Maps of Time
An introduction to a new way of looking at history, from a perspective that stretches from the beginning of time to the present day, Maps of Time is world history on an unprecedented scale. Beginning with the Big Bang, David Christian views the interaction of the natural world with the more recent arrivals in flora and fauna, including human beings.Cosmology, geology, archeology, and population and environmental studies—all figure in David Christian's account, which is an ambitious overview of the emerging field of "Big History." Maps of Time opens with the origins of the universe, the stars and the galaxies, the sun and the solar system, including the earth, and conducts readers through the evolution of the planet before human habitation. It surveys the development of human society from the Paleolithic era through the transition to agriculture, the emergence of cities and states, and the birth of the modern, industrial period right up to intimations of possible futures. Sweeping in scope, finely focused in its minute detail, this riveting account of the known world, from the inception of space-time to the prospects of global warming, lays the groundwork for world history—and Big History—true as never before to its name.

Maps of Time Details

TitleMaps of Time
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseFeb 23rd, 2004
PublisherUniversity of California Press
ISBN-139780520244764
Rating
GenreHistory, Science, Nonfiction, World History, Biology, Evolution

Maps of Time Review

  • Katie
    January 1, 1970
    David Christian's book covers the entire history of the universe - the Big Bang to the universe's eventual descent into darkness - in 500 pages, laying out a text book of "big history." Big history is a response to a perception that history as a field has been becoming increasingly fragmented, as specialists veer off into their own corners and study minute details while the big picture often gets lost in the shuffle. It's a fair point.Christian responds to this with a demand for synthesis, into David Christian's book covers the entire history of the universe - the Big Bang to the universe's eventual descent into darkness - in 500 pages, laying out a text book of "big history." Big history is a response to a perception that history as a field has been becoming increasingly fragmented, as specialists veer off into their own corners and study minute details while the big picture often gets lost in the shuffle. It's a fair point.Christian responds to this with a demand for synthesis, into what he refers to as a new 'creation myth.' His 500 pages include the Big Bang, the geological evolution on earth, the beginnings of life, and human evolution before jumping into the traditional contents of human history. It's very much a bird's eye view, tied together by the loose thematic thread that the universe keeps managing to produce complexity and order, even if it seems illogical and counter to the second law of thermodynamics. Also highlighted, especially in the work's second half, is the importance of language, communication, and networks of exchange to promote increased complexity and development.It's a really fascinating read, and will give a nice introduction to lots of topics from astrophysics to biology to sociology. I'm a bit mixed on big history in general, though. General trends are helpful, and a wider view is often very much needed, but I do think that the details matter in human history and they're pretty absent here. It's a good book for an alternate perspective and a nice reminder that lots of factors are needed when accounting for historical change. But the connection between the Big Bang and the development of trade networks seems pretty loose, and I'm not sure it's all that helpful or necessary to study them in tandem. Christian is big on making metaphorical connections between the levels - the formation of cities paralleling the formation of stars and all that - but it never really develops fully. And I think for big history to have a lasting impact, it has to make a better case for how the study of all these different fields together is more helpful than studying them on their own.
    more
  • Marc
    January 1, 1970
    It took more than two months to read this 500-page book, intensively taking notes. That is to say that it really is worth it. I'm a graduate in history myself, and I like to read detailed monographs, but at the same time I'm very fond of authors that try to see the broader picture. "Big History" (as Christian propagates) requires courage and a talent to filter a storyline out of the chaotic mass of details, whilst respecting a thorough accurateness and a sense of nuance. In this book Christian h It took more than two months to read this 500-page book, intensively taking notes. That is to say that it really is worth it. I'm a graduate in history myself, and I like to read detailed monographs, but at the same time I'm very fond of authors that try to see the broader picture. "Big History" (as Christian propagates) requires courage and a talent to filter a storyline out of the chaotic mass of details, whilst respecting a thorough accurateness and a sense of nuance. In this book Christian has chosen for the highest possible (bird)perspective, beginning with the Big Bang all the way up (though without using the word "progress") to the present, and even looking into the future of coming centuries and millenia. I'm impressed by the literature Christian has digested and his ability to really capture the broader picture and present it in a digestible way. The most interesting chapter was the one in which he describes the big trends in agrarian societies, roughly between 3000 BCE and the year 1500: I've never read anything like that anywhere else. But of course, such an ambitious work also has a lot of weaknesses. The most important to me is that Christian (whilst denying this explicitly) favours a kind of historical materialism: in almost all chapters the economic organisation of society is the driving force behind change or transformation; political and especially cultural developments or attitudes are downplayed or ignored. Secondly Christian is following with a bit too much ease recent trends in historiography: in the chapter on the appearance of modern man (the homo sapiens) the main these is based on just one publication in a science magazine; Christian also almost blindly follows recent (western) publications that state that the Chinese economy from the eleventh until the eighteenth century was manyfold bigger and more intensive than the European/atlantic economy (there are indications that this is plausible, but not so much real proof). And finally, I have some issues with his final chapter, about the centuries and millennia to come: this is nothing less than an ecological pamphlet; and of course there are good reasons to do so, but as an historian, I'm very weary of political statements that use (misuse) the past as proof.See also my review in my Sense-of-History-account: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
    more
  • Kimba Tichenor
    January 1, 1970
    David Christian's provides an introduction to so-called Big History -- a type of history that the author defines as interdisciplinary in nature and one which seeks to find "an underlying unity beneath the various accounts of the past told in different historically oriented disciplines. Big History studies the past across physics, astronomy, geology, biology, and human history. As it does so, it seeks common themes, paradigms and methods..." Put differently, it endeavors to provide a modern, secu David Christian's provides an introduction to so-called Big History -- a type of history that the author defines as interdisciplinary in nature and one which seeks to find "an underlying unity beneath the various accounts of the past told in different historically oriented disciplines. Big History studies the past across physics, astronomy, geology, biology, and human history. As it does so, it seeks common themes, paradigms and methods..." Put differently, it endeavors to provide a modern, secular "creation story" based on scientific data to replace the mythic and religious "creation" narratives of the past that the author claims have lost their explanatory power in today's globalized world. In short, this book (and with it, Big History) could be described as a reactionary project -- a response to the global upsurge in fundamentalism in the early twenty-first century. In lieu of a god or gods, it establishes science as a secular religion that can reconnect human history with the history of the universe. As such, like the grand master narratives of the nineteenth century, this book is more about the present than it is about the past -- despite its endless descriptions of dying stars and ice ages. And also like those past metanarratives, it is not free of ideological baggage. This ideological baggage becomes apparent in the book's omissions. It is a history devoid of any reference to slavery and how slavery provided the manpower (or "energy" to use the language of the book) that fueled the European and American industrial revolution. It is a history that includes no reference to the Holocaust or to the countless other genocides of the twentieth and twenty-first century (e.g. Pot Pol in Cambodia, 1975-79 and Rwanda in 1994). It is a history largely devoid of human agency and consequently also devoid of human atrocities.If there is any truth to the maxim: "Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it," then this "history" is truly troublesome in its omissions. This is especially the case now that Bill Gates is providing massive funding for the push to teach "Big History" in US secondary schools. Given that several recent surveys have shown that a growing number of secondary and post-secondary students in the United States lack even a basic knowledge of the Holocaust and of slavery in the United States, it would seem gravely irresponsible to dilute the content of high school history courses even further. For example, in a 2018 survey of 1400 Americans by Schoen Consulting, 45 percent of US citizens between the ages of 18 and 34 could not name a single WWII concentration or extermination camp. Among that same age group, 66 percent had not heard of Auschwitz. Similarly, a survey of US high school students conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2017 found that only 8 percent of students could identify slavery as a central cause of the American Civil War, and two-thirds did not know that it took a constitutional amendment to put an end to slavery. Given this ignorance of potentially avoidable human atrocities, it would seem a grave error to waste precious class time on natural forces (super nova and dying suns) over which humans have no control. A "history" text or course covering 13 billion years, in which human life makes no appearance until chapter 6 and the twentieth century is reduced to one chapter, is much ado about nothing. Rather than a history, it becomes a narrative of progress and technological advance aimed at defending the economic status quo (neoliberal capitalism), as it both fails to take into account the current system's origins in slave labor or the role of capitalism in producing the very ecological destruction of which the book is so critical.
    more
  • Alli
    January 1, 1970
    I was just glancing through the other comments as I finished reading this this morning, and there was one about how this was a well written book but it was obvious that the author wasn't Christian, and therefore was wrong/the commentator didn't agree with him because other books about "big history" have been written by Christians that fit the Biblical story and have "science" to back them up. To them I say, this book was not written to support the Christian/Creationism/Intelligent Design worldvi I was just glancing through the other comments as I finished reading this this morning, and there was one about how this was a well written book but it was obvious that the author wasn't Christian, and therefore was wrong/the commentator didn't agree with him because other books about "big history" have been written by Christians that fit the Biblical story and have "science" to back them up. To them I say, this book was not written to support the Christian/Creationism/Intelligent Design worldview. This book was written to explain, through the research and the science, what we know, right now, to be the history of us. Us the universe, us the planet, us the human race. Just because Christians believe that the world was created in 6 days, no more than ~6000 years ago, doesn't make it true. Christianity is not the only religion out there, is not the "right" religion (in that all others are wrong), and just because someone doesn't agree with the Christian world view does not make their world view any less relevant. The author's goal was not to prove that there was (or was not) in fact some deity out there who created the universe, whether the Judeo-Christian-Islamic Yehwa/God/Allah or the turtle who carried North America on it's back (the Iroquois creation myth) or Vishnu commanding Brahma to create the world.Anyway, back to my review. I enjoyed this big picture look at history. After many school years learning about perhaps a 500 year span of history, it's easy to forget that there is so much more out there. Physics and astronomy classes give you the first chapter of this book, the creation of the universe, and museums generally give you the Neanderthal/early Homonines, and then, in the west at least, you get the Greek/Roman history on up to present, in some form or another, in school. So often we get histories that are biased either to the European/American perspective or the Christian perspective, and I liked that, when he was looking at the modern human eras, he looked at all of it, be it Asia, Australia, America (continent, not country), not just Europe. There were times when he focused more on one area (Britain) than others, but then, if you look at the time period he was talking about, Britain was the major player. Overall, a very good read, has made me interested in reading more about big history.
    more
  • Erisa Isak
    January 1, 1970
    Big History is a synthesis of knowledge from different scholarly disciplines that makes for one fascinating story about our universe. Most people will probably be familiar with a lot of the information in the book, but it’s when that information is put into a new contexts that you start seeing things differently, and that’s what I enjoyed the most. Also, I really enjoyed professor Christian’s explanation of the evolution of the universe, from the simplest structures to growing levels of complexi Big History is a synthesis of knowledge from different scholarly disciplines that makes for one fascinating story about our universe. Most people will probably be familiar with a lot of the information in the book, but it’s when that information is put into a new contexts that you start seeing things differently, and that’s what I enjoyed the most. Also, I really enjoyed professor Christian’s explanation of the evolution of the universe, from the simplest structures to growing levels of complexity and organization, from quarks to stars to galaxies, from long carbon chains to living organisms and the biosphere, to human beings with brains capable of inventing language and science, of writing poetry and composing music, and filling their lives with symbolic meaning, and so on. There are no boundaries between philosophy and science and specific disciplines within science like, anthropology, sociology, psychology, history …. the facts of the cosmos don’t obey these boundaries we have created, which are very useful, of course, but can also hide information that is only visible from a bird’s eye view. Reality is one. If we want to know it better, we have to look at the big picture as a whole and Big History does a great job at that.
    more
  • Wesley Jackson
    January 1, 1970
    Beautiful, it sweeps from the origins of the universe to the very present, from the atomic to the cosmic, but never loses the perspective that grips you in tears of awe, tears that are not blinding but the birthing-sweat of sight itself
  • David
    January 1, 1970
    The history of the world in less than 510 pages, and starting with the Big Bang. Humans don't appear until around page 110. Still a very interesting book. Of course, he misses a lot of the high points of history. Instead, as he describes the the forces that created the universe, he surveys the forces that have created the world's cultures. Centering mostly on the economical, giving the book a somewhat Marxist feel. It is an interesting contrast to the very specific studies of history. I read it The history of the world in less than 510 pages, and starting with the Big Bang. Humans don't appear until around page 110. Still a very interesting book. Of course, he misses a lot of the high points of history. Instead, as he describes the the forces that created the universe, he surveys the forces that have created the world's cultures. Centering mostly on the economical, giving the book a somewhat Marxist feel. It is an interesting contrast to the very specific studies of history. I read it because the historian William McNeil in his autobiography recommended it.
    more
  • Kevin
    January 1, 1970
    Is the written historical record enough to explain the history of civilization? David Christian would argue that it isn't, Maps of Time is a condensed, single volume argument based on his introductory lectures on the topic of “Big History”. Big History as defined by Christian is the history of everything on the largest possible scale, from the beginning of the universe to its bitter end. By this definition Big History covers not only the written record, but also prehistory and even prehuman hist Is the written historical record enough to explain the history of civilization? David Christian would argue that it isn't, Maps of Time is a condensed, single volume argument based on his introductory lectures on the topic of “Big History”. Big History as defined by Christian is the history of everything on the largest possible scale, from the beginning of the universe to its bitter end. By this definition Big History covers not only the written record, but also prehistory and even prehuman history. To begin his tour of Big History, Christian starts his introduction with the Big Bang and the evolution of the universe and solar system; slowly drilling down into smaller timescales to examine the formation and development of complex societies. The concluding chapters of Maps of Time speculates what is to come in the near future (100 years), the intermediate future (a few million years), and the distance future (billions of years) until the universe ultimately runs down. A large undertaking for any researcher looking to form a single coherent story of our past, present, and future based on empirical study rather than dogmatic ideas from the past.Using a combination of modern science and up-to-date theories of history Christian aims to construct what he calls “a modern creation myth”. The author is an academic historian, so the science presented in the book is pretty basic and introductory, but he has made the effort to convey the material accurately and concise enough to be understood by the general public. The rest of the story (thesis) is really a series of snapshots and large-scale patterns throughout history. So, no one subject is covered in much detail. By looking at the large-scale patterns of history, Christian argues, that we are better able to understand how society has come into its current state of being. Something that is often missed when looking at specific events in history (i.e. the fall of Rome). What was really interesting about this, was that Christian choose to frame the story of human progress with all that it entails, in a creation myth. Although radically different from traditional creation myths, he is still seeking a way make sense of the complex world around us.However, in contrast with most traditional creation stories, this modern creation myth does not view complex entities as better or worse than less complex entities. The story simply relates the increase in the level of complexity over the course of time. Complexity is just a consequence of progress, that for one reason or another is undertaken by a species or a society when faced with competition for resources. It's the differential progress throughout the world that has shaped our histories and fueled the present. The ebb and flow of time does not favor any particular culture. It is the choices and often competitive needs that ultimately controls the destiny of whole regions. As a consequence of this ever-increasing complexity have come unforeseen impacts to society and the environment, which leads to conflict, innovation, and transition from one social and political system to another. With each transition comes new interdependence and the need for new methods of organization.In many ways Maps of Time is a successful re-telling of human history, in other ways many readers may find it disappointing. For me personally, the provided what I was looking for, a sense of the big picture, an outline and context to help me put things into a larger perspective. However, it fails on one crucial point as a modern creation myth. Early on the book Christian states that “creation myths provide universal coordinates within which people can imagine their own existence, and find a role in the larger scheme of things. Creation myths are powerful because they speak to our deep spiritual, psychic, and social need for a place and sense of belonging.” Christian is able to deliver a scientifically and historically accurate narrative of our basic history that fulfills our intellectual curiosity, but fails to satisfy our deep spiritual and social needs. Our species needs to feel as though we are privileged, that this oasis in space is special to us and to us alone. The cold facts of science and history destroy the self-centered notion that we are the center of the universe. For the a modern creation myth to be complete it needs to answer the question of where we belong on deeper philosophical and psychological reasons. Maybe that's too much to ask of just one book.
    more
  • Mike Hankins
    January 1, 1970
    Maps of Time is arguably one of the most ambitious projects undertaken by a historian, seeking to synthesize universal existence, from the Big Bang to the end of time, into a single coherent narrative in approximately 500 pages. David Christian is deliberately attempting to create a new, modern “creation myth” that fits current scientific understanding. The grand scale of the work, in addition to a preachy environmentalism, obscures Christian's larger contribution: his interesting approach to wo Maps of Time is arguably one of the most ambitious projects undertaken by a historian, seeking to synthesize universal existence, from the Big Bang to the end of time, into a single coherent narrative in approximately 500 pages. David Christian is deliberately attempting to create a new, modern “creation myth” that fits current scientific understanding. The grand scale of the work, in addition to a preachy environmentalism, obscures Christian's larger contribution: his interesting approach to world history that emphasizes luck to explain the dominance of western civilization. Many historians might take umbrage at the first half of the work, which never mentions people. Instead, Christian explains the expanding universe in the few seconds after the Big Bang, the formations of galaxy clusters, stars, and solar systems, before finally focusing on Earth, the formation of early life, and early human evolution. These chapters generally take the form of synthesizing the work of other fields. While much of this synthesis is well-written, Christian avoids key debates in these fields – such as disagreements in the world of quantum mechanics, or the emerging discussions of string theory – in order to present a sense of scientific consensus that might gloss over field-specific difficulties. However, Christian is not afraid to say, “I don't know,” to such questions as the origins of the universe and generation of life. Yet many historians will wonder why these heady scientific chapters are necessary to the understanding of human history.Concerning humans, Christian identifies a few key transition points, the first being the development of large-scale agriculture. Borrowing heavily from William McNeill, Christian paints a picture of cultures interacting with one another to produce and share innovations that lead to growth and progress. Yet Christian paints with a broad brush, seeing little difference between Sumer, Rome, or the Medieval world – all are simply agrarian societies. The next key transition is the industrial revolution, ushering in the modern era. Breaking from the McNeill mold, Christian emphasizes that luck, more than other factors, accounts for the dominance of western European society in this transition. Placement of natural resources and the sheer chance of geography in relation to the Americas allow Europe to become a key hub, or “center of gravity” for world culture and technology. While he has little time for individuals or for ideas in his broad history, Christian adds that capitalism, a product of the industrial revolution, inherently drives innovation in an exponentially increasing curve that shows no sign of slowing at present.Christian asserts that modernity is too young to make any accurate predictions about the near future, but does lapse into alarmist environmentalism. He warns his readers that time is nearly up for planet Earth if consumption habits remain unchanged, and if the population curves of other species are any indication, that humanity is on the way out. He follows these grim warnings with a grimmer chapter about the slow death of the universe at the end of time.Maps of Time, in one sense, does create a cogent narrative, spanning all of known existence. Whether this view is satisfactory as a new creation myth is up to each individual reader, although many will likely find him unconvincing due to the lack of depth inherent in such a work. However, even if successful at creating a modern mythology, the question must be asked if such a myth is useful. While it can provide interesting perspective to view the big picture, Christian offers no satisfying answers to the existential questions that lay nagging underneath his work, leaving the reader as cold and empty as the dead universe he describes.
    more
  • Ian Tymms
    January 1, 1970
    Monumental in every way. A tome to represent the entirety of history - from big bang to our possible future. Like all great historians, Christian, is a storyteller with his own set of motifs. The underlying exploration of history as evolving complexity was one such theme and his discussion of the dance between chaos and complexity in the appendix was fascinating. Looking at history as emergence in the language of complexity theory is new to me but makes good sense. Complexity theory is popping u Monumental in every way. A tome to represent the entirety of history - from big bang to our possible future. Like all great historians, Christian, is a storyteller with his own set of motifs. The underlying exploration of history as evolving complexity was one such theme and his discussion of the dance between chaos and complexity in the appendix was fascinating. Looking at history as emergence in the language of complexity theory is new to me but makes good sense. Complexity theory is popping up everywhere...
    more
  • Nancy Ellis
    January 1, 1970
    Exciting approach to the study of history, taken all the way back to the beginning of the universe, basing the history of everything on increasing complexity leading up to modern society. THIS IS HOW HISTORY SHOULD BE TAUGHT!!! I read the book while watching the author's series of lectures on Big History for The Great Courses (formerly known as The Teaching Company......wonderful outfit, by the way). If science had been taught in this manner while I was in school, I most likely would not have sp Exciting approach to the study of history, taken all the way back to the beginning of the universe, basing the history of everything on increasing complexity leading up to modern society. THIS IS HOW HISTORY SHOULD BE TAUGHT!!! I read the book while watching the author's series of lectures on Big History for The Great Courses (formerly known as The Teaching Company......wonderful outfit, by the way). If science had been taught in this manner while I was in school, I most likely would not have spent my time avoiding as many science courses as possible! Approaching all disciplines -- cosmology, astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, etc.-- with the idea that everything has a history and all history is connected gives a refreshing and exhilarating perspective on the study of human beings. I highly recommend this book, as well as the lecture series, as well as connecting to https://www.bighistoryproject.com.
    more
  • Victoria Hawco
    January 1, 1970
    I had to understand more math and physics than I would have liked, but what are you gonna do.
  • Terry Clague
    January 1, 1970
    You can't knock someone writing a history book covering 13 odd billion years - even if he does describe that as "a brief exuberant springtime" compared to an "inconceivably distant future"."Big History" is a fairly new subdiscipline which attempts to describe historical development from the "big bang" onward. I'm not sure why this book (authored by a - ahem - big name in the "field") isn't just called big history - perhaps because the publishers were worried that readers would constantly say it You can't knock someone writing a history book covering 13 odd billion years - even if he does describe that as "a brief exuberant springtime" compared to an "inconceivably distant future"."Big History" is a fairly new subdiscipline which attempts to describe historical development from the "big bang" onward. I'm not sure why this book (authored by a - ahem - big name in the "field") isn't just called big history - perhaps because the publishers were worried that readers would constantly say it in a Max Bygraves voice (a la BIG MONEY from Family Fortunes - very much the Pointless of its day).There are various problems with the field and thus the book - the author discusses them in his introduction. A history graduate friend of mine told me that one of his essay questions was something like "Hobsbawm's 'Age of Revolution is more interesting for what it leaves out than what it includes. Discuss." and that's obviously a problem for big history - probably the main problem. Not necessarily events but perhaps emotions and impact - afterall, Hitler is said to have asked "who remembers the Armenians?".Another predictable problem the book has to address is that in trying to cover so much, it runs the risk of becoming a running commentary - as Alan Bennett had Rudge say in History Boys, history is just "one fucking thing after another". These factors don't really prevent this from being an impressive work, but it's one on which it's very difficult to focus - effectively it's a bunch of short books stuck together and as such it's easy to scan in places.Finally, there is a danger with this kind of venture that the reader can become overwhelmingly depressed. Faced with unimaginable lengths of time one often thinks "O what's the bloody point"*. Still, there's 150 pages of appendices and index which means one gets a beatiful feeling of achievement having read it when actually one has not needed to bother with a significant proportion.* not least a thought-provoking section on Rapa Nui, a small island "discovered" in 1722 (now known as Easter Island) on which around 3,000 people lived in dreadful circumstances, reduced to petty battles over diminishing resources. Despite this pathetic existance, there is evidence that previous generations had lived relatively luxuriously but totally unsustainably with the consequence thatpopulation growth and consumption of resources, driven by political and economic competition, led to sudden environmental and social collapse.
    more
  • Jack
    January 1, 1970
    This is a great book for parents. Look, at some point your kid is going to ask you a whole series of brutally hard questions: "Dad, where did the universe come from?" "Dad, what made the moon?" "Dad, where did cows live before they lived on farms?" And, as a reasonably well educated Dad or Mom, you kind of think there is probably an answer out there, but it's hard to put your finger on it. This here is the book for you.The book is unabashedly ambitious, and in just over 400 pages covers the enti This is a great book for parents. Look, at some point your kid is going to ask you a whole series of brutally hard questions: "Dad, where did the universe come from?" "Dad, what made the moon?" "Dad, where did cows live before they lived on farms?" And, as a reasonably well educated Dad or Mom, you kind of think there is probably an answer out there, but it's hard to put your finger on it. This here is the book for you.The book is unabashedly ambitious, and in just over 400 pages covers the entire history of the universe. Literally. The first chapter is about the Big Bang. Then a real nice chapter about galaxy formation and planet formation. Boom, next thing you know we are dealing with the molecular origins of life, with particular attention to bacteria and alternative energy sources. (Lots, possibly most, bacteria use chemical energy, not photosynthesis as their fundamental source! Hot vent life may be the norm, and plants the aberation, not vice versa. Who knew?) A few chapters later its the evolution of language, the order of domestication of plants and animals. Not long thereafter its trying to explain why the runt end of the Eurasian landmass suddenly figured out technological creativity and took over the whole globe.Its really quite good. On the whole, the discussions are subtle and sophisticated -- broad-brush without being dumbed down. On the things I know pretty well, such as evolutionary theory, infectious diseases, and organizational economics, he gets the details right, which makes me feel pretty confident about the rest. There were about a million books in the notes I wanted to read.The author asserts at the beginning that he is trying do get history to tell really big narratives -- creation myths for a society that wants its myths to be rooted in science. This book seems like a pleasant antidote to so much of the pedantry for which the Academy gets critiques. While I'm not sure his synthesis is right -- it leans a little too much on pop complexity theory for me -- I loved having to decide if I agreed with him or not. The book made me look up.So, it's a little geeky, it's a little intimidating, but it's really very well written, and strongly rewards some good time on the couch. And it makes for way more fun conversation with the kids.
    more
  • Will
    January 1, 1970
    One of my favourite books. Maps of Time is a fascinating history textbook. What makes this book unique is in the telling of history. Christian's approach is through an emerging academic discipline known as Big History. Christian examines the moment of the Big Bang to the present and uses a multi-disciplinary approach based on combining various scientific ideologies and the humanities. The Maps of Time recounts the events of a changing universe by employing astrophysics, particle physics, paleobi One of my favourite books. Maps of Time is a fascinating history textbook. What makes this book unique is in the telling of history. Christian's approach is through an emerging academic discipline known as Big History. Christian examines the moment of the Big Bang to the present and uses a multi-disciplinary approach based on combining various scientific ideologies and the humanities. The Maps of Time recounts the events of a changing universe by employing astrophysics, particle physics, paleobiology, planetary geology, anthropology to name a few. When you think of telling this kind of story, it makes sense. Most historical books are slanted in one way or another. For example: If you told the story of Madame Curie's work in uranium and told it from her perspective, no doubt it would have a strong physics slant because that's what she was – a physicist. But if you were to tell it from her doctor's point of view, it would have a strong medical slant. Combining these perspectives creates a much broader picture, giving us far more detail. Worth a read.
    more
  • Paul DiBara
    January 1, 1970
    This book does something I've been hoping to see for quite a while. It attempts to take the broad view of human development - going back to the beginning of the universe - to see what lessons or conclusions we might draw from such a survey. It's a combination of philosophy, science and history. What is the relation of humanity to the universe. I'm tempted to say that it explores the nature of reality but the scope isn't quite that broad. It takes a more holistic view of being than I've seen in a This book does something I've been hoping to see for quite a while. It attempts to take the broad view of human development - going back to the beginning of the universe - to see what lessons or conclusions we might draw from such a survey. It's a combination of philosophy, science and history. What is the relation of humanity to the universe. I'm tempted to say that it explores the nature of reality but the scope isn't quite that broad. It takes a more holistic view of being than I've seen in anything I've read or watched in a long time.There's no compelling unifying moral force, or myth, extant in today's world, outside of cults or dated religions that have lost much of their ability to explain the present world and our place, our purpose, in it. Studies like that presented in this book could be a step in the direction of a new philosophy that may extract some meaning from the splintered and fragmented world we live in. There have been periods in history like this before, times without a prevailing moral or ethical center.
    more
  • Federico Sosa Machó
    January 1, 1970
    Muy interesante exponente de lo que se ha dado en llamar "macrohistoria", y nunca mejor aplicado el término. El autor arranca su relato nada menos que en el origen del universo y llega hasta su probable final. Nada más ni nada menos. En ese recorrido nos pasea sucesivamente por diferentes disciplinas: la química y la física en los comienzos, la biología y la astronomía, para luego centrarse en la historia, la economía o la antropología. Es esta última parte la que más me gustó, especialmente por Muy interesante exponente de lo que se ha dado en llamar "macrohistoria", y nunca mejor aplicado el término. El autor arranca su relato nada menos que en el origen del universo y llega hasta su probable final. Nada más ni nada menos. En ese recorrido nos pasea sucesivamente por diferentes disciplinas: la química y la física en los comienzos, la biología y la astronomía, para luego centrarse en la historia, la economía o la antropología. Es esta última parte la que más me gustó, especialmente porque se abandona cualquier etnocentrismo para abarcar a la humanidad toda, realizando comparaciones cuando la situación lo amerita. El comienzo y el final, siendo interesantes, resultan algo arduos para un lego en disciplinas a las que nos asomamos con dificultades. Adecuados resúmenes sintetizan lo sustancial de cada capítulo, al tiempo que una abundante bibliografía nos señala los caminos que conviene recorrer si se quiere profundizar en determinados temas. Como punto de partida, es un libro casi inmejorable.
    more
  • Chris Aldrich
    January 1, 1970
    This is an interesting change of reference from a historical perspective combining cosmology, astronomy, geology, microbiology, evolutionary theory, archaeology, politics, religion, economics, and history into one big area of contiguous study based upon much larger timescales. Though it takes from many disciplines, it provides for an interesting, fresh, and much needed perspective on who humans are and their place in the world. I'd highly recommend this to any general reader as early as they can This is an interesting change of reference from a historical perspective combining cosmology, astronomy, geology, microbiology, evolutionary theory, archaeology, politics, religion, economics, and history into one big area of contiguous study based upon much larger timescales. Though it takes from many disciplines, it provides for an interesting, fresh, and much needed perspective on who humans are and their place in the world. I'd highly recommend this to any general reader as early as they can find time to read through it, particularly because it provides such an excellent base for a variety of disciplines thereby better framing their future studies. I wish I had been able to read this book in the ninth or tenth grade or certainly at the latest by my freshman year in college.This could be an extremely fundamental and life-changing book for common summer reading programs of incoming college freshman. I wish I could make it required reading for life in general.
    more
  • Ed
    January 1, 1970
    The best of the Big History books by far. Essential reading if you want to situate now in the long term history of the universe and of humanity. Extraordinarily well done and better by far than Harari and other Big History folks.
  • Martin Hernandez
    January 1, 1970
    La "Gran Historia" es quizá el proyecto más ambicioso emprendido por un historiador, tanto, que se necesita un libro de > 500 páginas... como ¡introducción! Esta es una gran lectura, muy entretenida y accesible al menos hasta el capítulo 9, pues a partir del 10 empieza a ponerse un poco más técnico, desde el punto de vista de la economía de la innovación, y más denso, hasta el último capítulo, que trata sobre algunos futuros posibles, que también es muy interesante. Muy recomendable para que La "Gran Historia" es quizá el proyecto más ambicioso emprendido por un historiador, tanto, que se necesita un libro de > 500 páginas... como ¡introducción! Esta es una gran lectura, muy entretenida y accesible al menos hasta el capítulo 9, pues a partir del 10 empieza a ponerse un poco más técnico, desde el punto de vista de la economía de la innovación, y más denso, hasta el último capítulo, que trata sobre algunos futuros posibles, que también es muy interesante. Muy recomendable para que los aficionados a la historia que quieran verla desde una perspectiva diferente y global.
    more
  • Toby
    January 1, 1970
    The idea of Big History sounds intriguing, but after reading most of this book (I admit I could not finish it --- I did not enjoy the writing style at all), I am unconvinced that it has anything much to offer that one cannot get from reading the basic source material alone. Indeed, the book feels to me like a very detailed summary of a bunch of introductory books in science, anthropology, and sociology. I'd prefer a shorter, more focussed book that clearly emphasizes what is good and different a The idea of Big History sounds intriguing, but after reading most of this book (I admit I could not finish it --- I did not enjoy the writing style at all), I am unconvinced that it has anything much to offer that one cannot get from reading the basic source material alone. Indeed, the book feels to me like a very detailed summary of a bunch of introductory books in science, anthropology, and sociology. I'd prefer a shorter, more focussed book that clearly emphasizes what is good and different about the big history approach.
    more
  • YHC
    January 1, 1970
    我们太阳出现以前的宇宙历史(从130亿年到45亿年前)·大约130亿年前:大爆炸、宇宙诞生;宇宙膨胀到银河系的规 模;在以后数秒内发生的许多重大事件;在第一秒内出现质子和电 子。·大约30万年后:宇宙冷却近数千摄氏度,电子为质子所捕 获,形成最早(电荷为中性)的原子,即氢原子和氦原子;宇宙背 景射线(CBR)随着在电荷呈中性的宇宙而释放出来(1964年检测到 CBR导致人们普遍接受宇宙起源的大爆炸理论)。·大约在大爆炸后10亿年后:在引力作用下,氢原子与氦原子 结合,在巨大的气体星团中心,最早的恒星开始发光;数十亿颗恒 星聚集成为银河系;形成新元素,或者在恒星内部(所有的元素到 有26颗质子的铁元素为止)或者在无数将要消失的超新星(所有元 素到有92颗质子的铀为止)的爆炸。·大约在46亿年前:从包含有其他恒星的残余物的星尘云中形 成太阳、地球以及太阳系。地球和地球生命的历史(从45亿年前)·大约35亿年前:地球上最早的生命有机体出现;DNA成为复制 的基础,并依然存在于每一种生物的每一个细胞里(通过近乎完美 的自我复制而繁殖;变化和进化之所以可能是因为复制并不绝对完 美,当不完美的复制 我们太阳出现以前的宇宙历史(从130亿年到45亿年前)·大约130亿年前:大爆炸、宇宙诞生;宇宙膨胀到银河系的规 模;在以后数秒内发生的许多重大事件;在第一秒内出现质子和电 子。·大约30万年后:宇宙冷却近数千摄氏度,电子为质子所捕 获,形成最早(电荷为中性)的原子,即氢原子和氦原子;宇宙背 景射线(CBR)随着在电荷呈中性的宇宙而释放出来(1964年检测到 CBR导致人们普遍接受宇宙起源的大爆炸理论)。·大约在大爆炸后10亿年后:在引力作用下,氢原子与氦原子 结合,在巨大的气体星团中心,最早的恒星开始发光;数十亿颗恒 星聚集成为银河系;形成新元素,或者在恒星内部(所有的元素到 有26颗质子的铁元素为止)或者在无数将要消失的超新星(所有元 素到有92颗质子的铀为止)的爆炸。·大约在46亿年前:从包含有其他恒星的残余物的星尘云中形 成太阳、地球以及太阳系。地球和地球生命的历史(从45亿年前)·大约35亿年前:地球上最早的生命有机体出现;DNA成为复制 的基础,并依然存在于每一种生物的每一个细胞里(通过近乎完美 的自我复制而繁殖;变化和进化之所以可能是因为复制并不绝对完 美,当不完美的复制设法存在下去的时候,它们的后代最终就会成 为一个新物种);早期生命包括原核生物,差不多就是几条DNA漂浮 在一个受到保护的容器又称细胞里面;光合作用的细胞利用太阳能 并产生氧气。·大约25亿年前:从光合作用的有机体产生的自由氧气开始与 大气层交换。·大约15亿年前:最早的复杂细胞生物或者真核生物出现,其 细胞核包含有DNA和复杂内在细胞器(所有复杂的生命形式都是从真 核细胞进化而来);多组细胞开始聚集成大型群体,而形成最早的 多细胞生物;通过交配而繁殖,两个不完全相同的有机体交换DNA, 形成与其父母不同的新生物,于是变化的速度渐次加快。·大约6亿年前:最早的大型、多细胞生物化石出现于寒武纪; 在大气层上方的氧气里形成臭氧层,使陆地上的生命更容易进化, 因为它保护地表不受太阳紫外线伤害,但是不会阻挡太阳的热和 光;生命传播到陆地和空中,同时大海里的生命也得以增殖和多样 化。·大约6500万年前:恐龙灭绝,也许是小行星的影响,其后果 就像一场核战争;哺乳动物取代恐龙成为陆地大型动物;最早的灵 长目似乎住在树上,哺乳,脑容量更大,双足行走,直立。人类历史的旧石器时代(从700万——大约10000年前)·大约700万年前:最早的人亚科原人从猿进化而来,特点是双 足行走。·大约400万年前:南方古猿出现。·大约200万——150万年前:能人,我们人类的成员出现。·大约180万年前:直立人开始发展。·大约100万年前:直立人的成员迁移到欧亚大陆南部。·大约25万年前:最早的现代人——智人出现,可能发展出完 整的语言。·大约10万年前:现代人移入中东,可能在那里他们遇到了尼安德特人。·大约6万年前:现代人最早在萨胡尔/澳大利亚殖民。·大约2.5万年前:现代人移入西伯利亚;尼安德特人——唯一 遗存下来的非人亚科原人灭绝。·大约1.3万年前:最早的人类横渡白令海峡在美洲大陆殖民。人类历史的全新世时代(过去的1万年)·大约1万——5000年前:最后的冰川期结束;食物采集技术广 泛使用,某些定居社会出现,早期农业形式出现;人口开始迅速增 长;早期复合型社会和等级化的迹象出现,因为大型社群需要新 的、更为复杂的组织形式。·大约5000年前:最早的城市、国家和农耕文明出现;强大的 社会精英通过收取贡赋而控制资源;这些精英策划战争,建造大型 崇拜性、纪念性建筑;文字发明;农耕文明传播,成为人口众多、 权力巨大的人类共同体。近代(过去的500年到未来)·大约500年前:非洲—欧亚大陆和美洲连为一体,形成地球上 最大的“世界区”;最早的全球交换体系诞生。·大约200年前:西方出现最早的资本主义社会;工业革命开发 矿物燃料;欧洲国家拥有巨大的权力、财富以及影响力;欧洲帝国 主义占领全世界。·大约100年前:工业革命开始更广泛传播;主要资本主义国家 爆发冲突;共产主义奋起反击。·大约50年前:第一次使用核武器(人类学会了使用在宇宙起源时的爆炸力,陷于毁灭自身以及整个生物圈的危险之中)。·大约在未来40亿——50亿以后:太阳开始死亡。·未来数十亿年以后:宇宙将毁灭并进入一种毫无特征的平衡 状态。以13年衡量130亿年 第二份编年史还是涵盖了130亿年。然而,它打破了现代宇宙学的 时间尺度,以10年为一个系数,将130亿年缩短为13年。这样就容易把 握在不同类型的时间尺度的重要差异。我们太阳系之前的历史:从13年到大约4.5年以前·大爆炸发生于13年以前。·最早的恒星和银河系出现在大约12年以前。·太阳和太阳系出现在4.5年以前。地球和地球生命的历史:从4年到大约3星期之前·最早的生命有机体出现在4年前。·最早的多细胞有机体出现在大约7个月之前。·泛古陆大约形成于3个月前。·恐龙受到陨星影响而灭绝大约在3星期之前;哺乳动物兴起。旧石器时代人类历史:从3天前到6分钟以前·最早的人亚科原人在非洲进化,大约在3天前。·最早的智人在非洲进化,大约在50分钟以前。·人类最早到达巴布亚新几内亚/澳大利亚,大约在26分钟以前。·人类最早到达美洲,大约在6分钟以前。全新世的人类历史:从6分钟以前到15秒以前·最早的农业共同体繁荣,大约在5分钟以前。·最早的有文字记载的城市出现在大约3分钟以前。·中国、波斯、印度和地中海古典文明,以及最早的美洲农耕 文明出现在大约1分钟以前。·蒙古帝国短期统一欧亚大陆,大约在24秒以前。现代:过去的15秒·人类共同体连接成为一个“世界体系”,大约在15秒以前。·工业革命在欧洲传播,大约在6秒以前。·第一次世界大战爆发,大约在2秒以前。·人口达到50亿,然后60亿;首次使用原子武器;人类登月; 电子革命发生,所有这一切都发生在最后一秒之内。因此,在13年结束的时候,宇宙存在了13年,而地球还不到5年。 复杂的、多细胞有机体存在7个月,人亚科原人存在仅3天,而我们智人 只存在了50分钟。农业社会只存在5分钟,而整个有文字记载的文明存 在了3分钟。而在今日主导世界的现代工业革命只存在了6秒。
    more
  • James Shaskan
    January 1, 1970
    This book is, quite literally, a history of the universe. As such, it's a noble effort on one academic's part to try and break through the ghetto walls of his own department (history), but the effort reveals why those walls exist: basically, ars longa, vita brevis. The book begins with the Big Bang and ends with a speculation on the future of the human race; in between, he progresses through such subjects as star formation, planet formation, the beginning of life on earth, and the evolution of h This book is, quite literally, a history of the universe. As such, it's a noble effort on one academic's part to try and break through the ghetto walls of his own department (history), but the effort reveals why those walls exist: basically, ars longa, vita brevis. The book begins with the Big Bang and ends with a speculation on the future of the human race; in between, he progresses through such subjects as star formation, planet formation, the beginning of life on earth, and the evolution of humanity. The biggest drawback to the book is a result of this large scope: any such book must, of course, be extremely general in nature, and a history that relies entirely on abstract generalities tends to read like a textbook. Another drawback is that the author had to rely entirely upon secondary sources, as befits a general survey (his personal area of expertise seems to be the history of Soviet Russia), so most of the book reads like popular science - not that there's anything wrong with that, merely that such writing often lacks the passion that an expert can bring to her subject. With that said, I admired the author's wide intellectual curiosity and his refreshingly broad view of the nature of history. Many of the latest speculations were new to me, and the book recommendations at the end of each chapter are excellent. For a similar history, see Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens.
    more
  • Peter Aronson
    January 1, 1970
    This is quite the big, thick, square book! I like ambition in writing, and the big history project -- history from the big bang to us, inclusive -- is nothing if not ambitious. Of necessity, the author, not being the sort of polymath that really doesn't exist in this day and age (there being too much to know), spends a lot of time on material outside the realm of his professional specialization (he's a professor of Russian History). And strangely, I think I liked that material best. Yes, he tend This is quite the big, thick, square book! I like ambition in writing, and the big history project -- history from the big bang to us, inclusive -- is nothing if not ambitious. Of necessity, the author, not being the sort of polymath that really doesn't exist in this day and age (there being too much to know), spends a lot of time on material outside the realm of his professional specialization (he's a professor of Russian History). And strangely, I think I liked that material best. Yes, he tends to seize on particular theories that he prefers, but he does make a real effort to try to note the existence of other views. But once we get into the Industrial Revolution and later, he is on surer ground, and gets more opinionated, and unfortunately he has a bit of a revisionist hobbyhorse about China's 18th and 19th Century economy, and he takes academic Marxism a lot more seriously than I can. But given the scope of the book, these are rather small flaws.
    more
  • Bradley
    January 1, 1970
    I read this book some time ago but it's argument is memorable enough. Christian presents the history of the universe, inevitably narrowing down like a funnel onto the Earth and, finally, humankind. Part of the movement sometimes called "Deep History," Maps of Time argues that at the largest scales history is about energy flows and complexity, which is a way of saying that history is about the rise and fall of systems for harnessing energy. (Okay, so maybe it wasn't so clear.)
    more
  • Ethan Hulbert
    January 1, 1970
    Big history changed my life. It's tough to think of the world the same way ever again after reading this book.
  • Erik
    January 1, 1970
    Meta history at it's best
  • Anastasia
    January 1, 1970
    The book was very well-written and well-informed, however, I would not recommend it for someone who has already studied cultural evolution/big history concepts as they may find it repetitive.
  • Aloysius
    January 1, 1970
    IT'S A BLOWMIND!A story about all. Literally. From the origin of spacetime to the death of the cosmos. But stopping for a while in a little blue planet, to explain how it was born, how life evolved, how mankind began it's wacky race to development and how far we get in that.With a lot of well documented evidence, David Christian build a new "creation story", but a story with observable and measurable evidence, a scientific tale of our history as part of the universe.It's wonderful. History, astr IT'S A BLOWMIND!A story about all. Literally. From the origin of spacetime to the death of the cosmos. But stopping for a while in a little blue planet, to explain how it was born, how life evolved, how mankind began it's wacky race to development and how far we get in that.With a lot of well documented evidence, David Christian build a new "creation story", but a story with observable and measurable evidence, a scientific tale of our history as part of the universe.It's wonderful. History, astronomy, biology, sociology, economy, geology, all kind of sciences merge to tale a cosmic tale, linking huge events in history with little special moments, as well as colosal and hard processes that derive in what is usual for us today. From a cosmic view it's the tale of the universe. Our tale.
    more
  • Marco
    January 1, 1970
    Quite a large endeavour, this well-researched book attempts to cover the whole history of the universe. This requires encompassing different fields, and the author can be excused for some errors in the first part on the birth of the universe. Overall a great read, linear and well structured, with very useful summaries at the end of each chapter. The author clearly states where his opinions differ from other accepted views, making this a good starting point for further reading.
    more
Write a review