This period came after the fall of Roman Empire in AD 476, when so-called barbarians (Germanic tribes) took over areas that had been under Roman control. It became known as the Dark Ages because there was very little writing, science or culture during this time. The lack of writing also means that we do not know much much about what happened. The early Middle Ages came to an end after the Norman Conquest when there was a revival in learning.
This was a very religious time. Most people believed in an all-powerful God, responsible for bringing order and prosperity. The Church was very influential and wealthy, and many great cathedrals and monasteries were built during this period. It was a great age of learning , and the first universities were founded in Bologna, then Paris and Oxford. Chartres Cathedral in France was built and the writings of Dante and Chaucer were published.
In 1492 Christopher Columbus discovered the America. This encouraged many Europeans countries to invade and conquer other smaller or weaker countries so they could use their resources, trade with them or use them as stopping points for their ships. Portugal gained control of what is now Brazil, and Spain took most of Latin America, as well as large parts of what is now the United States. The Dutch gained the Indonesian islands and the French took Canada. Britain was the most powerful colonizing power. It gained 13 colonies in North America, plus Australasia, some Caribbean islands and eventually, vast tracts of Africa and Asia, including India.
The Industrial Revolution began with the invention of steam power and steam-driven machinery (mainly used in the textile industry) in 18th-century Britain. During the following century inventions such as steam-powered ships and railways spread throughout the world. This revolution led thousands of people to leave the countryside and move to crowded slum towns where there were large factories employing huge numbers of workers. The new industries needed better transport to bring supplies and deliver finished goods, so a huge network of roads and canals was built during the 18th century, followed by railways in the 19th. The Industrial Revolution also led to a growth in child labour and a widening divide between rich and poor people.
During the 20th century advances in technology led to great changes in society and global politics. New weapons and military techniques changed the way wars were fought. Huge numbers of people died during WW I and II. During the cold war between the USA and the USSR there was no fighting, but both sides were afraid of the nuclear weapons they were developing. Factories began to mass-produce motorcars which ordinary people could afford. This allowed them to live further from their work placec and led to the building of suburbs all over the western world. Air travel, television and more recently the Internet have all enabled more people to experience the world beyond their own country.