and 90,000 years ago in Africa, the Upper Paleolithic witnessed numerous technical and social breakthroughs, including increases in the size of hunter-gatherer communities; larger, more permanent dwellings, the construction of boats, and production of jewelry, sculpted images, and cave paintings.

The growth of urban areas, or cities; the movement of people from rural communities to cities.




World religion
A belief system that embraces people of diverse languages and cultural traditions and that has had significant influence on the course of human history. The major world religions are Buddhism, Christianity, Daoism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. Confucianism is a major belief system, though some scholars reject classifying it as a religion because it addresses mainly moral and ethical issues rather than the spiritual or supernatural realm.







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