I first heard about the concept of a blank world history timeline in the book More Charlotte Mason Education. If one follows those guidelines, each child has their own “Book of Centuries” that they keep throughout their whole education (starting maybe around 4th grade). Each century of human history is weighted equally with one page for writing and one page for pictures. Since there is such little space and this book needs to last about a decade, the child has to be very discriminating about what they actually put in their book.
Since learning about the Charlotte Mason book of centuries, I’ve seen blank timelines sold or as part of homeschooling programs. They seem like such a great idea. However, I had small issues with everything I found available. For example, in the Book of Centuries, the pages are vertical and frequently the books are bound (like a composition book where each line represents a 5 year period). I didn’t like this for 2 reasons. First, I didn’t want there to be lined divisions, because so many of the dates in ancient history are approximate. I didn’t like the idea of putting the information on an arbitrary line when the event might only be known within 100 years or so. Second, the problem with using a bound book (which was also an issue in other online world history timelines I found) is that there is no way to lay it all out and look at it at once. The sheets being vertical also is a problem if you wanted the sheets to make one large, consecutive line on the wall.
I liked the idea of having a timeline that could be viewed all at once. Granted, this free printable would be over 30 yards if you were to lay it out and no one I know has that much space available, but by using loose-leaf paper, we can hang up sections at a time as we’re learning about them.
Another feature which I thought might be useful is to divide up the timeline by continent. How often do we learn about something and have no idea what’s happening on the other side of the planet at the same time? Was the peak of the ancient Mayan civilization before or after the construction of the Great Wall of China? I honestly don’t know, but using this timeline with little world maps denoting a section for each continent, it will be easy to go back and find out.
Now, here’s my confession. I hated history growing up. I hated all the dates and names and events we needed to memorize. I hated my textbooks and pop quizzes and exams. I hated having to take notes for so long that my hand would cramp (and I actually like taking notes). I was a good student, but of all my subjects, history was always my least favorite. As a result, I remember effectively none of the years and years of history I’ve studied, which is just embarrassing.
However, now that I’m a grown-up and no one is testing me or making me take notes, I’m finally learning to enjoy history. If I could go back and do it all over again, this blank timeline is the sort of tool I would want to put it all into context and make connections that would allow the knowledge to last in my consciousness, rather than evaporate away into nothingness as soon as humanly possible.
My kids are still too young to actually make use of this free printable timeline. Rather, this timeline is for me. I have a few years before I’ll give my oldest son his own copy to fill out over the course of his childhood. In the meantime, I’m planning to catch up. As I read to them, I’ll learn for me. If all goes according to plan, I’ll use this timeline over the next several years, retain the key points I want to remember, and my kids will never know what an idiot I currently am when it comes to world history.
If you would like your own copy, I’m including two links below. This 121 page file is large, so I recommend right-clicking and selecting “save target as” (or whatever the appropriate counterpart is on a Mac) so that you can see the download progress. The first link is a more manageable, compressed 3 MB file. However, the quality is a bit low and that would bug me. Therefore, I’m also including the full 12 MB high resolution file. Take your pick.
The above files above have very small margins. It works well on my printer, but one reader had trouble with text getting cut off. Just in case, here is a version with smaller margins.
I’m also planning to make printable supplements to go along with this timeline. For example, if you’re studying ancient Egypt, you’ll be able to print out a sheet of small images that could be cut and glued to the timeline for events or figures like the Pyramid of Giza or King Tut along with instructions specifying where I would place them on the timeline. This is a work in progress, but so far, these posts include some such timeline printables:
- 20 Historical Figures Worth Knowing
- Ancient Mesopotamian Historical Figure Cards
- Ancient Egyptian Historical Figure Cards
- Ancient Egyptian Monument Cards
- Ancient Greece Historical Figure Cards
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Recommended Age Range: Elementary, Middle School, High School
Time Required: ~15 minutes (plus an extra 45 minutes if you decide to put each sheet in a page protector as I did)
Cost: Free printable, less than $5 in used supplies (the cost of a binder plus paper/ink for 121 pages. I also decided to put each sheet in it’s own page protector which cost about $10 extra, but isn’t necessary by any means.)
- Printed blank world history timeline (See link above. Make sure to right-click/save-as if you want to save it to your computer. If you just open it to print it, be patient as it may take a minute or two to load completely.)
- 3 Ring Binder (At least a 2″ binder if you use sheet protectors. 1″ is big enough if not.)
- Sheet protectors (optional, but helpful if you think you’ll ever want to hang parts of it on the wall.)
Supplies & Tools:
- 3 hole punch (optional, not needed if you use sheet protectors)
The quickest and easiest thing to do would be to print, hole punch, and stick the sheets in a binder. However, there are several other options. If you don’t plan to ever hang it on the wall or lay the sheets out flat in a long, continuous timeline, you could take the pages to an office supply store and have it bound. In either of these cases, I highly recommend printing it double-sided so that you will be able to look at an entire century all at once (each century is split onto 2 pages with Asia, Africa, and Europe on one sheet and North America, South America, Australia, and Antarctica on the other).
After much deliberation, I decided to print this document single sided, because I do think there will come a time when I’ll want to look at large sections of it at once. Rather than hole punch each sheet, which was my original plan, I decided to put them each in their own page protector. This will make it easier to hang on the wall, but given that I probably will never look at the entire timeline at once, it would also make sense to not put EVERY sheet in page protectors and instead just use page protectors for the necessary sheets when the time comes to hang them up.
My husband also had a non-intuitive, though great suggestion, which was to reverse every other page so that you could see a whole century with all 7 continents at one time as shown (similar to if it were printed double-sided, but actually printed single-sided with blank sheets between the sheets facing each other).
Whatever you decide, I hope this free blank world history timeline is helpful to you!
Click here for more History activities for kids.