Big History: From the Big Bang to the Present

Big History: From the Big Bang to the Present

by Cynthia Stokes Brown
     
 

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Extend the human story backward for the five thousand years of recorded history, and it covers no more than a millionth of the lifetime of the Earth. Yet how do we humans take stock of the history of our planet and of our own place within it? As this fascinating, paradigm-shifting book reveals, recent leaps forward in scientific knowledge-whether biology, geology, or… See more details below

Overview

Extend the human story backward for the five thousand years of recorded history, and it covers no more than a millionth of the lifetime of the Earth. Yet how do we humans take stock of the history of our planet and of our own place within it? As this fascinating, paradigm-shifting book reveals, recent leaps forward in scientific knowledge-whether biology, geology, or anthropology-make this perspective possible for the first time. A "vast historical mosaic" (Publishers Weekly), Big History interweaves different schools of knowledge, offering the fullest account yet of the history of Earth. Here is a portrait of our world, from the birth of the universe from a single point the size of an atom to life on a twenty-first-century planet inhabited by 6.1 billion people. Cynthia Brown's "world history on a grand scale" (Kirkus) will forever alter our conception of the fate of the Earth and of the human role in this story.

About the Author:
Cynthia Stokes Brown is a retired professor of education at Dominican University of California

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Editorial Reviews

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.
From the Publisher

“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.”
Publishers Weekly

“There’s much to argue about in Brown’s account, and much to discover.”
The Washington Post

“Brown combines the findings of major authorities in the natural sciences and the human sciences, crisply portraying the discoveries and debates on history at the grandest scale.”
—Patrick Manning, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of World History, University of Pittsburgh

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781595584144
Publisher:
New Press, The
Publication date:
09/01/2008
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

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