Honda Motor Company, Ltd. is a Japanese public multinational conglomerate corporation known as a manufacturer of automobiles, aircraft and power equipment. Honda has been the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer since 1959, as well as the world's largest manufacturer of internal combustion engines measured by volume, producing more than 14 million internal combustion engines each year. Honda became the second-largest Japanese automobile manufacturer in 2001. Honda was the eighth largest automobile manufacturer in the world in 2015. Honda was the first Japanese automobile manufacturer to release a dedicated luxury brand, Acura, in 1986. Aside from their core automobile and motorcycle businesses, Honda manufactures garden equipment, marine engines, personal watercraft and power generators, other products. Since 1986, Honda has been involved with artificial intelligence/robotics research and released their ASIMO robot in 2000, they have ventured into aerospace with the establishment of GE Honda Aero Engines in 2004 and the Honda HA-420 HondaJet, which began production in 2012.
Honda has three joint-ventures in China. In 2013, Honda invested about 5.7 % of its revenues in development. In 2013, Honda became the first Japanese automaker to be a net exporter from the United States, exporting 108,705 Honda and Acura models, while importing only 88,357. Throughout his life, Honda's founder, Soichiro Honda, had an interest in automobiles, he worked as a mechanic at the Art Shokai garage, where he entered them in races. In 1937, with financing from his acquaintance Kato Shichirō, Honda founded Tōkai Seiki to make piston rings working out of the Art Shokai garage. After initial failures, Tōkai Seiki won a contract to supply piston rings to Toyota, but lost the contract due to the poor quality of their products. After attending engineering school without graduating, visiting factories around Japan to better understand Toyota's quality control processes, by 1941 Honda was able to mass-produce piston rings acceptable to Toyota, using an automated process that could employ unskilled wartime laborers.
Tōkai Seiki was placed under control of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry at the start of World War II, Soichiro Honda was demoted from president to senior managing director after Toyota took a 40% stake in the company. Honda aided the war effort by assisting other companies in automating the production of military aircraft propellers; the relationships Honda cultivated with personnel at Toyota, Nakajima Aircraft Company and the Imperial Japanese Navy would be instrumental in the postwar period. A US B-29 bomber attack destroyed Tōkai Seiki's Yamashita plant in 1944, the Itawa plant collapsed in 13 January 1945 Mikawa earthquake. Soichiro Honda sold the salvageable remains of the company to Toyota after the war for ¥450,000, used the proceeds to found the Honda Technical Research Institute in October 1946. With a staff of 12 men working in a 16 m2 shack, they built and sold improvised motorized bicycles, using a supply of 500 two-stroke 50 cc Tohatsu war surplus radio generator engines.
When the engines ran out, Honda began building their own copy of the Tohatsu engine, supplying these to customers to attach to their bicycles. This was the Honda A-Type, nicknamed the Bata Bata for the sound. In 1949, the Honda Technical Research Institute was liquidated for ¥1,000,000, or about US$5,000 today. At about the same time Honda hired engineer Kihachiro Kawashima, Takeo Fujisawa who provided indispensable business and marketing expertise to complement Soichiro Honda's technical bent; the close partnership between Soichiro Honda and Fujisawa lasted until they stepped down together in October 1973. The first complete motorcycle, with both the frame and engine made by Honda, was the 1949 D-Type, the first Honda to go by the name Dream. Honda Motor Company grew in a short time to become the world's largest manufacturer of motorcycles by 1964; the first production automobile from Honda was the T360 mini pick-up truck, which went on sale in August 1963. Powered by a small 356-cc straight-4 gasoline engine, it was classified under the cheaper Kei car tax bracket.
The first production car from Honda was the S500 sports car, which followed the T360 into production in October 1963. Its chain-driven rear wheels pointed to Honda's motorcycle origins. Over the next few decades, Honda worked to expand its product line and expanded operations and exports to numerous countries around the world. In 1986, Honda introduced the successful Acura brand to the American market in an attempt to gain ground in the luxury vehicle market; the year 1991 saw the introduction of the Honda NSX supercar, the first all-aluminum monocoque vehicle that incorporated a mid-engine V6 with variable-valve timing. CEO Tadashi Kume was succeeded by Nobuhiko Kawamoto in 1990. Kawamoto was selected over Shoichiro Irimajiri, who oversaw the successful establishment of Honda of America Manufacturing, Inc. in Marysville, Ohio. Irimajiri and Kawamoto shared a friendly rivalry within Honda. Following the death of Soichiro Honda and the departure of Irimajiri, Honda found itself being outpaced in product development by other Japanese automakers and was caught off-guard by the truck and sport utility vehicle boom of the 1990s, all which took a toll on the profitability of the company.
Japanese media reported in 1992 and 1993 that Honda was at serious risk of an unwanted and hostile takeov
Noriyuki Haga, is a Japanese professional motorcycle racer. Haga was a top contender in the Superbike World Championship, finishing as runner-up three times, has finished third in the championship series four times, he competes in the CIV Supersport 600 Championship, aboard a Yamaha YZF-R6. Haga started his racing career by competing in the Japanese Superbike Championship in 1993, riding a Ducati bike, he moved to Yamaha in 1995, won the championship with Yamaha in 1997. During his stint with Yamaha in Japanese Superbike, Haga was chosen to represent Yamaha in the 1996 Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race, he won the race. Before Haga began racing full-time in the World Superbike Championship in 1998, he had been racing in WSBK since 1994. In 1996, Haga received a wild card entry to race in the Japanese round of WSBK at Sugo, he finished second in Race 1, collecting his first podium in WSBK at his first attempt. However, he failed to finish in Race 2. In 1997, while still racing in his home championship, he was given another chance to race in WSBK.
He was chosen to replace the injured Colin Edwards for the last two races of the season in Sugo and Sentul, Indonesia. He performed well in both rounds. In 1998, Haga began racing WSBK full-time, he adopted the number 41 that he has used since. Haga joined Yamaha's Superbike team, he started the season brilliantly by winning 3 of the first 4 races. His performance declined and he dropped out of championship contention, he finished 6th in the championship standing. During the year, Haga received a wild-card entry to the 1998 500cc Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka. Haga scored an unexpected third place podium in his 500cc debut; this was his only podium in his brief 500cc/MotoGP career. The following season, Haga finished 7th in the championship, he only managed 1 race win and 1 third-place finish on the new Yamaha YZF-R7. As a result, another Japanese rider, Akira Yanagawa finished 5th, above Haga; this marks the only time Haga was not the highest placed Japanese Rider in every season in which he competed in WSBK.
Haga improved his performance to challenge for the title in 2000. However, his season was disrupted. Haga was tested positive for the substance Ephedrine after the race in South Africa, though it was learned that Ephedrine occurs in the herbs used in the Ma Huang supplement that he'd taken during the off-season, he received a one-month ban beginning on June 5 and had his points from both South African races deducted. However, after a series of appeals the points from Race 1 in South Africa were reinstated and the ban was delayed and reduced to a 2-week ban, resulting in Haga missing the final round at Brands Hatch, Great Britain. With Haga losing 25 points and sitting out a 2-race weekend, Colin Edwards comfortably won the 2000 championship. After an eventful year, Haga joined the 500cc World Championship for the 2001 season. Haga did not want to join the 500cc Championship as he wanted another chance to challenge for the WSBK crown. However, Yamaha had announced that they were withdrawing from WSBK and focusing on the challenge to win the 500cc Championship.
Haga joined the factory-backed Red Bull Yamaha WCM team, riding the Yamaha YZR500. Haga had a disappointing season, without a single podium, he finished fourteenth in the championship. He returned to WSBK in 2002 in a one-bike Aprilia team, on an Aprilia RSV 1000, he had several podium finishes but no wins. He finished 4th before moving back to MotoGP in the following season, he was joined by his former teammate Colin Edwards to spearhead Aprilia's MotoGP campaign, riding the newly developed Aprilia RS Cube. Both Haga and Edwards endured another disappointing season with the RS Cube performing poorly. Haga once again finished fourteenth in the championship without a podium. After another failed attempt in MotoGP, Haga returned to WSBK in 2004, he joined the Renegade Ducati Koji team and was in contention for the championship until the final round, despite several mechanical failures. For 2005 Haga joined Yamaha's factory supported team, he finished third in the championship and became the first rider to win a dry weather race having failed to lap fast enough to qualify for'Superpole'.
In 2006, he was again Yamaha's leading man. After 7 rounds he was 2nd in the championship without having won a race. At round 7 in Brno he took pole, but finished third and fourth in the two races, having been passed by Michel Fabrizio on the last lap of both. At round 8 in the UK, he took his first win of the year. At Round 9 at Lausitzring in Germany Nori picked up two second places after battling for the win in both races; the first race was won by his good friend Yukio Kagayama of Alstare Corona Suzuki and the second by Britain's James Toseland of Winston Ten Kate Honda, his main rival for 2nd place in the championship. For the third season in a row, Haga came third. Troy Corser joined the Yamaha team for 2007, together they brought Yamaha the manufacturer's championship. Haga finished 2nd in the riders championship, 2 points behind Toseland - a double win in the final round at Magny-Cours being just not enough, he continued to ride for Yamaha in 2008. Haga won seven races during the season, with wins at Valencia and Magny-Cours, as well as doubles at the Nurburgring and Vallelunga.
However, this was only good enough for 3r
Noboru "Nobby" Ueda is a former Grand Prix motorcycle road racer. He was a 125 class rider. Ueda began his Grand Prix career with a win in his inaugural race at the 1991 Japanese Grand Prix, his best seasons were in 1994, when he finished second in the 125cc world championship behind Kazuto Sakata and in 1997, when he finished second behind Valentino Rossi. After a twelve-year career in Grand Prix competition, he announced his retirement at the end of the 2002 season, citing the need to let his body recuperate after several racing injuries. Ueda won 13 Grand Prix races during his career, he now runs his own team known as Team Nobby, which competes in the All Japan Road Race Championship in the J-GP3 class. Points system from 1988 to 1991: Points system in 1992: Points system from 1993 onwards
Brazil the Federative Republic of Brazil, is the largest country in both South America and Latin America. At 8.5 million square kilometers and with over 208 million people, Brazil is the world's fifth-largest country by area and the fifth most populous. Its capital is Brasília, its most populated city is São Paulo; the federation is composed of the union of the 26 states, the Federal District, the 5,570 municipalities. It is the largest country to have Portuguese as an official language and the only one in the Americas. Bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the east, Brazil has a coastline of 7,491 kilometers, it borders all other South American countries except Ecuador and Chile and covers 47.3% of the continent's land area. Its Amazon River basin includes a vast tropical forest, home to diverse wildlife, a variety of ecological systems, extensive natural resources spanning numerous protected habitats; this unique environmental heritage makes Brazil one of 17 megadiverse countries, is the subject of significant global interest and debate regarding deforestation and environmental protection.
Brazil was inhabited by numerous tribal nations prior to the landing in 1500 of explorer Pedro Álvares Cabral, who claimed the area for the Portuguese Empire. Brazil remained a Portuguese colony until 1808, when the capital of the empire was transferred from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro. In 1815, the colony was elevated to the rank of kingdom upon the formation of the United Kingdom of Portugal and the Algarves. Independence was achieved in 1822 with the creation of the Empire of Brazil, a unitary state governed under a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary system; the ratification of the first constitution in 1824 led to the formation of a bicameral legislature, now called the National Congress. The country became a presidential republic in 1889 following a military coup d'état. An authoritarian military junta came to power in 1964 and ruled until 1985, after which civilian governance resumed. Brazil's current constitution, formulated in 1988, defines it as a democratic federal republic. Due to its rich culture and history, the country ranks thirteenth in the world by number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Brazil is considered an advanced emerging economy. It has the ninth largest GDP in the world by nominal, eight and PPP measures, it is one of the world's major breadbaskets, being the largest producer of coffee for the last 150 years. It is classified as an upper-middle income economy by the World Bank and a newly industrialized country, with the largest share of global wealth in Latin America. Brazil is a regional power and sometimes considered a great or a middle power in international affairs. On account of its international recognition and influence, the country is subsequently classified as an emerging power and a potential superpower by several analysts. Brazil is a founding member of the United Nations, the G20, BRICS, Union of South American Nations, Organization of American States, Organization of Ibero-American States and the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, it is that the word "Brazil" comes from the Portuguese word for brazilwood, a tree that once grew plentifully along the Brazilian coast.
In Portuguese, brazilwood is called pau-brasil, with the word brasil given the etymology "red like an ember", formed from brasa and the suffix -il. As brazilwood produces a deep red dye, it was valued by the European textile industry and was the earliest commercially exploited product from Brazil. Throughout the 16th century, massive amounts of brazilwood were harvested by indigenous peoples along the Brazilian coast, who sold the timber to European traders in return for assorted European consumer goods; the official Portuguese name of the land, in original Portuguese records, was the "Land of the Holy Cross", but European sailors and merchants called it the "Land of Brazil" because of the brazilwood trade. The popular appellation eclipsed and supplanted the official Portuguese name; some early sailors called it the "Land of Parrots". In the Guarani language, an official language of Paraguay, Brazil is called "Pindorama"; this was the name the indigenous population gave to the region, meaning "land of the palm trees".
Some of the earliest human remains found in the Americas, Luzia Woman, were found in the area of Pedro Leopoldo, Minas Gerais and provide evidence of human habitation going back at least 11,000 years. The earliest pottery found in the Western Hemisphere was excavated in the Amazon basin of Brazil and radiocarbon dated to 8,000 years ago; the pottery was found near Santarém and provides evidence that the tropical forest region supported a complex prehistoric culture. The Marajoara culture flourished on Marajó in the Amazon delta from 800 CE to 1400 CE, developing sophisticated pottery, social stratification, large populations, mound building, complex social formations such as chiefdoms. Around the time of the Portuguese arrival, the territory of current day Brazil had an estimated indigenous population of 7 million people semi-nomadic who subsisted on hunting, fishing and migrant agriculture; the indigenous population of Brazil comprised several large indigenous ethnic groups. The Tupí people were subdivided into the Tupiniquins and Tupinambás, there were many subdivisions of the other gro
Japan is an island country in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies off the eastern coast of the Asian continent and stretches from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea in the south; the kanji that make up Japan's name mean "sun origin", it is called the "Land of the Rising Sun". Japan is a stratovolcanic archipelago consisting of about 6,852 islands; the four largest are Honshu, Hokkaido and Shikoku, which make up about ninety-seven percent of Japan's land area and are referred to as home islands. The country is divided into 47 prefectures in eight regions, with Hokkaido being the northernmost prefecture and Okinawa being the southernmost one; the population of 127 million is the world's tenth largest. 90.7 % of people live in cities. About 13.8 million people live in the capital of Japan. The Greater Tokyo Area is the most populous metropolitan area in the world with over 38 million people. Archaeological research indicates; the first written mention of Japan is in Chinese history texts from the 1st century AD.
Influence from other regions China, followed by periods of isolation from Western Europe, has characterized Japan's history. From the 12th century until 1868, Japan was ruled by successive feudal military shōguns who ruled in the name of the Emperor. Japan entered into a long period of isolation in the early 17th century, ended in 1853 when a United States fleet pressured Japan to open to the West. After nearly two decades of internal conflict and insurrection, the Imperial Court regained its political power in 1868 through the help of several clans from Chōshū and Satsuma – and the Empire of Japan was established. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, victories in the First Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War and World War I allowed Japan to expand its empire during a period of increasing militarism; the Second Sino-Japanese War of 1937 expanded into part of World War II in 1941, which came to an end in 1945 following the Japanese surrender. Since adopting its revised constitution on May 3, 1947, during the occupation led by SCAP, the sovereign state of Japan has maintained a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy with an Emperor and an elected legislature called the National Diet.
Japan is a member of the ASEAN Plus mechanism, UN, the OECD, the G7, the G8, the G20, is considered a great power. Its economy is the world's third-largest by nominal GDP and the fourth-largest by purchasing power parity, it is the world's fourth-largest exporter and fourth-largest importer. Japan benefits from a skilled and educated workforce. Although it has renounced its right to declare war, Japan maintains a modern military with the world's eighth-largest military budget, used for self-defense and peacekeeping roles. Japan is a developed country with a high standard of living and Human Development Index, its population enjoys the highest life expectancy and third lowest infant mortality rate in the world, but is experiencing issues due to an aging population and low birthrate. Japan is renowned for its historical and extensive cinema, influential music industry, video gaming, rich cuisine and its major contributions to science and modern technology; the Japanese word for Japan is 日本, pronounced Nihon or Nippon and means "the origin of the sun".
The character nichi means "sun" or "day". The compound therefore means "origin of the sun" and is the source of the popular Western epithet "Land of the Rising Sun"; the earliest record of the name Nihon appears in the Chinese historical records of the Tang dynasty, the Old Book of Tang. At the end of the seventh century, a delegation from Japan requested that Nihon be used as the name of their country; this name may have its origin in a letter sent in 607 and recorded in the official history of the Sui dynasty. Prince Shōtoku, the Regent of Japan, sent a mission to China with a letter in which he called himself "the Emperor of the Land where the Sun rises"; the message said: "Here, I, the emperor of the country where the sun rises, send a letter to the emperor of the country where the sun sets. How are you". Prior to the adoption of Nihon, other terms such as Yamato and Wakoku were used; the term Wa is a homophone of Wo 倭, used by the Chinese as a designation for the Japanese as early as the third century Three Kingdoms period.
Another form of Wa, Wei in Chinese) was used for an early state in Japan called Nakoku during the Han dynasty. However, the Japanese disliked some connotation of Wa 倭, it was therefore replaced with the substitute character Wa, meaning "togetherness, harmony"; the English word Japan derives from the historical Chinese pronunciation of 日本. The Old Mandarin or early Wu Chinese pronunciation of Japan was recorded by Marco Polo as Cipangu. In modern Shanghainese, a Wu dialect, the pronunciation of characters 日本; the old Malay word for Japan, Japun or Japang, was borrowed from a southern coastal Chinese dialect Fukienese or Ningpo – and this Malay word was encountered by Portuguese traders in Southeast Asia in the 16th century. These Early Portuguese traders brought the word
Suzuki Motor Corporation is a Japanese multinational corporation headquartered in Minami-ku, Hamamatsu. Suzuki manufactures automobiles, four-wheel drive vehicles, all-terrain vehicles, outboard marine engines, wheelchairs and a variety of other small internal combustion engines. In 2016, Suzuki was the eleventh biggest automaker by production worldwide. Suzuki has over 45,000 employees and has 35 production facilities in 23 countries, 133 distributors in 192 countries; the worldwide sales volume of automobiles is the world's tenth largest, while domestic sales volume is the third largest in the country. Suzuki’s domestic motorcycle sales volume is the third largest in Japan. In 1909, Michio Suzuki founded the Suzuki Loom Works in the small seacoast village of Hamamatsu, Japan. Business boomed. In 1929, Michio Suzuki invented a new type of weaving machine, exported overseas; the company's first 30 years focused on the production of these machines. Despite the success of his looms, Suzuki believed that his company would benefit from diversification and he began to look at other products.
Based on consumer demand, he decided that building a small car would be the most practical new venture. The project began in 1937, within two years Suzuki had completed several compact prototype cars; these first Suzuki motor vehicles were powered by a then-innovative, liquid-cooled, four-stroke, four-cylinder engine. It had a cast aluminum crankcase and gearbox and generated 13 horsepower from a displacement of less than 800cc. With the onset of World War II, production plans for Suzuki's new vehicles were halted when the government declared civilian passenger cars a "non-essential commodity." At the conclusion of the war, Suzuki went back to producing looms. Loom production was given a boost when the U. S. government approved the shipping of cotton to Japan. Suzuki's fortunes brightened, but the joy was short-lived as the cotton market collapsed in 1951. Faced with this colossal challenge, Suzuki returned to the production of motor vehicles. After the war, the Japanese had a great need for reliable personal transportation.
A number of firms began offering "clip-on" gas-powered engines that could be attached to the typical bicycle. Suzuki's first two-wheeled vehicle was a bicycle fitted with a motor called, the "Power Free." Designed to be inexpensive and simple to build and maintain, the 1952 Power Free had a 36 cc, one horsepower, two-stroke engine. The new double-sprocket gear system enabled the rider to either pedal with the engine assisting, pedal without engine assist, or disconnect the pedals and run on engine power alone; the patent office of the new democratic government granted Suzuki a financial subsidy to continue research in motorcycle engineering. By 1954, Suzuki was producing 6,000 motorcycles per month and had changed its name to Suzuki Motor Co. Ltd. Following the success of its first motorcycles, Suzuki created an more successful automobile: the 1955 Suzuki Suzulight; the Suzulight sold with front-wheel drive, four-wheel independent suspension and rack-and-pinion steering, which were not common on cars until three decades later.
Volkswagen held a 19.9% non-controlling shareholding in Suzuki between 2009 and 2015. An international arbitration court ordered Volkswagen to sell the stake back to Suzuki. Suzuki paid $3.8bn to complete the stock buy-back in September 2015. The company was founded by Michio Suzuki. Michio Suzuki was intent on making better, more user-friendly looms and, for 30 years his focus was on the development of these machines. Michio's desire to diversify into automotive products was interrupted by World War II. Before it began building four-stroke engines, Suzuki Motor Corp. was known for its two-stroke engines. After the war, Suzuki made a two-stroke motorized bicycle, but the company would be known for Hayabusa and GSX-R motorcycles, for the QuadRunner, for dominating racetracks around the world. After producing its first car in 1955 the company didn't have an automobile division until 1961. Today Suzuki is among the world's largest automakers, a major brand name in important markets, including Japan and India, but no longer sells cars in North America.
1909: Michio Suzuki founds Suzuki Loom Works founded in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. 1920: incorporated, capitalized at ¥500,000 as Suzuki Loom Manufacturing Co. with Michio Suzuki as president. 1937: Suzuki begins a project to diversify into manufacturing small cars. Within two years several innovative prototypes are completed, but the government declares civilian passenger cars a "non-essential commodity" at the onset of World War II, thwarting production plans. 1940: Takatsuka Plant is built in Kami-mura, Hamana-gun, Japan. 1945: Plants close due to severe war damage. Company offices move to the Takatsuka Plant site. 1947: Head office moves to the present address. 1949: Company lists on the Tokyo and Nagoya Stock Exchanges. 1950: Company has financial crisis due to labor difficulties. 1952: "Power Free" motorized bicycle marketed. 1953: Introduction of Diamond Free 60cc, 2-cycle motorized bicycle, displacement subsequently increases to 70cc. 1954: Company name changed to Suzuki Motor Co. Ltd. 1955: Introduction of Colleda COX 125cc 4-stroke single-cylinder, Colleda ST 125cc, two-stroke single-cylinder motorcycles.
Suzulight front wheel dri
Italy the Italian Republic, is a country in Southern Europe. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Italy shares open land borders with France, Austria and the enclaved microstates San Marino and Vatican City. Italy covers an area of 301,340 km2 and has a temperate seasonal and Mediterranean climate. With around 61 million inhabitants, it is the fourth-most populous EU member state and the most populous country in Southern Europe. Due to its central geographic location in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, Italy has been home to a myriad of peoples and cultures. In addition to the various ancient peoples dispersed throughout modern-day Italy, the most famous of which being the Indo-European Italics who gave the peninsula its name, beginning from the classical era and Carthaginians founded colonies in insular Italy and Genoa, Greeks established settlements in the so-called Magna Graecia, while Etruscans and Celts inhabited central and northern Italy respectively; the Italic tribe known as the Latins formed the Roman Kingdom in the 8th century BC, which became a republic with a government of the Senate and the People.
The Roman Republic conquered and assimilated its neighbours on the peninsula, in some cases through the establishment of federations, the Republic expanded and conquered parts of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. By the first century BC, the Roman Empire emerged as the dominant power in the Mediterranean Basin and became the leading cultural and religious centre of Western civilisation, inaugurating the Pax Romana, a period of more than 200 years during which Italy's technology, economy and literature flourished. Italy remained the metropole of the Roman Empire; the legacy of the Roman Empire endured its fall and can be observed in the global distribution of culture, governments and the Latin script. During the Early Middle Ages, Italy endured sociopolitical collapse and barbarian invasions, but by the 11th century, numerous rival city-states and maritime republics in the northern and central regions of Italy, rose to great prosperity through shipping and banking, laying the groundwork for modern capitalism.
These independent statelets served as Europe's main trading hubs with Asia and the Near East enjoying a greater degree of democracy than the larger feudal monarchies that were consolidating throughout Europe. The Renaissance began in Italy and spread to the rest of Europe, bringing a renewed interest in humanism, science and art. Italian culture flourished, producing famous scholars and polymaths such as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Machiavelli. During the Middle Ages, Italian explorers such as Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, John Cabot and Giovanni da Verrazzano discovered new routes to the Far East and the New World, helping to usher in the European Age of Discovery. Italy's commercial and political power waned with the opening of trade routes that bypassed the Mediterranean. Centuries of infighting between the Italian city-states, such as the Italian Wars of the 15th and 16th centuries, left the region fragmented, it was subsequently conquered and further divided by European powers such as France and Austria.
By the mid-19th century, rising Italian nationalism and calls for independence from foreign control led to a period of revolutionary political upheaval. After centuries of foreign domination and political division, Italy was entirely unified in 1871, establishing the Kingdom of Italy as a great power. From the late 19th century to the early 20th century, Italy industrialised, namely in the north, acquired a colonial empire, while the south remained impoverished and excluded from industrialisation, fuelling a large and influential diaspora. Despite being one of the main victors in World War I, Italy entered a period of economic crisis and social turmoil, leading to the rise of a fascist dictatorship in 1922. Participation in World War II on the Axis side ended in military defeat, economic destruction and the Italian Civil War. Following the liberation of Italy and the rise of the resistance, the country abolished the monarchy, reinstated democracy, enjoyed a prolonged economic boom and, despite periods of sociopolitical turmoil became a developed country.
Today, Italy is considered to be one of the world's most culturally and economically advanced countries, with the sixth-largest worldwide national wealth. Its advanced economy ranks eighth-largest in the world and third in the Eurozone by nominal GDP. Italy owns the third-largest central bank gold reserve, it has a high level of human development, it stands among the top countries for life expectancy. The country plays a prominent role in regional and global economic, military and diplomatic affairs. Italy is a founding and leading member of the European Union and a member of numerous international institutions, including the UN, NATO, the OECD, the OSCE, the WTO, the G7, the G20, the Union for the Mediterranean, the Council of Europe, Uniting for Consensus, the Schengen Area and many more; as a reflection