Big History: From the Big Bang to the Present

Overview


Extend the human story backward for the five thousand years of recorded history and it covers no more than a millionth of a lifetime of the Earth. Yet how do we humans take stock of the history of our planet, and our own place within it? A “vast historical mosaic” (Publishers Weekly) rendered engaging and accessible, Big History interweaves different disciplines of knowledge to offer an all-encompassing account of history on Earth. Since its publication, Cynthia Brown’s “world history on a grand scale” (Kirkus) ...
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Overview


Extend the human story backward for the five thousand years of recorded history and it covers no more than a millionth of a lifetime of the Earth. Yet how do we humans take stock of the history of our planet, and our own place within it? A “vast historical mosaic” (Publishers Weekly) rendered engaging and accessible, Big History interweaves different disciplines of knowledge to offer an all-encompassing account of history on Earth. Since its publication, Cynthia Brown’s “world history on a grand scale” (Kirkus) has been translated into nine languages and has helped propel the “big history” concept to viral status. This new edition of Brown’s seminal work is more relevant today than ever before, as we increasingly must grapple with accelerating rates of change and, ultimately, the legacy we will bequeath to future generations. Here is a pathbreaking 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 7 billion people.
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Editorial Reviews

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

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: 9781595588487
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 11/6/2012
  • Edition description: Revised Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 596,018
  • Product dimensions: 5.76 (w) x 8.08 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author


Cynthia Stokes Brown is a retired professor of education at Dominican University of California. She has written works of 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 to the 2012 Edition xi

Preface and Acknowledgments xix

Part I The Depths of Time and Space

1 Expanding into Universe (13.7 Billion-4.6 Billion Years Ago) 3

2 Living Earth (4.6 Billion-5 Million Years Ago) 16

3 Human Emergence: One Species (5 Million-35,000 Years Ago) 38

4 Advanced Hunting and Gathering (35,000-10,000 Years Ago) 57

Part II Ten Thousand Warm Years

5 Early Agriculture (8000-3500 BCE) 75

6 Early Cities (3500-800 BCE) 94

7 The Afro-Eurasian Network (800 BCE-200CE) 110

8 Expanding the Afro-Eurasian Network (200-1000 CE) 127

9 Emergence of American Civilizations (200-1450 CE) 147

10 One Afro-Eurasia (1000-1500 CE) 168

11 Connecting the Globe (1450-1800 CE) 188

12 Industrialization (1750-2000 CE) 210

13 What Now? What Next? 230

Notes 249

Bibliography 265

Index 275

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 26, 2008

    Good concept, bad execution.

    This book has a worthy premise of explaining past events from the moment they literally began - with the formation of the universe after the Big Bang. Despite this rather original approach, the book quickly - the first chapter - descends into horribly skewed facts and outright errors. <BR/><BR/>These errors were so gross that I couldn't even continue reading past the first chapter. I will site some of the errors here:<BR/><BR/>1. On p. 8: "The largest stars are up to twenty times more massive than the star that is our sun."<BR/><BR/>Actually, there are many stars that are more than 20 times the mass of the sun, with the largest confirmed to be about 115 solar masses and others suspected of being about 150 solar masses. <BR/><BR/>http://www.skyandtelescope.com/news/3308531.html?page=1&c=y<BR/>http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080919142646.htm<BR/>http://www.astronomy.com/asy/default.aspx?c=a&id=5620<BR/><BR/>2. On p. 3: "We are traveling 2 million miles a day around the center of the Milky Way galaxy." Then on p. 11: "...traveling about 200,000 miles a day..." <BR/><BR/>The author's numbers aren't even consistent with each other. What's worse is that neither of them are correct. The actual speed is 220 km/s, or about 486,000 miles per hour.<BR/><BR/>http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2007/10/hubbles-secret-.html<BR/>http://hypertextbook.com/facts/2002/StacyLeong.shtml<BR/>http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070929111419AAyoSvx<BR/><BR/>3. On p. 10: "Our black hole, more than six solar masses..."<BR/><BR/>While technically true, this number is far from accurate. In 2002 an article was published by the ESO, which stated that the black hole at the center of the galaxy was about 2.6 million solar masses. While more recent studies show a mass of about 4 million solar masses.<BR/><BR/>Prior to the discovery of the smallest known black hole, XTE J1650-500, earlier this year (which comes in at 3.8 solar masses), the smallest known black hole was GRO J1655-40, which was more than 6 solar masses.<BR/><BR/>http://www.eso.org/public/outreach/press-rel/pr-2002/pr-17-02.html<BR/>http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26529279/<BR/>http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080401141549.htm<BR/>http://blackholes.stardate.org/directory/factsheet.php?id=11<BR/><BR/>4. On p. 12: "All other planets revolve on a vertical axis except Saturn, which revolves on a horizontal axis."<BR/><BR/>Considering that Earth's axis is 23.5 degrees off vertical, and Saturn's is 26.7 degrees off vertical, I guess that means Earth also has a horizontal orbit. Or, more likely, the author was actually referring to the 98 degree axis of Uranus, not Saturn. I learned his in elementary school.<BR/><BR/>http://www.nasa.gov/worldbook/uranus_worldbook.html<BR/>http://www.nasa.gov/worldbook/saturn_worldbook.html<BR/><BR/>I understand that scientific data is always changing. However, the figures contained in just the first chapter aren't even close to those used when this book was published. I simply don't see how this book could have been published. It clearly lacks any sort of quality review, specifically from someone with a science/astronomy background. <BR/><BR/>While I didn't read the entire book, I'm left wondering what other inaccuracies are contained in it. Or, perhaps, the first chapter is an anomaly and the rest of the book is accurate. However, considering the fundamental errors in the first chapter, I won't be giving it the chance to redeem itself. There are many other quality books that are more worthy of being read.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2007

    First glimpse at the new field of Big History

    Rather well written and kept my attention. While Cynthia Stokes Brown is obviously not a creationist or a believe in intelligent design at least she is not preachy about it. I would by another history book by her.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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