AP World History Exam: Period 3 Notes (600 to 1450 C.E.)

Six Things to Know about AP World History Period 3

  1. Similar to AP World History Periods 1 and 2 (up to 600 C.E.), Period 3 (600 to 1450 C.E.) witnessed a tremendous growth in long-distance trade due to improvements in technology. Trade through the Silk Road, the Indian Ocean, the Trans-Saharan routes, and the Mediterranean Sea led to the spread of ideas, religions, and technology.
  2. Major technological developments such as the compass, improved shipbuilding technology, and gunpowder shaped the development of the world.
  3. The movement of people greatly altered our world. Nomadic groups such as the Turks, Mongols, and Vikings, for instance, interacted with settled people—often because of settled people’s technology—leading to further change and development.
  4. Religions such as Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism preached the equality of all believers in the eyes of God. And though patriarchal values continued to dominate, the monastic life of Buddhism and Christianity offered an alternative path for women.
  5. The spread of religion, aided by the increase in trade, often acted as a unifying force, though it sometimes caused conflict. Christianity and the Church served as the centralizing force in Western Europe, and throughout East Asia, the spread of Confucianism and Buddhism solidified a cultural identity. The new religion of Islam created a new cultural world known as Dar al-Islam, which transcended political boundaries.
  6. The political structures of many areas adapted and changed to the new conditions of the world. Centralized empires like the Byzantine Empire, the Arab Caliphates, and the Tang and Song dynasties built on the successful models of the past, while decentralized areas (Western Europe and Japan) developed political organization that more effectively dealt with their unique issues. The movements of the Mongols altered much of Asia’s political structure for a time, and the recovery from the Mongol period introduced political structures that defined many areas for centuries to follow.

Key Topics–Period 3: 600 to 1450 C.E.

Remember that the AP World History exam tests you on the depth of your knowledge, not just your ability to recall facts. While we have provided brief definitions here, you will need to know these terms in even more depth for the AP World History exam, including how terms connect to broader historical themes and understandings.

New Empires

  • Byzantine empire: Formerly the eastern half of the Roman Empire, this Christian (Eastern Orthodox) empire controlled the Eastern Mediterranean Basin from the Fall of Rome to the Ottoman takeover nearly 1,000 years later (474–1453 C.E.).
  • Islamic Caliphates: In the Islamic world, the states controlled by caliphs, or successors of Muhammad.

Chinese Empire

  • Grand Canal: Begun in the fourth century B.C.E., construction resumed in 605 C.E. in China. This canal, the world’s longest, connected the fertile Huang He River to the highly-populated cities in the north, allowing grain to be shipped easily.
  • Neo-Confucianism: As trade expanded into China, Buddhism was introduced. Neo-Confucianism, popular during the Tang Dynasty, fused elements of Buddhism and Confucianism.
  • Fast-ripening rice: Introduced to China from Vietnam during the Tang Dynasty, this crop allowed the Chinese to have two harvests per year, dramatically improving output; combined with an improved infrastructure, this crop led to a significant growth of the Chinese population.


  • Mongols: Group of Central Asian nomads from Mongolia who, under the leadership of Genghis Khan, conquered large portions of the Asian continent. Their four empires, centered on Russia, China, Persia, and the Central Asian steppes, were led by Khan’s successors, ensuring a century of peace from approximately 1250–1350 C.E.

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