World 750 CE
Between them, two enormous empires span the entire Eurasian landmass between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. They house the leading civilizations of the day.
World history in the year 750 - the early medieval world
The rise of Islam
The outstanding development in world history at this time has been the rise of Islam. This has been the work of Arab armies, whose conquests have reshaped the map of the Middle East and beyond.
Every neighboring region has been affected by this development, to a greater or lesser extent. The Arabs have brought a vast territory under their control, with chunks of both Europe (in Spain and Portugal) and the Indian sub-continent (most of modern-day Pakistan) falling to them. West Africa is beginning to feel the impact of Islam as Muslim merchants bring their faith with them to the region, and Muslim armies have penetrated deep into Central Asia. Here they are encountering an expansionist Chinese empire. The clash between the two great powers of the period will result in the spread of a key technology in world history, when Chinese captives pass on the technology of paper-making to their Muslim captors.
The other great empire of the period is that ruled by the Tang dynasty of China. Under the Tang, China has been reunified and reinvigorated. This is a period of great artistic and literary achievement, and China acts as a powerfully attractive exemplar of civilization for its neighbors. Japan especially is experiencing a great cultural flowering at this time.
In western Europe, a simpler, less literate society has replaced the sophisticated urban civilization of Rome. The Christian Church now dominates the religious and cultural life of the region.
The Asian Steppes
On the steppes of eastern Europe and central Asia, the struggles between competing Turkic groups caused some to move westward, where they have posed a threat to the more settled societies of central and southern Europe. The Avars and the Bulgars are the most notable of these hordes.
In the mid-6th century, much of the steppes of central Asia fell under the sway of a Turkish confederacy. This extended its power right across from China to Europe. It soon divided into Eastern and Western halves, and on the western steppes a Turkic people called the Khazars seized the leadership in the early 7th century. The Khazars have had to fight hard to stop Arab armies from pushing into the steppes. Perhaps because of this their rulers have recently converted to the Jewish faith.
The Eastern Turkish confederacy lasted until 734, when it disintegrated into warring groups.
Africa has seen the emergence of kingdoms on the West African savannah south of the Sahara desert. Their wealth and power is based in control of the trade routes crossing the grasslands and reaching down into the forests to the south. On an island off the same continent, Madagascar, a group of settlers arrive who are related to the Polynesians of the Pacific. Their ancestors took to their boats thousands of years before, sailing from the coast of China – one of the most remarkable migrations in global history.
South Asia, South East Asia, and Oceania
India is now divided amongst numerous regional kingdoms. Culturally, the states of southern India are coming to the fore.
In South East Asia, a maritime power now dominates many of the coasts and islands of the region. This is the Srivijaya empire.
In Oceania, the Polynesians have completed their colonization of the central Pacific Islands by now.
For details of the different civilizations, click on the relevant timeline above.
More ‘Dig Deeper’ links may be found in the regional maps. To access, click on the markers in the world map.