Humans are one of the primary races in the galaxy, and the one whose point of view the vast majority of the background is written from. In M41 the majority of humans are part of the Imperium of Man, although other human civilisations are known to exist.
Originally little more then tree-beasts, humans originated from the planet Terra and while one with their eco-system had no greater role defined for them by the Old Ones, an ancient and powerful race that ruled the Galaxy in its infancy. However following the destruction of the Old Ones in the War in Heaven, humans went on to develop in unforeseen and uncontrolled ways as raw uncontrolled evolution took hold. Eventually humans went on to colonize the galaxy during the Dark Age of Technology. Almost nothing is known about human civilisation in this time, having been lost in the chaos of the Age of Strife. Most of Humanity's shattered colonies were reunified by the Emperor during the Great Crusade, becoming the early Imperium.
The recorded history of Humanity can be divided into roughly four periods:
- The Age of Terra: 1st Millennia to M15 or 18th Millennia
- The Dark Age of Technology: M15 or M18 to M23 or M25
- The Age of Strife: M23 or M25 to M30
- The Age of the Imperium: M30 to the present setting, M41.
Imperium of Man
The majority of humans exist within the Imperium of Man. The Imperial Cult preaches that humanity has a Manifest Destiny to conquer the entire galaxy, to the point where alien species are seen as inferior and worthy of nothing but extinction.
The Lost and the Damned
The next greatest concentration of humans exist as the Lost and the Damned, and reside primarily, though not exclusively, in the Eye of Terror. Not a coherent civilisation as such, they exist as part of a diverse and infinite collection of warbands and hosts under the leadership of Chaos Champions. Due to the nature of the Warp, some of these humans are the original Imperial subjects who sided with the Warmaster Horus during the Horus Heresy, though their number has been greatly supplemented by more recent humans who have turned to Chaos, or slaves captured as part of the many raids out of the Eye.
Less xenophobic than the Imperium, the Tau Empire has no qualms in letting other races join it. Whilst few in number, some humans have done so and exist within the Empire where they are known as Gue'vesa. These humans for the most part are descendants of Imperial Guard troops who were abandoned in Tau space during the Damocles Crusade, however it is not unheard of for Imperial planets to want to secede from the Imperium to join the Tau Empire.
Other human civilisations are extremely rare. This is mostly due to the fact that the Imperium considers itself to have an automatic right to rule all of humanity, and ruthlessly suppresses any attempt to secede from it. Similarly, any lost colonies that are rediscovered from the Dark Age of Technology are also incorporated into the Imperium whether they want to be or not. Despite this, a few independent human civilisations have been known to exist, such as the Interex, Diasporex, Auretian Technocracy, Gordian League, and Adrantis Five.
When the Age of Strife descended on the galaxy, the majority of human colonies were cut off from Terra and forced to survive on their own. In some cases this meant that they devolved into considerably more primitive societies as the knowledge to create and maintain technology was lost. The Great Crusade reunited many thousands of lost colonies back into the Imperium, yet every now and then changes in the warp mean that new colonies are discovered. Whilst nobody can know for sure how many, there are almost certainly more colonies still cut off from the rest of humanity, waiting to be discovered.
The Imperium keeps a tight grip over its planets, yet every now and then planets or groups of planets do attempt to secede from the Imperium. This may be the result of the Planetary Governor believing he can get away with independence, or it may be the result of revolution that deposes those in power. Many of these successions are orchestrated by the powers of Chaos, and the humans that are part of it should be counted as the Lost and the Damned, however there are also occasions when a planet decides it wants to be independent of the Imperium through its own volition, such as the case of the Severan Dominate. Regardless of the cause, these independent realms rarely last long as they are swiftly and brutally subjugated back into the Imperium.
The only independent civilisation with any real sustainability, some humans evade the Imperium's clutches and live outside of its reach in bands of ships existing through raids and piracy. Often allying themselves with Eldar or other Xenos, these humans are swiftly put down if they are caught by Imperial authorities.
Other Human Species
Throughout the long history of the Imperium and before, the human race has mutated into a variety of stable species, known as abhumans. Abhumans are tolerated to a varying degree within the Imperium due to the fact that they are seen as being close enough to humans to be accepted.
- 1: Tau Human Auxiliaries (Archive of old GWUK website) by Andy Hoare (accessed 2009.09.19)
- 2: For The Emperor (Novel) by Sandy Mitchell, [Needs Citation]
- 3: Warhammer 40,000 Chapter Approved - The Book of the Astronomican, [Needs Citation]
- 4: Warhammer 40,000 5th Edition Rulebook, pgs. 122-123
- 5: Galaxy in Flames (Novel) by Ben Counter, [Needs Citation] pg.280
- 6: The Art of Warhammer 40,000, pg. 72
- 7: Codex: Necrons (3rd Edition), pg.9