An Illustrated Guide to the 10 Events That Defined History and Changed the World

Note: Previously published on Hubpages.

Choosing the 10 most important events in history is one of the most difficult and controversial things to do. Why? Because history is more than a few hundred years long, and there is way too much bias in most lists.

I’ve attempted to create a list without that bias that manages to touch on the major events in history that ended up shaping the world. Some of the events were huge, yet impacted only a continent or two. Others literally touched every culture and brought them into a whole new way of thinking. Here is my humble attempt at the 10 most important events in history, not listed in any particular order.

The American Revolution

To many, this event was too localized to be considered part of a list that involves all of history. Yet, the shockwaves from this one event are still felt today. The American Revolution (1775–1783) took many ideas from the early civilizations of Greece and Rome and combined them with the Christian Bible to revolt against an authority that was unbending. They believed that every man (though, at the time, even that statement was narrowly defined) was equal and should be treated fairly. Only when the men and women of the new world rose up together was there a solid foundation for the beginning of a nation that in our modern world influences much around the globe. When an election is held in the United States, the world watches. The influence that America now has gives credence to the American Revolution being one of the greatest events in our history.

The Reformation

The Reformation (1517–1648) was one of the greatest events in European history. Prior to this period, the Roman Catholic Church had close to absolute control over the people and governments of the Christian world. It was when many of the learned men of the time began to question the practices of the church in comparison to the Bible that trouble arose. The intent of the Reformation was to reform the Catholic Church and bring it back to its biblical roots. The end result was a rending of the church into two factions: Catholics and Protestants. The Reformation brought the religious texts into the hands of the masses and began the decline of the Catholic power. Both the wars it caused and the actions of the famous historical figures it involved still continue to shape the world today. Thinking of this only as a European event could be erroneous. Because of the Reformation, much of the New World, known as the Americas, was shaped, missionaries increased in number throughout the world, and thinkers who rose up from the Renaissance could proclaim their discoveries and beliefs with less fear of persecution. The Reformation gave us free thought while holding us down to the basics of life.

The Life of Jesus of Nazareth

Whether you are a Christian or not, you cannot honestly say that the life of Jesus of Nazareth did not dramatically impact history. If you follow the dating system that we use today, you acknowledge his impact. This article is published in 2010 A.D. because approximately 2010 years ago, Jesus lived in Israel. At the time of his life, it might not have seen so dramatic to the world at large. He never traveled more than a few days’ journey from his hometown. It was only after he left earth that his teachings spread beyond his homeland and began to cause trouble for the ruling power of the time: Rome. When Roman rulers began to persecute the followers of Jesus, Christians, his life really began to ripple out around the globe. Over time, Christianity was accepted by the Roman rulers, which allowed it to spread even further. Today, Christianity is one of the largest religions of the world. Jesus set off an atomic religious bomb that is still felt today.

Tearing Down of the Berlin Wall

Tearing down a wall might not seem like much, but when you realize what all else came down with that wall, you begin to see it in a whole new light. At the end of World War II, there was relief at the downfall of a disturbed man who wanted to dominate the earth. However, there was also suspicion between countries and a desire to control as much land as possible. The nations that defeated Hitler and his friends began to quarrel amongst themselves. Should the defeated lands be democratic in nature or communist? The end result was a lesson from King Solomon: split the spoils down the middle. Germany was the embodiment of the war, and therefore, it became the most disputed area. In the end, it was split in half with one part under a communist government and the other under a more democratic style. Through the middle of Berlin, a large wall was built to separate the capital city and symbolize the wall that separated the communist world from everyone else. When the wall came down in 1989, it signified the end of communist rule and birth of the voice of the people.

World War II

This is one of the few wars that literally involved most of the world. The scarring from this six-year fight is still seen today in the demolished buildings and the tattooed numbers on the arms of POWs. There was no one main objective or enemy. There was no main front. It was composed of the European, African, and Asian segments of the war. It ripped through every economic level, race, religion, and culture. Country after country fell into other hands. Men, women, and children were killed by the millions. Many lost their loved ones and had to seek new lands to call home as there was so much devastation. World War II also led to the creation of the United Nations, a homeland for the Jews, and the beginning of the Cold War. The world had changed and was never to return to the innocence it once claimed. It was the unmasking of an underlying evil that took an ugly shape in the Cold War. Only as the truth of the massacres, plots, and campaigns have revealed themselves has the world truly begun to heal.

World War I

World War One (1914–1918) was once called the Great War. No one during that time could imagine anything worse. That is until they faced themselves with WWII and even more bloodshed. But WWI was not pushed aside. In fact, historian, George Kennan, said that all roads lead to WWI. In truth, Kennan was right on the money. WWII’s causes can be traced right back to WWI where so much was left undone and so much resentment and hatred brewed below the surface. It was the humiliation of Germany at the end of WWI that began the movement toward WWII. The hatred toward the world that many Germans felt led to the election of Hitler, the creation of concentration camps, and the fall of France, Poland, and many other countries. An unsatisfied closure to the Great War caused it to be the silence before the storm.

Gutenberg’s Printing Press

There is almost no other event that could be called as influential as the printing press that Gutenberg invented around 1440. Before this monumental creation, books were copied by hand. Laboriously, monks and other men of learning would spend hours and hours through the bright sunlight and the weak light of an oil lamp to make copies of religious texts, literature, and official documents. It could take years just to copy one book. When Gutenberg devised a printing press that could print copy after copy in just a small fraction of the time, the whole world changed dramatically. All of a sudden, everyone could have their own copies of the religious scriptures. They could read them for themselves. Political pamphlets could be made by the thousands and influence the masses like never before. Learning was not limited to a select few. It was available for all. Books were not just for the rich. They could be made for those of lower classes. Gutenberg’s press changed the political world, the religious world, and the everyday life of man. No more would we lean on a select few to direct us. We could take it for ourselves.

The Life of Muhammad

Just like the life of Jesus, whether you are a follower of Muhammad (570–630) or not, you cannot deny the impact his life has had on history. Before Muhammad rose up as the founder of Islam, the Middle East was full of small tribes that warred against each other continuously. Muhammad brought those tribes together and gave them a purpose and a reason to join forces. Though blood was still shed, it was not against each other. It was against those that threatened the new religion or fought against it.

After Muhammad brought together the Middle East, the region experienced the Islamic Golden Age from 786 to 1258 AD. This time is analogous to Europe’s Renaissance (though during this time, Europe was still in the Dark Ages). The region’s culture flourished and made many advances in fields including mathematics and science. The world benefited from Muslims’ discovery of the immune system, preservation of Roman and Greek texts, and invention of the number zero, the decimal system, and algebra. Even coffee was discovered during the Islamic Golden Age! The stability Muhammad brought to the region was one of the reasons that the culture was able to make such advances.

Since the birth of Islam, it has become one of the largest religions of the world. It covers the globe, and through many of its sects, it has influenced the world. The terrorist branches have reached out and impacted the daily lives of every person through their traveling procedures or just the way they go to work with extra security. The peaceful branches have given the religion a new revival. Muhammad changed the shape of the Middle East that is still changing today.

Pax Romana

This is the period of relative peace in the Roman Empire for about two hundred years. What was so special about this besides the fact that it was peace for an empire that loved to fight and in which bloodshed was part of the daily life was what the peace brought forth. During that time, many innovations were developed that are still used today. Roads of amazing engineering were built and linked the far areas of the vast empire like none other before them. A postal system was refined and utilized like never before. An explosion in the field of engineering gave us the arch, plumbing, and so many more cultural advances that were the basis of many of the things that we use each and every day of our lives. This period of peace allowed the warring empire to settle down and adjust to its new size and all its new family members. It developed a legal system like none other. It created a culture that is envied today in many aspects. This peace helped lay down the foundations of our world today.

The Renaissance

Nothing can compare to the age of the Renaissance. Ignorance was being pushed aside and the world was beginning to see the mathematics of a falling apple, the sparkle of a dewdrop, and the wonder of a distant star. It was during this time that great men and women questioned tradition and standing beliefs. People learned that there was still a lot to learn in this great world. The earth was not the center of the universe. There were planets besides our own. There was a world of mathematics that had functioned just under the surface where no man had yet looked. There was beauty in colors that art began to acknowledge and share with the whole world. The Renaissance gave us new light, pushing aside the Dark Ages when man was directed by superstition and fear. The Renaissance gave the unexplainable a face and a name. There would be no more fear. Curiosity was encouraged despite opposition from those that longed to remain in the past. The Renaissance was an awakening to the world and was the beginning of all our curiosity today.

In Conclusion

As I said, putting together this list was both difficult and controversial. Thinking about what has made the world what it is now is a challenging task that puts history in perspective. Around the world, countless people and events have contributed to how you live today. Trying to pinpoint 10 events is an exercise I’d invite you to try!

If you would like to learn more about any of the events listed, below is a list of online resources.

And if you have other events you wish were included in this list (or perhaps even an entire list of your own), please add it in the comments along with why you think those events are among the most important in history.

Formerly published on Hubpages but removed upon too many threats and publishing platforms caving to them.

Writer for ten years, lover of education, and degrees in business, history, and English. Striving to become a Renassiance woman.

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