A General Historical Timeline

Here is where I’ll be adding general notes from my study of history. Each event will, when applicable, link to resources going into more detail. My hope is that this will serve as a helpful guide for others who are also interested in the grand sweep of history.

For those who are interested in seeing the “big picture” of world history, I recommend 3 resources:

1. The Wall Chart of World History, by Edward Hull. This excellent wall chart comes with a wonderful book that covers each of the major empires/civilizations. Each empire is covered in 2-3 pages, so you won’t get depth, but it’s a great primer.

2. A Little History of the World, by E. H. Gombrich. It was written as a children’s book, but, like the Wall Chart book, it’s an excellent primer on world history. Written in 1935, it has a gentle Western bias, but has a surprising warmth to other world cultures, and the author never condescends to other cultures.

3. David Christian. He’s written a phenomenal book, Maps of Time, and done some wonderful lectures on what he calls “Big History.” Big History is exactly what it sounds like: the story of absolutely everything. Check out his TED talk, “The History of Our World in 18 minutes.” He’s a very serious historian, though his talks are really fun. But his book tips the scales at about 660 pages, so it’s not for the faint of heart.


(For details on the references, see the Bibliography below.

Van Leeuwenhoek discovers spermatazoa and red blood cells, as well as microorganismsScience
1790sMechanical telegraphs enter use in France; by 1799, when Napoleon seized power, telegraph stations were commissioned all the way to Milan.Technology
1837French law prohibits "unauthorized transmission of signals from one place to another" in reference to telegraphs (still mechanical). Telegraphy is used only for government purposes.TechnologyGleick, 135-6
1838Samuel Morse proposes his electric telegraph to French authorities, who refuse him.TechnologyGleick, 136
1851-2Whipple and Bond produce daguerreotypes of the moon, which capture the public's imaginationTechnology
1880-1907From The Mother Tongue: “Between 1880 and 1907, fifty-three universal languages were proposed”. (Taken from Baugh and Cable, A History of the English Language, p. 7)LanguageBryson, 190
1895Moving photography premiersTechnology
1895X-rays discoveredMedicine
1896Crookes gives presidential speech to SPR, claiming that discovery of X-rays shifted our sense of reality from tangible to a universal sensation of vibration, perhaps extending even to consciousness.Science



Bryson, Bill. “The Mother Tongue – English and How It Got That Way.” New York: William Morrow, 1990.
Gleick, James. “The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood.” New York: Vintage, 2012.

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