Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History

Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History

Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History

Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History


An introduction to a new way of looking at history, from a perspective that stretches from the beginning of time to the present day, Maps of Time is world history on an unprecedented scale. Beginning with the Big Bang, David Christian views the interaction of the natural world with the more recent arrivals in flora and fauna, including human beings.

Cosmology, geology, archeology, and population and environmental studies--all figure in David Christian's account, which is an ambitious overview of the emerging field of "Big History." Maps of Time opens with the origins of the universe, the stars and the galaxies, the sun and the solar system, including the earth, and conducts readers through the evolution of the planet before human habitation. It surveys the development of human society from the Paleolithic era through the transition to agriculture, the emergence of cities and states, and the birth of the modern, industrial period right up to intimations of possible futures. Sweeping in scope, finely focused in its minute detail, this riveting account of the known world, from the inception of space-time to the prospects of global warming, lays the groundwork for world history--and Big History--true as never before to its name.


[T]he way to study history is to view it as a long duration, as what
I have called the tongue durée. It is not the only way, but it is one
which by itself can pose all the great problems of social structures,
past and present. It is the only language binding history to the
present, creating one indivisible whole.

Universal history comprehends the past life of mankind, not in its
particular relations and trends, but in its fullness and totality.

        A Moment’s Halt—a momentary taste
           Of BEING from the Well amid the Waste—
           And Lo!—the phantom Caravan has reached
           The NOTHING it set out from—Oh, make haste!

Like merchants in a huge desert caravan, we need to know where we are going, where we have come from, and in whose company we are traveling. Modern science tells us that the caravan is vast and varied, and our fellow travelers include numerous exotic creatures, from quarks to galaxies. We also know a lot about where the journey started and where it is headed. In these ways, modern science can help us answer some of the deepest questions we can ask concerning our own existence, and that of the universe through which we travel. It can help us draw the line we all must draw between the personal and the universal.

“Who am I? Where do I belong? What is the totality of which I am a part?” In some form, all human communities have asked these questions. And in most human societies, educational systems, formal and informal, have tried to answer them. Often, the answers have been embedded in cycles of . . .

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