Old World

collectively Africa, Asia and Europe

The Old World is the three continents, Europe, Asia and Africa, whose people knew about each other from ancient times.[1]

  Old World
Map of the "Old World" (the Ptolemy world map in a 15th-century copy)

Humans originated in Africa, but modern history is mostly about European history. This is because the Europeans wrote more history. For a long time "history" meant the history of Europe and the Middle East. That is still the kind of history which is taught in many schools. Having history depends on having writing. The first writing we know of comes from the Middle East, and the Chinese claim they also had early writing.[2][3]

People had no idea there were other continents, and no idea that those continents (the Americas and Australasia) had humans living there. They also knew little about Africa beyond the coasts until the 19th century.

In 1492 Spain sent Columbus to the New World. They found Native Americans there. Then there was trade, warfare and spreading disease. They had foods and animals the Native Americans had not seen before, like sugarcane, pigs, and horses. But they did not know that they were also causing sickness. The people of the Old World called the Americas the New World.

Europeans discovered Australia, New Zealand and Papua/New Guinea in the 17th century. The British Royal Navy did more exploration in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Both the Americas and Australasia had humans living there already, who were not known to Europeans before the voyages of discovery, as it is called.[4]


  1. "Definition of OLD-WORLD". www.merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 2022-07-29.
  2. Christin, Anne-Marie (ed) 1992. A history of writing. Flammarion, Paris.
  3. DeFrancis, John 1989. Visible speech: the diverse oneness of writing systems. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
  4. This article is a broad overview. More information can be found on the pages linked in this article.