The Little Book of Big History

The Little Book of Big History

by Ian Crofton, Jeremy Black


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A lively history of the universe and human civilization, this authoritative volume tells the story of the cosmos, the stars, and human development on earth.

The Little Book of Big History is an endeavor to encapsulate the entire story of the cosmos, from the Big Bang to the current day, into an engaging and comprehensive narrative. Combining methods from history, astronomy, physics, and biology to draw together the big story arcs of how the universe was created, why planets formed, and how life developed, the result is a unique perspective of mankind’s place in the universe.

Excited by the alternative "framework for all knowledge" that is offered by this approach, Bill Gates is funding the Big History Project, which aims to bring this concept to a wider audience around the world.

The Little Book of Big History breaks down the main themes of Big History into highly informative and accessible parts for all readers to enjoy. By giving a truly complete timeline of world events, this book shines a whole different light on science as we learned it and makes us think of our history—and our future—in a very different way.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781681774367
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publication date: 07/04/2017
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 7.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Ian Crofton, formerly editor-in-chief of The Guinness Encyclopaedia, has written a wide range of other books, including Science Without the Boring Bits, Brewer's Britain and Ireland, Brewer's Dictionary of Modern Phrase and Fable, and the acclaimed World History: 50 Events You Really Need to Know. A polymath, with a gift for condensing complex narratives into highly readable and entertaining texts, he is the perfect guide to an increasingly popular approach to history.

Jeremy Black is a professor of history at Exeter University. He is also a senior fellow at the Center for the Study of America and the West at the Foreign Policy Research Institute based in Philadelphia. He is the author of a number of history books and is one of the most prolific historical scholars in England.

Table of Contents

Part 1 Setting the Scene

Timeline 10

In the beginning 11

The birth and death of stars 13

The Goldilocks zone 15

The restless Earth 17

Shaping the surface 19

What is life? 21

Where does the energy come from? 23

Life gets complicated 25

How life carries on 27

The origin of species 28

The blueprint of life 30

Part 2 Animal Planet

Timeline 34

The first animals 36

Life comes ashore 38

The age of the dinosaurs 40

Mass extinctions 42

The coming of the mammals 44

Where do we come from? 46

Part 3 Humans Start to Dominate

Timeline 50

Humans past and present 51

What makes humans human? 53

Culture 55

How humans populated the world 57

The impact of the ice 60

From scavenger to hunter 62

Fire 64

Hunter-gatherer technologies 65

Language 67

Kinship 69

Early religion 71

The beginning of art 73

Shelter 75

Clothing 77

Pottery 78

The first farmers 80

Domesticating animals 82

Putting animals to work 84

The wheel 86

Nomads 88

From stone to bronze 90

From bronze to iron 94

Part 4 Civilization

Timeline 98

Early trade routes 100

The birth of cities 103

Transport 106

From barter to money 108

Paper money 111

Credit, debt and investment 113

Writing 115

Law 117

Ancient empires 119

Why empires fall 122

Polytheism and monotheism 123

Epics 125

Writing history 127

The nature of reality 129

What is the good life? 131

The beginnings of science 133

Disease pandemics 136

Europe in transition 138

Land, labour and power 140

Clashes of civilizations 142

Part 5 The Rise of the West

Timeline 148

Renaissance and Reformation 150

The long road to toleration 152

Printing 154

The Scientific Revolution 156

Europe expands 158

The Enlightenment 162

The Industrial Revolution 164

The Agricultural Revolution 166

The social contract 168

From mercantilism to free-market capitalism 171

Nationalism and the nation 173

Urbanization 178

Expanding horizons 180

The peak of imperialism 182

Trade unions, socialism and communism 185

Part 6 The Modern World

Timeline 190

Modernism in the arts 192

Towards gender equality 195

Revolutions in science 198

Fighting disease 200

The road to world war 202

Industrialized slaughter 204

Versailles and its outcomes 207

Revolutions 209

World economic collapse 211

Totalitarianism 214

Total war 216

Genocide 219

The nuclear age 220

The Cold War 224

Life after the Cold War 228

The information revolution 230

The promises of bioscience 233

Internationalism globalization and the future of the nation-state 236

Population 240

Migration 242

Economic developments 244

Environmental problems 246

The future of humanity 250

The fate of the universe 254

Picture acknowledgements 256

Index 259

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