Big History and the Future of Humanity [NOOK Book]


“Big History” places the human past within the history of life, the Earth, and the Universe. In doing so, this emerging field of historical study provides us with an overview of the known past in its entirety, from the beginning of time until the present day.  In Big History and the Future of Humanity, Spier presents a simple theoretical approach that not only makes big history accessible, but reveals ...
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Big History and the Future of Humanity

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“Big History” places the human past within the history of life, the Earth, and the Universe. In doing so, this emerging field of historical study provides us with an overview of the known past in its entirety, from the beginning of time until the present day.  In Big History and the Future of Humanity, Spier presents a simple theoretical approach that not only makes big history accessible, but reveals what the future may hold for humanity.

This original new approach interprets big history as the history of the rise and demise of complexity in all its myriad forms, from the greatest galaxy clusters to the tiniest sub-atomic particles. While focusing on energy flows through matter and the circumstances that produce complexity, the author traces the emergence and decline of all the major forms of complexity that have existed, including human societies and their products. Breathtaking in scope, Big History and the Future of Humanity offers provocative new insights into the origins and development of life and serves as an invitation to ponder humans’ place in the cosmos in a fascinating new way.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Spier takes us one important step forward in making big history accessible to all. I look forward to the next, more fully illustrated and documented, step in this process.” (Journal of World History, 1 August 2012

"This is a deep and important book that promises to send scholars in many different fields off on new paths in search of a grand unified theory of history." (Journal of Global History, 2011)

"Personally, I think everyone should have access to this story, and I would put it at the heart of the national curriculum as well." (The Times Higher Education, September 2010)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781444395877
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 12/3/2010
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,145,105
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Fred Spier is Senior Lecturer in Big History at the University of Amsterdam and also teaches Big History at the Eindhoven University of Technology. He is the author of Religious Regimes in Peru (1994), San Nicolás de Zurite (1995), and The Structure of Big History: From the Big Bang until Today (1996).
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Table of Contents

List of Figures.

Preface and Acknowledgments.

Chapter One: Introduction to Big History.


Studying the Past.

A Very Short History of Academic History.

A Short History of Big History.

A Historical Theory of Everything?

Chapter Two: General Approach.


Matter and Energy.


Energy Flows and the Emergence of Complexity.

The Goldilocks Principle.

Chapter Three: Cosmic Evolution: The Emergence of Simple.

Forms of Complexity.


The Big Bang: No Complexity.

Recent Issues Concerning the Big Bang Scenario.

The Radiation Era: The Emergence of Complexity at the Smallest Scales.

The Matter Era: The Emergence of Complexity at Atomic and Molecular Scales.

Galaxy Formation: The Emergence of Complexity at Larger Scales.

The Emergence of Stars.

Stars as Nuclear Forges.

Chapter Four: Our Cosmic Neighborhood: The Emergence of Greater Complexity.


The Galactic Habitable Zone.

The Emergence of Our Cosmic Neighborhood.

The Solar System Habitable Zone.

Major Characteristics of Earth.

Early Inner Planetary History.

Early Earth History.

Life Is Very Special.

The Emergence of Life.

Chapter Five: Life on Earth: The Widening Range of Complexity.

Life, Energy and Complexity.

Planetary Energy Flows and Life.

The Gaia Hypothesis.

The Emergence of Energy Harvesting from Outside.

The Emergence of the Biological Food Web.

The Emergence of Multicellular Organisms.

The Emergence of Brains and Consciousness.

The Increase and Expansion of Biological Complexity.

Conquest of the Land.

Further Increasing Complexity.

Chapter Six: Early Human History: The Emergence of the Greatest Known Complexity.


What Makes Humans Different.

Energy and Complexity.

The Emergence of Early Humans.

Improving Social Coordination.

Tool Making and Brain Growth.

Brains and Intestines.

Fire Control.


The Rise of Modern Humans.

Early Religion.

Chapter Seven: Recent Human History: The Development of the Greatest Known Complexity.


The Agrarian Revolution.

Contents vii.

The Developing Agrarian Regime.

Social Effects of the Agrarian Revolution.

The Emergence of Agrarian Religions.

Increasing Agricultural Complexity and Declining.

Untamed Complexity.

Early State Formation.

The Emergence of Big States.

The Emergence of Moral Religions.

Energy and Complexity in State Societies.

The First Wave of Globalization.

Industrialization: The Second Wave of Globalization.

Informatization: The Third Wave of Globalization.

Energy, Complexity and Goldilocks Circumstances.

Chapter Eight: Facing the Future.


A Very Short Overview of the Long Future of the Universe.

The Future of Earth and Life.

The Future of Humanity.

The Availability of Matter and Energy.

Exhaustion of Critical Resources and Growing Entropy.

Will Humans Migrate to Other Planets? Final Words.

Appendix A Short Time Line of Big History.




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