HBC is building a chronology describing the development of boys' clothing styles. Our focus is on the modern era. Yet it is not possibe to fully understand the modern era without an assessment of earlier periods. Thus we have decided to provide some basic background history on human civilization from the dawn of man. We will not pursue these early epocs in the same detail as the modern era, but we believe that it is esential to look at ancient civilizations to begin our assessment of clothing and fashion. We also think that a basic historical perspective is essential to understand the wider cultural context needed to under stand not only fashion, but economics and many other deciplines. We have been very concerned in recent years over the politization of so much of the history appearing in the media and popular culture. Here we will endevor to provide a fact-based assessment of the historical experience.
Man has stared up and wondered about the Cosmos since the dawn of time. Only in our modern age have we begun (and we stress the term begun) to understand the Cosmos which is now called the universe. Human life constitutes a miniscule time in the history of the universe. While not directly related to our study, cosmology is of interest because it places human history in a useful perspective. For a time after cosmologists debated the origins of the universe. There were two important theories, the steady-state concept and the Big Bang, a term once derisively created to denegrate the concept. Today cosmologists universally accept the Big Bang as the point of creation of the universeIt. It is an event which occurred about 14 billion years ago. Many astronomers now even offer a more specific time--13.7 bullion years ago. At this time matter, energy, and space exploded out of an unimaginably dense and poorly understood "singularity". It is not know how long this singularity existed or what caused it to become unstable. I have been somewhat confused, because there commonly is no discussion of what occurred before the Big Bang and what the eventual outcome will be. Many cosmologists appear to believe that ours is the only universe and time itself began with the Big Bang creating our universe. It appears more likely, however, that our universe is one of many--probably and infinite number. Our Big Bang is probably just one of the Big Bangs that have occurred over time in cycles that occur regularly, albeit over billions of years. They may involve the collision of processes generated by unidentified and unseen dimensions that are not yet known. Two scientists describe this as the Endless Universe. [Steinhart and Turok]
Scientists are providing increasingly precise concepts and dates about the origins of our planet and life on earth. The earth appeaers to be about 4.5 billion years old. We note more precise estimates of 4.55 billion years. The oldest known minerals are about 4.0-4.2 billion years old. Next to nothing of the early earth's surface (crust), however, still exists as a result of plate tectonics. The earth's surface is constantly being recycled. Amazingly, life appears to have originated fairly quickly in the earth's existence. There are no proven theories about just how life appeared. Many scientists claimed for some time that chemical processes were underway that can be called life about 4 billion years ago. The earliest fossils have been dated to about 3.5 billion years ago, but it is virtually certain that organisms existed earlier that did not leave fossilized remains as evidence of their existence. These estimates can be tinkered with, but the dates are more or less settled science. What is not settled and still hotly debated by scientists is the origins of life. Some believe life spontaneous generated on earth. Scientists do not, however, understand the process through which this occurred and have been unable to replicate it. This has led some scientiss to postulate that life as well as large quantities of water were delivered to the early earh by exterestrial bodies, probably commets. Many religious groups tend to prefer creation as an explanation of life. The origins of life is a subject that man has wrestled with from the very beginnings of his development as a thinking being with a concept of self. It has certainly been a subject that has obsessed religion from the very beginning of the civilization. We know much more about the religious concepts incivilized society because there are records and more archelogical artifacts. Every religion has developed the concept of a creation and a creator god. This appears to be a concept that virtually defines man. And with this concept fanciful creation stories were developed to describe the act of creation. As many modern religions are related, there are great similarities in the creation stories. And the creation stories of modern religions are not particularly less fanciful than the creation stories of ancient religions. This is because our modern religions are centuries old and were influenced by the religions prevalent in the cultures in which they developed. The development of science has for the first time created a basis for believing that life and man developed through natural processes and were not created. This process has come to be widely accepted in the modern world and even many religious people see no conflict with their religious belief. There has been, however, a historic conflict between scince and some religions. The conflict between science and Western Christendom is best known with the Catholic Church's trial of Galileo (16th century) and only recently has the Church exonerated Galileo. The connflict flared again with Darwin's publication of Origin of the Species (1859). And evolution conntinues to be a source of conflict between religion and science today. Christian Fundamentalists in America insist on draging evolution into the political arena. (This is of course because they can not compete in the scientific arena.) There is an even stronger anti-science strain in Islam which has resulted in the virtual elimination of serious science in the Muslim world since the fall of the Caliphate. Yet there need be no conflict between religion and science. Religion is a matter of faith and morality. And these are not subjects open to scientific inquiry. Only when religious people insist on literal interpretaions of religious texts describing natural events does conflict develop with science. But who is to say that God does not work through the laws of nature which religious people believe that he himself created. That evolution occurred is demonstrable in the fossil record. And science does not address the question of WHY these scientific processes exist. Science is concerned with understanding HOW they operate.
The widely accepted modern theory concerning the origins of man postulate that modern man as well as other advanced species are the result of a long line of evolution begining with life in the ancient seas. We can see that the basic template of early animals can be found in modern animals such as right and left sides that are roughly similar, spinalcords, four aprndages, binocular vision, and other similarities. The most famous proponent of evolutionary theory is Charles Darwin (1809-82) who authored The Origin of Species (1859) describing the theory of evolution which operated through selection of species. His work was based largely on observations which he made during his 5-year voyage around the world aboard the HMS Beagle (1831-36). It was a theory that revolutionized man's outlook and biological science. Darwin was aware that the basic theory was unsettling enough. Thus he focused on finches, tortoises, and other non-controversial species and avoided addressing apes and humans in any detail. The religious community understood instantly, however, just where Darwin's evolutionary theories led. Humans and modern apes (orangutans, gorillas, and chimpanzees) are highly similar which suggests a common ape-like ancestor. Modern DNA work shows that they are even more similar genetically than generally believed. Humans diverfed from oranatangs (about 15 million years ago) and gorillas (about 10 million years ago). The final break with our most closely related ape ancestprs (chimpanzees) came about 6 million years ago. Many scientists were generally astounded when DNA research has found how little modern man differs genetically from chimpanzees. Humans through a combination of environmental and genetic factors, emerged as a species with an unparalled capacity to create and use tools to both utilize resources as well as to modify the envitonment.
This began about 2 million years ago with the stone age. This meant that early homonoids for some 4 millio years was just another ape-like species. Despite the intensity of the debate which has not yet ended, mankind's origin has generally been explained from Darwin's evolutionary perspective. Darwin made some mistakes, but the basic outline ofn his monumental work remains unshaken and is part of the foundation for for modern biolgical science. Evolution like other major theoretical processes continued to be studied and modified as new findings are repoted, revisions to the theory are accepted, and earlier concepts disproven are discarded.
The stone age was the longest epic of human history. It is essentially synonamous with pre-history. Archeologists have divided the stone age into the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic. The terms and time frame have changed over time as archeologists have improved our understanding of early people. The Paleolithic was the early stone age. It is by far the eariest period of human existence. There is no precise date for the beginning of the Paleolithic period, but about 2 million years ago is a good rough estimate. It approximately marks the point at which people became human. Paleolithic people were nomadic hunter gatherers. Major advances such as tool work, the use of fire, and lanuage developed in the Paleolithic. The Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age is a relatively recent term. Other terms have been used. The term represents the need felt by archeologists to better describe the transituin from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic. During this period ground stone tools appeared they were much more finely fashioned than those used in the Paleolithic. The tools were commonly used for cutting and smoothing. Some may have been used for ornamentation. The people involved were still hunter-gathers. The Neolithic was the late stone age. This was when man began to settle down to form agricultural communities and has been called the Neolithic Revolution because of the dramatic accomplishments in laying the ground work of early agriculture. Many people mixed foraging with agriculture, but the groundwork for agriculture and animal husbandry was made during this period. There is considerable differece concerning the chronology of the stone age. A factor here is that the chronologies varied in different geographic areas.
Early archeologists began classifying ancient civilizations into eras describing their techolological level. The eras were based on their tool making abilities: stone, bronze, and iron ages. Some added the copper age, but this is more reasonably considered as part of the broze age. The earliest surviving tools were stones. Sticks, twigs, and other natural items were also used, but have not survived like stone items. Advances in metalurgy made possible magnificent bronze tools. Bronze tools appeared first because of the relatively low melting point of copper and tin. Iron developed much later because the high melting point required much more advanced metal working skills. While the stone age or pre-history has continued to be used by modern archeologists, a system based on the stone, bronze and iron age have gone out of fashion as more evidence has come to light showing a much more complex development of metal working technology than previously understood. In addition, other archeologists have questioned the focus on technological advances in understanding ancient peoples. Yet there are some basic insights available here that we think important to mention.
The Bronze Age is the last era of pre-history. Early humans began working with copper first because its low melting point and abundance made it the easiest metal to work with. Eventually it was discovered that by adding small quantities of tin (a more difficult metal to find and mine) or other metals that much harder tools and weapons could be fashioned. The important early river valley civilizations emerged during the bronze age and it is here that bronze was first developed. Bronze tools and weapons first appeared in Mesopotamia and Egypt (cloesly linked to Mesopotamia) about 2500 BC. Human exisited in other areas of course during the Bronze Age and bronze technology gradually spread around the world. A factor here was that metals were not abundant in the river valleys where the great civilizations rose. Thus metals like copper and tin had to be obrained through war or trade. Thus the Bronze Age reached the outlaying regions with metal resources. The Bronze Age reached Britain by 2500 BC. Britain of course had important tin mines. Because of the still primitive technology of most Bronze Age people, there are a limited mumber of monumental archeological sites outside the great river valleys. One of the best known such site is Stonehenge. Many important advances were made during the Bronze Age, including the use of draft animals, wheeled vehicles, and the potter's wheel. Bronze technology was adopted by both primitive agricultural socities as well as pastoralists which tended to be more war like. Some of these peoples used bronze weapons to press in on rich civilzations of the river vallies. One of the interesting historical processes is how barbarian groups could at times sucessfully confront the technologically more advanced and more populated civilizations. This is a process which continued into the modern world and was not finally ended until the invention of fire arms.
The coming of the iron age brought fundamental changs in human civiliztions. Iron was known to civilized society during the Bronze Age. Iron is the fourth most common element on earth, much more common than the bronze elements, copper and tin, I was not, however, commonly used for centuries because it was so difficult to use. The basic problem was h because of the higher smelting temperatures needed and which ancient metal workers fond difficult to achieve. Advances in metalury eventually enabled iron tools to be fashioned. Iron graduall replaced bronze over a broad time-line (bout 1100-500 BC). This occurred as metlurgical technology improved. Irom may hv been used ar a verry early period (about 3000 BC). This was because the mtal was so common, but for two millenia the usage was very limited because it was so difficult to work with. The time line for the more intensive use of iron varies geogrphically, primarily because of varied technolgical capabilities. The process seems to have first developed in the Middle East and southeastern Europe (about 1200 BC). For unknown reasons it developed in China much later (about 600 BC). Suddenly metal workers as technology developed began to relize the superior capabilities of iron (1200-1100 BC). It is at this time that we begin to see large numbers of iron tools and weapons and the rapid spred of iron working technolohy. As iron was so plentiful, ancient civilizations could make far greater use of metal. Even common people could have iron implements and tools. There were emense cultural consequences. New patterns of more permanent settlement developed. And iron weapons put military arms in the hands of the masses for the first time. Unyil the iron age, only very wealthy societies could afford the brone weapons needed to arm warriors. And even wealthy societies could only afford relatively small armies. It meant that amcient civilizations were commonly dominated by a small warrior elite. It also meant that settled agrrian states while rich, ncause of their small armies were vulnerble to the poorer nomadic steppe people. Iron created a new dynamic. Much larger armies could raised and armed. This made ancient civilization more secure from outside invasion, but also meant that the ruling elite needed more popular domestic support which was managed in variety of ways. It is for this reason that iron is sometime called the 'democratic' metal. It is no accident that democracy in ancient Grecce first appeared during the Iron Age. And iron gave even relatively poor small states, like the Greeks the ability to arm themselves and stand up to the great Persian Empire.
The dawn of civilization has come to be labeled the Neolithic Revolution. Stone-age nomads began to settle down in river valleys. They began developed agriculture and domesticate animals. With these developments came stunning advances in technology, especially in meterlurgy and writing. One of the technologies and economic activities affect was the increasingly sophisticated production of textiles and clothing. Although the ancient world is not the focus of HBC, some information has been collected on clothing in ancient civilizations. It is only basic information as HBC has not yet been able to devote much attention to this topic. We are collecting some information on the history and clothing technology of several important early civilizations. The first major civilizations arose along fertile river valleys which supported the first primitive agriculture. Actual information on boys' clothing is extremely limited, but we will add what ever information
The Medieval is the longest major era in European history. It is also exceedingly complex. There are, however, some key elements that separate Medieval Europe from the classical civilization of Greece and Rome that it replaced and our modern world today. Life in Medieval Europe was ruder or more primative than that of Imperial Rome. There were barabarian elements. Society was dominated by a single, militant, and exclusive religion which discouraged or prevented the development of a secular society. The medieval era is generally defined as the period of European history from the fall of Rome (5th century) to the Renaissance (15th century). The Medieval era is often given only limited attentioin in histories of the West. In fact, the Medieval era by far is the longest period of European history--spanning a millenia. The impact on the Western mind and our modern society was enormous. There were three preminent cultural influences affecting Medievla Europe. The old civilization of imperial Rome left a poweful cultural footprint. The Church became the dominant influence during much of the Medieval period. The Church provided an ethical dimension that involved moral resonsibilities lacking in clasical society. The asecitism of the eralty Church, however, rejected the worldliness of pagan culture. While commonly denegrated as barbarian, the German invaders inculcated concepts of individuality and personal freedom that are today hallmarks of Western civilization. HBC has noted references in fairly recent literature to Aries' dual thesis that the medieval period neither had a sense of childhood as a distinct developmental period nor did medieval parents emotionally value their children. HBC hasn't addressed fashion in the eras before the 1500s yet. One thing we can tell you is that specialized boys' clothes did not exist in the 12th century. There was specialized children's clothing in the Roman era, but after the fall of Rome, the convention of specialized boys' clothing appears to have disappeared in Western Europe. Boys after breeching wore the same styles as their fathers. HBC hopes to eventually address earlier historical eras, but it will be some time before this is possible in any detail.
Arab beoudins burst out of the Arabian desert in 7th century AD. The Arabs were followers of the prophet Mohammed. They swept through the Holy Land and Mesopotamia, driving back the Byzatines and defeating the Persians in 637 AD. At the time most in the people in the region were Christians and Zoroastrians. The Arabs set about spreading the Islamic faith, but allowed much more religious diversity than was the case of Christian
Europe. Despite the overwhelming military victories, the force of Islam was imperiled in 661 in a fight over succession. It was at this time that the schism between the Shiites and Sunni's developed. The beoudins Arabs by the 8h century had acquired the civilization of the people they conquered. They founded a new capital at Baghdad in 762. This was the golden age of Islam. While Christian Europe after the fall of Rome descended into
a dark age, there was an outpouring of learning and culture in the Islamic world. Baghdad in particular became a renowned center for learning, including science, mathematics, philosophy and literature--especially poetry. Arab rule extended west to Spain. Only gradually did Spanish Christians begin the recounts in Spain. For centuries the major contact between the Islamic Arabs and Christian Europeans was in Spain. Crusaders launched efforts to
retake the Holy Land, bringing Europe in contact with the advanced civilization of the Arabs. These contact were to fuel the revival of learning in Europe. The Mongols swept out of trackless plains of central Asia to destroy Baghdad and massacre its people in 1258. The leading figure in the Arab world, the Caliph was executed. Baghdad and the civilization of the Arabs was devastated. Never again would Arab civilization be such a center of earning and enlightenment. Gradually the Ottoman Turks became the dominate power in the Islamic world.
The Ottomans pressed on the Byzatines, taking Constantinople in 1452. They then conquered the Balkans, driving deep into Europe, only being stopped at the gates of Vienna. The Ottomans conquered Mesopotamia in 1533, ruled until 1918 when the British with help of T.H. Lawrence and the Arab Army expelled them from the Holy Land in the west and Mesopotamia in the east.
The medievl era in Europe lasted for about a meillenium--a thousand years. During this period empires rose and fell. Of course the major Asian country was China which remained united, although under different dynasties. But other peoples and empire flourished in Asia. Ankor dominated Southeast Asia for several centuries. The Chola Empire was one of the most important and dominated southern India (10th-13th centuries). The Mongol Empire was one of the greatest of the largest of all times (13th century). An offsgoot was the Mughal Empire (16th-18th centuries).
Several large empires appeared in sub-Saharan Africa. The Askum Empire was the first important empire in sub-Saharan Africa, appeared in the Ethiopian highlands (about 500 BC). It continued to be an important trading center for about a millenium into the European medieval period. The most important African empire appeared at the end of the European medieval era--the Songhai Empire (15-17th centuries).
Developments in Asia and Africa were little known to Europeans--but Europeans did know that other people existed in far away lands and visa versa. This was not the case with the Americas. Europeans had no idea tht the Americas and Native Americans existed. Native American civilizations are difficult to arrange chronologically. The best known civilizations (Maya, Aztec, and Inca) are contemporaneous with Medieval Europe. There are civilizations that were ancient at the time these and other civilizations flourished. Teoteauacan was an ancient ruin at the time of the Aztec. While the chronology of the Maya, Aztec, and Inca are fairly well developed, the dating of the early civilizations and the
early history of human settlement of the Americas is a matter of some controversy. The Native Americans civilizations of the New World are unique in that they developed in isolation from the other great world civilizations. Some of the great Old World civilizations had extensive contacts. Others had only minimal contact, but contact nevertheless. The contact with the Europeans beginning in 1492 was in many ways to Native Americans like visitors from outer space would seem to our modern world. [West]
Most historians agree that the modern age began about the 16th century. Several events came togethrr at about this time. The Renaissance had fostered profound changes in the outlook of Euopeans. In the East, The vMongols were in eclipse so there was no danger from the Steppe. This allowed the Ottomon Turks to consolidate their power and seize Constaninople (1453) and drive into Europe. In the West, the Spanish completed the Reconquista and the great Voyages of Discovery negan with Columbus' voyage (1452). Ottoman naval powr was broken at Diu (1509), although land armies continued to threatened Vienna for more than a decade. uther launched the Protestant Reformation (1519) leading to more than a century of religious wars. Althiouh small countries, the Netherland invented capitalism and was able to stave off attempts by Spanish and French Catholic absolutists. England also a small power was able to usde capitalism and naval suporenmecy to emerge as a major European power. The Enlightenment under cut the traditionasl foundatioins of Europe (18th century). This was followed by the Industrial and French Revolution. The Industrial Revolution remade Europe in the 19th century and provide Europe the means of projercting power. Sociaslism challenged the foundations of captalism and acqwuired many devotees. European capitalism was buttressed by the rise of America. Several hegemonic powers attempted to supplant the Anglo-American world system (Willhemite Germany, NAZI Germany, Imperial Japan, and finally the Soviert Union). Despite many advantages, each failed. And a seeries of Revolutions (Mexico, and China) challenged the Western view of moderity. There is less agreement as to just what modernity meant. It might be defined as the rise of the West. This is somewhat misleaing. It is true that modernity first occurred in the West. We see it better defined as economic capitalism, political democracy, and pluralism). European countries first adopted modernity and were well rewarded. America and Britain embraced in most fervently and were the best reqarded. Here Protestantism seems to have played a role. Other non-Western countries have also been well rewarded (Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Sinappre and most recently India). The rise of China raises the questioin of weter the same succes can be achieved with capitalism, but without democracy and pluralism.
Steinhardt, Paul J. and Neil Turok. Endless Universe: Beyond the Big Bang (Doubleday, 2007), 284p.
West, Rbecca. Survivors in Mexico (Yale University Press, 2003), 264p.
Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web Site:
[Return to the Main Chronology page]
[Return to the Main History page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Art chronologies] [Biographies] [Clothing styles] [Countries]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]
Created: October 10, 1998
Spell check: August 20, 2003
Last updated: 9:36 AM 12/10/2010
Steinhardt, Paul J. and Neil Turok. Endless Universe: Beyond the Big Bang (Doubleday, 2007), 284p.
West, Rbecca. Survivors in Mexico (Yale University Press, 2003), 264p.
Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web Site: