Saturday, August 25, 2007

Twelve World History Dates You Should Know

History can be overwhelming: there are just so many stories that it can be difficult to keep them all in context. One date seems to dislodge another in our brains, its place in the overall picture fluctuating every time we cram our mental timelines with a new one.

Would you like to give your student a framework on which ot hand it all? These twelve dates are fundamental to the history of mankind for the phenomenal ripple effects: the foundations they laid shaped world events for centuries afterward. We know that God uses human events to realize His will for us, even when we cannot immediately see His hand. These important dates can give your history curricuum a sturdy backbone and a distinct perspective on the working out of God’s plan of salvation throughout the ages.

Children who are about third-grade age can memorize this list of dates, placing it in the context of the Bible history they already know to aid in retention. (Charting dates on a physical timeline will reinforce both context and memory too.) As your student fleshes out his lessons over the middle school years, you can discuss the events in more detail. Older students can refer back to the list of milestones as their deepening perception brings the significance of these dates into sharper relief.

1. About 1000 B.C.—David becomes the second king of Israel. In David’s reign, Israel’s history reached its pinnacle. Israel is significant in world history as an ancient civilization and as center of the first major monotheistic religion. David’s reign was the golden age of the Old Testament, a time when the Israelites were rewarded with national prosperity, political power, and military victory. God’s promise of eternal kingship to the house of David foreshadowed the coming of a kingly Messiah and thus the redemption of man from Adam’s inheritance of death.

2. 753 B.C.—Romulus founds Rome. The story of Romulus and his twin brother Remus is more than half legend, but the Eternal City he started endures as a major cultural epicenter to this day. It emerged as an important Italian political state and rose into a powerful empire that spanned most of the known world. As the Roman Empire declined, the city remained important both religiously and politically as the seat of Christianity during the turbulent Dark Ages. Rome flourished physically and culturally in theRenaissance—which began in Italy—and into the nineteenth century when the pope lost civil control of the city to Italy. It remains a religious capital today, and its longevity and importance are unparalleled in all of history.

3. 336 B.C.—Alexander the Great becomes king of Macedonia. When Alexander succeeded Philip II of Macedon, he embarked on a campaign that etended Greek civilization throughout the East. The Greek Empire flourished during his reign, from which rose the Hellenistic Age and its spread of Greek culture throughout the known world. This extension of Greek civilization had several important effects, among them the adaptation to one common and cosmopolitan culture, a sort of priming for the rise of the Roman Empire, and major advances in math and science.

4. 4 B.C.*--The Word of God becomes human and is born in the person of Jesus. When God brought His entire plan for man’s salvation to fruition, He did it by entering radically into human history: a created woman conceived the second Person of the Trinity. He lowered Himself to become human, and in doing so, He elevated us to the point that some day in eternity we shall “judge angels” (1 Corinthians 6:3, NASB).

5. A.D. 29—Jesus is crucified and rises from the dead. This is the climax of salvation history and the event that gives rise to the single most culturally influential force in the history of the world. Nothing has shaped human civilzation as extensively as Christianity has, and nothing will ever as radically transform the destiny of man again until the end times.

6. A.D. 622—Mohammed flees from Mecca to Medina. This event marks the birth of Islam Mohammed’s claims as a prophet who succeeded Jesus converted thousands and displaced Christianity in the Arab world. Islam’s effect on the sociopolitical atmosphere of the world was swift; it spread rapidly and aggressively (often by violence) into Africa and Europe in only a century. This threat to the religious, political, and social structure of Europe eventually led to the Crusades, the first one launched in 1095 in response to Muslim persecution of Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land and to Turkish expansion toward Constantinople. Over Centuries of conflict, the radical spread of Islam slowed but has maintained a steady growth; today it is quickly replacing the Christian population and is possibly soon to become the majority religion in Europe.

7. A.D. 1066—William the Conquereor wins the Battle of Hastings in England. With William the Norman’s invasion of England and accession to the crown, the political system of England changed—Anglo-Saxon nobility was out and Norman-French nobility was in. The Germanic composition of English culture gave way to the Latin-based language and French culture of the invaders, and Christianity took precedence over the pagan cult religions of various tribes. The Norman Conquest permanently changed the national character of England, which over the next millennium became and remained one of the most powerful nations of the world.

8. A.D. 1215—King John sisngs the Magna Carta. Yes, this is the evil “Prince John” of Robin Hood villainy. His malignant and wasteful governance caused the English land barons to unite against him, compelling him to sign this “Great Charter.” The Magna Carta was a remedy for the abused notion of rule by divine right; it codified the concepts of personal rights and of the king’s subjection to the law of the land. It affirms the principle that all are accountable to the King of kings, and it is considered the basis for modern law and government.

9 A.D. 1492—Christopher Columbus lands in the New World. Though evidence indicates tha other explorers sailed west to the Americans well before Columbus, it was his discovery of these lands that brought them to the attention of powerful European rulers. Exploration of this uncharted area opened up entire new worlds—societies, resources, opportunities—and brought Christianity and Western civilization’s learning and culture into the New World.

10. A.D. 1776—The American colonies break away from England with the Declaration of Independence. These early Americans were rebelling against systemic tyranny under English monarchy. Their vision of a representative republic was a bold experiment in self-government, and its success influenced the world both as a model of government and in the nation it eventually produced—a major political power and a leader in the dominant Western civilization.

11. A.D. 1945—The use of the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki ends World War II. First, the “innovations of World War I changed warfare forever. Then, the manmade catastrophes called A-bombs demonstrated how cience had harnessed the awesome powers locked inside the building blocks of creation and how they could be put to ruinous use. The arms race that followed led to very real fears that our harness on these awesome powers and, more importantly, our civilized society was chillingly tenuous. This kind of warfare and capability for massive-scale destruction remains today and reminds us of humanity’s need for humility.

12. Fill in your birth date here! Yes, your existence is one of the most important events in history. All of time has come together to produce the unique indivudal that is you. All the civilizations, wars, inventions, and journeys of peoples past were a chain reaction to make you—specifically you—come into being. Jeremish 1:5 shows us that God has a specific plan, an appointment for each individual, and He set it into motion long ago.

*People in the sixth century determined the year of Jesus’ birth and began their calendar there, calling it anno Domini 1 (A.D.), or “in the year of our Lord.” Historians have computed that this date is a few years too late, but it was already too firmly established to change the records of history since then.

(Published in the Spring 2006 issue of Homeschooling Today.)

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