Presented here is an overview of the major events in Azeroth's distant and recent history.
The mighty Titans arrive on Azeroth and create two races to reshape the world. The dwarves maintain the land; the sea giants patrol the waters.
The Titans place the Well of Eternity, the source of all magic on Azeroth, in the center of world's single continent, Kalimdor.
The powerful well of Eternity leaks magic into the community of Kaldorei living nearby, evolving them enough to create the first great civilization. As the kaldorei investigate the Well, they release more magic into the world.
The Kaldorei begin to harness the power of the Well and practice arcane magic. They build an advanced civilization, creating powerful artifacts and even reshaping the land. Some Kaldorei sense that magic abuse is a significant problem and cease practicing. They remain the Kaldorei, while those who revel in the arcane arts dub themselves the Highborne.
The Kaldorei's warnings were true: Corruption comes to the Highborne in the form of the Burning Legion — a society of magic consuming demons from another dimension. The demons cannot enter Azeroth physically without assistance; so Sargeras, the lord of the Burning Legion, begins subtly to manipulate the wizards. He promises more power if the Highborne will open a portal. They do so, deep in the Well of Eternity, giving Sargeras free entry into Azeroth.
The Burning Legion invades Azeroth, determined to drain the Well and destroy the night elf civilization.
Malfurion and Illidan Stormrage, and the priestess Tyrande Whisperwind, lead the battle against the demons, destroying the Well of Eternity in the process. With the portal gone, the Burning Legion is banished from Azeroth; but the magical shockwave splits Kalimdor into several continents, creating a dangerous Maelstrom in the center of the sea.
Illidan Stormrage, loathe to lose the arcane magic of the Well, creates a new Well of Eternity using water form the first Well. His enraged brother locks Illidan away in an underground prison.
The surviving Kaldorei, now known as night elves, abandon the use of arcane magic. They seclude themselves near Mount Hyjal and the World Tree and begin practicing a safer form of divine nature magic. In the following years, they exile the arcane-addicted Highborne and enshroud Kalimdor in mist.
After years of a nomadic lifestyle, the Highborne, now called high elves, establish their new home on Lordaeron. They call it Quel'Thalas, creating their own source of magical energy, the Sunwell.
Human tribes form the first human nation, Arathor. The high elves enter into an alliance with Arathor, teaching humans arcane magic.
Aegwynn, Guardian of Tirisfal, defeats a small group of demons with the help of dragons. During the battle, the demon Sargeras infects her body and lies in wait. Unaware of her corruption, she buries Sargeras' physical body under the Great Sea.
Sargeras' second-in-command, Kil'jaeden, begins to meddle with the orcs on the world of Draenor. He corrupts the shaman Ner'zhul and begins to twist the peaceful orc race into a violent and savage one.
Ner'zhul's eyes open to the damage done to his race, and he cuts contact with Kil'jaeden. The demon begins working on Ner'zhuls most powerful apprentice, Gul'dan. Gul'dan soon creates the Shadow Council, designed to give demonic spirits the bodies of orcs to create a mighty army.
Aegwynn decides to bear a child and make it the new Guardian of Tirisfal. Sargeras' hibernating spirit quietly infects the unborn son.
Under Gul'dan's tutelage, the orcs learn demonic magic, becoming warlocks and necromancers.
The orc clans unite as the Horde, a bloodthirsty and corrupted group. Shamanism is outlawed.
Aegwynn's son Medivh falls into a coma on his 14th birthday. Sargeras' spirit begins to corrupt the boy.
After conquering all races of Draenor and befouling the land with their dark magic, the Horde falls into anarchy and civil war.
Medivh is now a grown man and fully owned by Sargeras. The demon sends Gul'dan visions, showing him images of ripe-for-the-conquering Azeroth. Medivh begins to forge the Dark Portal between Draenor and Azeroth. It is tiny, but it grows.
Orc scouts enter the Portal and begin exploring for a settlement area. They construct a small outpost in the uninhabited marshlands known as the Black Morass.
The First War begins as Gul'dan forces Medivh's Portal wide enough for the Horde to pour through and begin its invasion. The initial battles prove the orcs unprepared for the strength of humans, and they are defeated repeatedly with few survivors. Gul'dan's magic shields the orc encampment from prying eyes so the Horde can regroup.
Lord Anduin Lothar discovers Medivh's betrayal. He slays Medivh, also destroying the spirit of Sargeras. Medivh's spirit escapes and lives however.
Blackhand the Destroyer is assassinated by Orgrim Doomhammer, who takes the mantle of Warchief of the Horde. He leads the Horde to sack Stormwind Keep. During the battle, Doomhammer's loyal spies capture one of Gul'dans assassins, Garona. They extract information from her concerning the Shadow Council. Gul'dan's warlocks are killed but he is granted mercy.
The humans concede the loss of Stormwind Keep and flee north to Lordaeron.
The Horde brings more forces through the Dark Portal to replenish their army.
The Second War begins as the Horde takes its new army — complete with their new allies, the jungle trolls — north. They push into Lordaeron, destroying much of Quel'Thalas. The Alliance rallies and pushes the Horde back to Stormwind Keep.
Gul'dan, while trying to aid the Horde, is still obsessed with his own ambitions. He continues his search for Sargeras' tomb, entering a pact with demons loyal to the fallen Titan. He raises the Tomb from the ocean, freeing a swarm of demons trapped inside that kill him. They do considerable damage to the Horde forces as well, weakening them.
The Alliance pushes the disorganized Horde all the way back to the Dark Portal. Beloved Lord Anduin Lothar falls during the final battle, but the Dark Portal is shattered. Many of the orcs who remain in Azeroth are incarcerated in prison camps by the Alliance.
The Second War ends.
Ner'zhul accidentally tears Draenor apart in a catastrophic explosion by opening too many portals to other dimensions. The world's floating shards known as Outland, now part of the Twisting Nether.
Ner'zhul, still powerful, corrupts the Archmage Kel'Thuzad and directs him to begin spreading a plague of undeath across Lordaeron. The wizard forms the Cult of the Damned to aid him.
Thrall escapes from Blackmoore and searches for other orcs to teach him of his heritage. He hears of the Warsong clan - the only free orc clan remaining - and its ferocious leader, Grom Hellscream.
After joining with Orgrim Doomhammer and Hellscream, Thrall frees the captive orcs and reforms the Horde.
Doomhammer is slain in battle and Thrall becomes Warchief of the Horde. He reintroduces his people to the abandoned shamanistic culture of their ancestors.
The Cult of the Damned infects Lordaeron with the Lich King's plague. The Knights of the Silver Hand try to cure the disease, but fail. Prince Arthas of Lordaeron tracks the source of the plague to the Lich King in Northrend. He loses his soul to the cursed blade Frostmourne, becoming the Lich King's servant as a death knight. Arthas returns to Lordaeron, assassinates King Terenas, and takes charge of the Scourge.
Medivh's spirit has attained form and seeks to aid the Alliance and Horde forces against the Burning Legion. He urges their leaders — Jaina Proudmoore and Thrall — to unite, but they resist.
The Horde unwittingly offends the night elves by gathering lumber, and the following battles push Grom Hellscream to drink demon blood for greater power. Cenarius, an Ancient is slain in a subsequent battle; and the night elves awaken the sleeping druids, including Malfurion Stormrage. Desperate for help, Tyrande Whisperwind frees Illidan from his prison. Illidan slays the demon responsible for corrupting Hellscream and his orcs, but is transformed into a demon in the process. Malfurion banishes him.
The now-desperate Alliance, Horde and night elves forces unite against the Burning Legion. Their final stand at the World Tree fails, but the night elves imbue the Tree with their immortality and all their power. The sheer glut of power rushes out of the tree and destroys Archimonde and his forces.
The Third War ends.
The night elves join the Alliance, recognizing the need for allies now that they are without their former power. Thrall and the Horde found a homeland in the desert of Kalimdor, naming it Durotar.
Jaina leads the Alliance to an island off the coast of Kalimdor, founding the new home of the Alliance, called Theramore.
Illidan, now obsessed with finding artifacts such as the one that transformed him, awakens the amphibious race of naga. He journeys to the Tomb of Sargeras and finds the Eye of Sargeras.
Illidan opens a portal from Lordaeron to Outland and flees there with his allies.
Arthas and his Scourge travel to Northrend to investigate the Lich King's throne. Illidan's forces return from Outland and lie in wait for Arthas' undead. Arthas' forces win the ensuing battle; he takes the Lich King's crown, infusing his body with the spirit of Ner'zhul and becomes the true lord of the Scourge. Human forces begin to raid Durotar's small villages. Thrall sends scouts to investigate the situation.
Admiral Proudmoore, Jaina's father, arrives on Theramore with the remainder of the Kul Tiras navy. He lands on Kalimdor and engages the Horde in a series of battles. The Horde pushes the battle back to Theramore, killing Admiral Proudmoore but leaving Jaina and those loyal to her alive.
Timeline originally published by Blizzard in the Warcraft I manual (1994), with further dates established from the Warcraft II manual (1996), Beyond the Dark Portal manual, and Warcraft III manual. Also includes dates mentioned in the RTS games themselves.