Big History

Overview

An epic book that Kirkus called "world history on a grand scale," Big History begins when the universe is no more than the size of an atom and ends with a twenty-first-century planet inhabited by 6.1 billion people. It's a story that takes in prehistoric geology, human evolution, the agrarian age, the Black Death, the voyages of Columbus, the industrial revolution, and global warming. Along the way historian Cynthia Stokes Brown considers topics as varied as cell formation, population growth, global disparities, ...
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Overview

An epic book that Kirkus called "world history on a grand scale," Big History begins when the universe is no more than the size of an atom and ends with a twenty-first-century planet inhabited by 6.1 billion people. It's a story that takes in prehistoric geology, human evolution, the agrarian age, the Black Death, the voyages of Columbus, the industrial revolution, and global warming. Along the way historian Cynthia Stokes Brown considers topics as varied as cell formation, population growth, global disparities, and illiteracy, creating a stunning synthesis of the historical and scientific knowledge of humanity and the earth we inhabit.Big History represents a new kind of history, one that skillfully interweaves historical knowledge and cutting-edge science. In an age when scientific advances permit us to grasp the history of mankind in the context of its ecological impact on the planet, Brown's lucid, accessible narrative is the first popularization of this innovative new field of study, as thrilling as it is ambitious.
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Editorial Reviews

Alan Cooperman
There's much to argue about in Brown's account, and much to discover.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Beginning with the very origin of the universe, American Book Award-winning author Brown (Ready from Within: Septima Clark and the Civil Rights Movement) shows that history is more than the written records of the gadfly species Homo sapiens. In a multidisciplinary narrative subtly emphasizing the mutual impact of people and planet, Brown covers Earth's history from the big bang through the development of life and the growth of civilization. Nice concrete details give immediacy to the most remote events: "The gold in the ring on your finder has to be more than 4.5 billion years old." Brown's story covers the globe, encompassing the Mongols and Vikings, Mayans and Aztecs, as well as the Islamic Empire and Europe. Brown looks at the gold rush that followed Columbus's American voyages and the impact of chocolate, tomatoes, potatoes, tobacco and chili peppers on European habits. In a blink the Industrial Revolution and world wars lead to the new millennium. While much of the story is familiar, Brown's writing lucidly knits each topic into a vast historical mosaic. This exciting saga crosses space and time to illustrate how humans, born of stardust, were shaped-and how they in turn shaped the world we know today. 33 b&w illus. (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
World history on a grand scale, in just over 300 pages. Brown (Education/Dominican Univ.; Refusing Racism: White Allies and the Struggle for Civil Rights, 2002, etc.) begins with the creation of the universe during the Big Bang and spends five chapters dealing with what used to be called prehistory: the formation of stars and planets, the origin of life, trilobites, dinosaurs, Neanderthals, etc. Even when she arrives at complex societies ("civilization" is evidently a loaded word to the new school of historians), the focus is not on individuals but on broad social movements. Names like Alexander and Napoleon merit at best a passing reference in the broad flow of societal development. The author places a strong emphasis on developments in Asia, Africa and the Americas-especially in the centuries after the disintegration of the Roman Empire, when Europe was largely a cultural backwater. This leads to interesting inversions of the perspectives fostered by Eurocentric history: Alfred the Great, for example, goes unmentioned, while Tsai Lun, the second-century Chinese eunuch credited with inventing paper production, gets due credit, and the early years of Islam get more attention than the French Revolution. Traditionalists will undoubtedly grumble about the author's choices, especially the breezy dismissal of Europe from 1000 to 1500 as a "marginal" society, covered in just under four pages-about the same space given to the Aztecs. But Brown has an interesting story to tell, especially since it's not the one most of us learned in high school. The African, Asian and early American chapters of the story of humanity are, from the larger perspective suggested by the title, at least as important asthe European. Nitpickers will find plenty to snipe at, but even they are likely to learn a remarkable amount from this super-wide-angle view of our history. Refreshing change of perspective for history buffs.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595583536
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 9/12/2007
  • Pages: 572
  • Product dimensions: 1.17 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 10.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Cynthia Stokes Brown is a retired professor of education at Dominican University of California. She has written history and biography, including the American Book Award-winning Ready from Within: Septima Clark and the Civil Rights Movement, Connecting with the Past, and Refusing Racism. She lives in Berkeley, California.
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Table of Contents


List of Illustrations     ix
Preface and Acknowledgments     xi
The Depths of Time and Space
Expanding into Universe (13.7 Billion-4.6 Billion Years Ago)     3
Living Earth (4.6 Billion-5 Million Years Ago)     16
Human Emergence: One Species (5 Million-35,000 Years Ago)     38
Advanced Hunting and Gathering (35,000-10,000 Years Ago)     57
Ten Thousand Warm Years
Early Agriculture (8000-3500 BCE)     75
Early Cities (3500-800 BCE)     94
The Afro-Eurasian Network (800 BCE-200 CE)     110
Expanding the Afro-Eurasian Network (200-1000 CE)     127
Emergence of American Civilizations (200-1450 CE)     147
One Afro-Eurasia (1000-1500 CE)     168
Connecting the Globe (1450-1800 CE)     188
Industrialization (1750-2000 CE)     210
What Now? What Next?     230
Notes     249
Bibliography     265
Index     275
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