Taylors Cloth proudly presents

‘Civilizations’ suit lining Series.


3500 BC

3100 BC

2600-2000 BC

1000 BC

550-330 BC

221 BC

27 BC–AD 476/1453

0 AD

300-900 BC

Early 7th century

8th–11th Centuries

Mesopotamia 3500 BC

The earliest evidence that has been found of complex societies comes from Mesopotamia – modern-day Iraq and Syria – in around 3500 BC. The mild wet winters and long, dry, hot summers characteristic of the area were ideal for growing crops, and it is here that plants were first domesticated. Importantly, the land was also located between two major rivers – the Tigris and the Euphrates


In Egypt, the mighty river Nile has been providing crop irrigation for millenia.

Over 2,500 years, the Pharaohs were recognized as Gods by the population. The time pharaohs spent preparing for death partially explains the dedication with which they built the great pyramids – in effect giant tombstones – between 2700 and 2200 BC. Incredibly, even today, nobody really knows how they were built. What we do know is that they were extremely tall structures for their time and beyond; the Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza, built over 4,500 years ago, was the tallest building on Earth until Lincoln Cathedral was completed in England in AD 1311.

2600 – 2000 BC

In the north-west of India, along the Indus River a civilization often known during its peak as the Harappan Civilization was born. Located in present-day Pakistan, Afghanistan, and along the Yellow River in China. Harappa – covered a huge area of land almost the size of western Europe.

Although a number of unanswered questions still remain about this society, partly due to the fact that its writing has still not been decrypted, their people were clearly advanced as they lived in brick and stone houses, cultivated wheat and barley, and irrigated fields. Moreover, both cities were laid out in grids and constructed in a similar manner, thus suggesting a social system.


It was in Canaan that the Hebrews, who had recently settled there after escaping slavery in Egypt, looked to build their own kingdom. Under attack from the Philistines, the Hebrews put aside their quarrels and at some point in the 10th century BC appointed Saul as the first king of their territory, Israel. The biblical stories of Samson, Samuel, Saul, and David and Goliath are all concerned with Philistine-Hebrew conflicts.

Finding themselves in a state of permanent war, and fearing that their culture might be lost, the Hebrews began to record their history, and continued to do so over the following centuries in writings that came to be known as the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.

(550–330 BC)

It was Cyrus who rebelled against the Medes, captured their king and built the Persia into the greatest empire the world had ever seen. Spanning from Egypt to present-day Afghanistan, the empire was built at a speed and on a scale as had never been seen.

When Cyrus and his army occupied Babylon in 539 BC, he freed the Hebrews from slavery and permitted them to return to their ancestral homeland, an action for which he was hailed as a liberator in the Book of Isaiah. Known as being benevolent and tolerant, Cyrus also declared the first Charter of Human Rights known to mankind.

The Unification of China
(221 BC)

Emerged as the strongest, partially thanks to its use of iron over the bronze weapons of its neighbors, was the western Chou state of Qin (pronounced Ch’in) from which, some have suggested, we get the name China. The leader who brought all these states together, and in effect became the first emperor of China in 221 BC, was named Shi Huang-Ti.
He also instigated the building of the Great Wall of China19 – the largest man-made structure in the world at over 6,000 km long – in order to protect his empire from the Huns, the same people that would attack the West several hundred years later.

The Roman Empire
(27 BC–AD 476/1453)

Roman Senate bequeathed to Octavian the name Augustus, meaning the exalted or holy one. As a matter of course, Octavian also became Princeps Senatus or leading man of the state. This later became the official title of the Roman emperors and gave us the word ‘prince’. One of his many titles. Emperor Augustus Caesar ruled with absolute power. Augustus was fortunate that the state treasury received an influx of wealth and tax revenue from the newly occupied territory of Egypt which became the new breadbasket of the Roman Empire.

There was enough money in the Roman coffers to allow Augustus to embark on a major public building programme and boast ‘I found Rome a city of brick and left it a city of marble.

According to the Christian New Testament, it was to register for such a census that Joseph and his wife Mary came to Bethlehem, a town in Judea in present-day Israel, where Mary gave birth to their son, Jesus.

Jesus: The Birth of Christianity

Jesus began spreading a message of love and peace in a period during which Judea was under the domination of a Roman occupying army. He challenged and angered the established Pharisee leaders, who successfully called for the Roman occupiers to crucify him for blasphemy.

His crucifixion in circa AD 28-29 was a catastrophe for his devotees. Shortly after his death, however, a large number of them claimed he had risen from the dead and had appeared to them. His resurrection became the basis of Christian belief from then on.By AD 380, Christianity had become the state religion of Rome. Today, Christianity is one of the major world religions and has influenced legal and political systems around the world, as well as our calendar, which is based around the birth of Christ.

The Mayan Civilization of Central America
(AD 300–900)

Building on the collapsed Olmec civilization, the Mayans became the foremost civilization in Central America for much of the first millennium.The Mayans developed several incredibly precise calendars without the use of any scientific instruments. Obsessed with time-keeping, they were even able to predict solar eclipses. One of these calendars prophesied doomsday, or the end of the world, on 21st December 2012, which fortunately did not occur!


From the 7th century, the Muslims also explored much of Africa, many centuries before the Europeans parcelled the continent up between them. Our knowledge of this continent’s history is hampered by an absence of written records. The lack of a major transport infrastructure, such as that created by the Romans and the Chinese, makes its history very disparate, and this is not helped by the lack of archaeological evidence. We do know, however, that the growth of Carthage stimulated trade across the desert, and that this trade grew further under the Romans, who named the continent Africa after a tribe living near Carthage called the Afri. It was Muslims who introduced the camel in great quantities, which helped develop trade further and indirectly aided the growth of regional powers such as the great West African empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhai, between the 7th and the 16th centuries. Much of what we know about African states in the 14th century comes from the writing of Abu Abdalla Ibn Battuta, a famous 14th century explorer, who spent almost 30 years travelling through the Islamic world, including northern Africa, India, Central Asia, China and the Middle East.

The Islamic Golden Age
(8th–11th Centuries)

In the Middle East, the new Islamic dynasty came to be known as the Abbasid Caliphate and is synonymous with the golden age of Islam. The Abbasids moved their capital from Damascus to Baghdad and through trade with the East and through its agricultural wealth, the city soon became one of the richest cities in the world. It remained the political and cultural capital of the Islamic world from that time until the Mongol invasion in 1258. As William Bernstein describes in ‘A Splendid Exchange’, ‘The Arabs, invigorated by their conquests, experienced a cultural renaissance that extended to many fields; the era’s greatest literature, art, mathematics, and astronomy was not found in Rome, Constantinople, or Paris, but in Damascus, Baghdad and Cordova.’29


About The Author

Christopher Lascelles

Christopher Lascelles studied modern languages and history at St Andrews University in Scotland. His first book, A Short History of the World, became a New York Times and Amazon bestseller and was translated into seven languages. He is currently writing A Short History of the Future. He lives in London with his wife and daughter. For More, Visit www.lascelleshistory.com

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