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Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History

4.06  ·  Rating Details ·  469 Ratings  ·  57 Reviews
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, arch
Paperback, 664 pages
Published February 1st 2005 by University of California Press (first published 2004)
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Dec 01, 2013 Marc rated it liked it
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
Sep 06, 2012 Katie rated it liked it
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
May 02, 2010 Alli rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Wesley Jackson
Aug 03, 2015 Wesley Jackson rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 05, 2008 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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
Mike Hankins
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 ...more
Nov 28, 2010 Kevin rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010-reading
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 ...more
Terry Clague
Sep 17, 2013 Terry Clague rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 08, 2009 Jack rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 24, 2012 Will rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Martin Hernandez
Mar 22, 2016 Martin Hernandez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brain-food
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
Ian Tymms
Oct 23, 2016 Ian Tymms rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jan 08, 2017 Nick added it
The most macroscopic view of human history I've read, and probably the most macroscopic one can write about human history. And toward that end Christian's done a great job of walking through all of the major events and milestones that have led to the present day.

The writing is lucid and readable, the information in it is original and exactly what you're looking to get out of the book, and in the end you'll understand patterns in human development far more than you did coming into the book.

All i
Sense of  History
Let there be no misunderstanding: this is a really interesting book, very elaborate and thoroughly researched, offering a pioneer study into Big History. I think it is original in this sense that, with the exception maybe of the Amsterdam researcher Fred Spier, David Christian was the first to offer a real bird-eye view of history, starting with the history of the universe (Big Bang and all that stuff), going to the formation of the earth, its climate and its many inhabitants, reaching out into ...more
Dec 13, 2007 Pspealman rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Uninspired Historians
This book's main endeavor is to flesh out what is, apparently, the nascent field of 'Big Picture' research in history. That 'Big Picture' sense of history is mostly very large scale trends and very little attention to individuals. Which would hardly qualify as new if your family with the dialecticians and their ilk (Hegel, Marx, my grandmother) with their insistence on predictable progress, goal minded evolution, and over-arching narrative.

This is actually this first issue we encounter in the bo
Sep 30, 2015 Tom rated it really liked it
Spoiler Alert: The Universe began in Fire and will end in Ice!

This book is a truly epic work of science and history, covering the major studies of cosmology, astronomy, geology, biology, anthropology, and world history to tell the whole story of the universe, world, life, mankind, and civilization. Christian nicely summarizes and explains everything from the Big Bang to the Big Freeze, condensing and making digestible many billions of years of history. He breaks down the eras of time into severa
"Maps of Time" gathers the contemporary scientific and historical consensus about prehistory and history, and synthesises all the fragments into one large narrative that stretches from the beginning to the end of the of the Universe.

In line with the big-history genre's usual layout, the story begins with the beginning of the Universe and known time, and then zooms in on and expand the bit that interest us humans the most: ourselves and our world. From the birth of the Universe, it zooms in on t
David Cheshire
Jan 25, 2014 David Cheshire rated it it was amazing
I stumbled upon "Big History" when I read that Bill Gates is financing a US High School curriculum. The premise is simple: rather than split off pre-history from history, why not tell the entire human story in a single sweep? And, while you're at it, why not take in the whole history of earth, the solar system, the sun and the universe too? I had my doubts. This weighty volume is the key introductory text and although it didn't answer all my questions it converted me to the enterprise. My key pr ...more
Michael Smith
Nov 16, 2014 Michael Smith rated it it was ok
I’ve been “doing history” for forty years, both professionally and avocationally, and I’m puzzled -- in fact, a bit baffled -- by this recently introduced concept of “big history” or “deep history.” Maybe it’s because I’ve generally dealt in microcosmic history: Local events, material culture, personal-level records, not grand strategies or geopolitical combines. “Big history” seems to start with the Big Bang and then progress interminably through geological and biological evolution before ever ...more
Sep 09, 2010 John rated it really liked it
As a massive survey of the history of people and the universe, this is very useful. Keep it on the shelf, skim through it every now and again. It is a great guide to the basic story that humans have put together in recent years about the big bang, the formation of the solar system, earth and the beginnings of life, and human history 101. Christian summarizes every chapter at its end, and puts a longer summary of the whole book at the very end, plus he has a little annotated bibliography for each ...more
Sep 25, 2011 Tim rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
an amazing foray into a new field of study. though it's not actually new; the concepts are what we all know, just combined in a way to be cohesive rather than independent. this is big history! beginning with the big bang and ending with modernity, this book discusses thresholds (without using the term; david christian uses it in his lectures, and the gates foundation has picked up the term as well in their dealings with the subject matter) of time which propose monumental changes in the history ...more
Apr 03, 2008 Morgan rated it liked it
Recommends it for: science nerds
Recommended to Morgan by: WCIU
Shelves: wciu, christian
I must say, the author of this book is really intelligent, going into more detail on every aspect of, well, everything then any other scientific book I've read. However, he is not a Christian, and I didn't agree with most of his viewpoints. And while this is a book regarding his viewpoints on the latest scientific facts regarding our universe, he is never rude or condescending of those views that oppose his. He is quite tactful and gentle in his cross-examination of any opposing views. He has ob ...more
Paul DiBara
Jun 15, 2013 Paul DiBara rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Chris Aldrich
Aug 27, 2011 Chris Aldrich rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chris by: Bill Gates via The Chronicle of Higher Education
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
George Zedan
Apr 05, 2011 George Zedan rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Thus book is immense in scope and in information. Christian sets out to record the entire history of the universe from the Big Bang until all matter and energy are destroyed. Most of the book is focused on Earth and humans of course.

Christian deftly explains complex ideas by relating them to common ones. His concept of the growth of cities and civilizations being similar to gravity is ingenious. He looks for deeper systems and rules at play during the course of history. That may bother some aca
Jun 09, 2013 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm still working my way through this book - and skipped the first couple of chapters ( on the big bang etc.) but I find the perspective of looking at history via this large scale to be fascinating. By looking at how various technologies and social systems developed in different places, the author attempts to answer the big questions. Why did certain technologies happen when they did? This book was part of the syllabus for an MIT course on the history of technology and though it's focus is broad ...more
Jan 18, 2013 Ricardo rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Historians
Recommended to Ricardo by: Gonzalo Martinez
This is an ambitious research work, whose scope dates back to the origins of the universe, based on what we believe is the most plausible theory about the origins of the universe, namely, the Big Bang Theory. Next comes the origins of life on earth and then the beginnings of humankind and the formation of societies. Regarding the history of humankind, this is not the usual history book, as we are presented mainly with a birds eye view of the relations between societies and their impact on the fo ...more
Nov 12, 2013 Mark rated it liked it
BIG HISTORY is a great idea, and the connections are interesting. But I felt the approach in the book promised more than it actually delivered.

I have to confess I was prejudiced by the Big History tv series, which overly and monotonously claimed too much credit for the ideas presented as novel and unique to Christian's philosophy. Although the perspective is well worth considering, it's perhaps *too* "big," too reductionist in scope to jettison other approaches in favor of this single lens, BIG
Craig Werner
Aug 25, 2014 Craig Werner rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
The view from 65,000 feet, done about as well as it's likely to be done. Christian opens with a cogent defense of the nature of and need for "big history." Clearly, there's no way to attend to all of the relevant details when you take the story from the origin of the universe through the creation of earth and the beginnings of life through the development of civilization to the "modern revolution" of the last two hundred years. In the areas I'm decently well read in, I have no major quarrels wit ...more
May 28, 2011 Rudivanderzande rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
A truly great introduction on big history. I found this book as a reference within another book (Dutch: De wereld volgens Maarten van Rossum) that included an even more compact introduction on big history. This book, starting with the Big Bang and ending, quite ambigiously with the end of the universe is a great read for anyone who wants to know the course of our -and that of our universe- history. I would definitly recommend this book to anyone interested in our world and it's a must-read for a ...more
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David Gilbert Christian is an Anglo-American historian and scholar of Russian history notable for creating and spearheading an interdisciplinary approach known as Big History. He grew up in Africa and in England, where he earned his B.A. from Oxford University, an M.A. in Russian history from the University of Western Ontario, and a Ph.D. in 19th century Russian history from Oxford University in 1 ...more
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“As an anonymous wit is supposed to have put it: "Hydrogen is a light, odorless gas which, given enough time, changes into people.” 4 likes
“Maps of Time attempts to assemble a coherent and accessible account of origins, a modern creation myth.” 0 likes
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