Breaking of the World
Unless stated otherwise, all information herein is taken from The World of Robert Jordan's "The Wheel of Time".
The Breaking of the World, or simply "The Breaking", was a period of time after the Age of Legends in which the male Aes Sedai, as wellas other young men who were able to channel, went mad due to the taint on saidin and used the Power to kill and destroy indiscriminately. For this reason, it was also known as the Time of Madness. Initially, it was limited to Lews Therin and the sixty eight survivors of the Hundred Companions. Over time, perhaps ten years, others began to go mad. At first, civilization maintained some cohesion, but in the face of the relentless onslaught, it began to fall apart.
Initially, the forces of the Light were able to take advantage of the sealing of the Bore and the removal of the surviving Forsaken. Shadow forces were made much more vulnerable by this, as well as the infighting amongst themselves. Eventually, however, survival against the insane male Aes Sedai became the primary objective of both sides. During this time, some men took to the stedding, where they would not be threat, but eventually, they came out again, no longer able to bear the inability to not only channel, but also not even sense the Source.
During this time, the seals were scattered, as were the angreal, sa'angreal and ter'angreal entrusted by the Aes Sedai to the Aiel. Many of these made it to Rhuidean, but others were stolen along the way.
It is not clear exactly how long a period the Breaking encompassed, but it is estimated to be between 239 and 344 years. A rough estimate could be extrapolated from Rand's journey through the glass columns in Rhuidean. Rhodric was nearly twenty when he met the ancestors of the Cairhienin. As this was the time the Aes Sedai had decided to build Tar Valon, this places the events around 47AB. At this time, Jeordam is his grandfather. In the next vision, Jeordam is a young man when Morin comes to pick up the spear. Lewin, his father, is then a greying man and the Aiel who keep to the Way of the Leaf are being referred to as Jenn. In the following vision, Lewin is a young man when he takes back Maigran and is banished for killing a man. At that time, Adan is a white haired man (TSR, Ch. 25). We also know that Adan was ten when the Aiel set out from Paaran Disen, at which time Jonai was sixty three. We do not know Coumin's age when the Bore was resealed, though, as he does not believe in a world without war or Shadowspawn, it is unlikely he was born much earlier than the beginning of the War of the Shadow and he is well over fifteen. There are a couple of inconsistencies with this, as he thought it necessary to ask someone old, such as an Ogier, to find the truth of such claims, and the general population did not recall a time when Lanfear was not evil (TSR, Ch. 26)
The exact end of the Breaking is typically dated to the death of the last make Aes Sedai, though this is an uncertain dating. As society began to re-establish itself, nations began to form and a new calendar. One of the earliest events, in around 47AB was the decision to build the White Tower and by 209AB, the nations were strong enough to set up the Compact of the Ten Nations.
The land changed completely during the breaking. Comelle, which was a city on the east coast of where the Main Continent now lies. Early in the Breaking, it and all the land within 100 leagues to the east was sent beneath the sea (TSR, Ch. 25. The eastern coast, was also affected, with Shorelle, a port, being raised high as part of the Spine of the World. Other mountain ranges were formed, such as the Damona Mountains and it is said that those ranges that pre-date the breaking can be differentiated from those formed during the Breaking as they have many smooth wide passes, whereas those formed in the Beaking have few passes, which are narrow and twisty.
Society collapsed totally, with most, if not all, people leading nomadic lives for centuries. By the time people were able to settle again, much knowledge had been lost, leaving only memories of memories
The Aes Sedai lost a great deal during the breaking, including such weaves as traveling and keeping and the making of objects such as angreal as well as the use of many ter'angreal which were later found. The loose temporary alliances known as ajah also transformed, such that by the founding of the White Tower in 47AB, they were barely recognisable as such and soon after had fully transformed into Ajah.
The Aiel also underwent a dramatic change, from the Daishain Aiel who served the Aes Sedai and followed the Way of the Leaf into the modern Aiel, with the Tuatha'an splitting off from them on the way(TSR, Ch. 25, Ch. 26)
The Ogier of the Westlands were seperated from the stedding during the breaking and because of this, developed a connection to it, such that if they were away too long they developed a longing to return that if not fulfilled would leave to sickness and eventually death. The Ogier of Seanchan did not suffer the same way and are thus not bound.