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Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  302 ratings  ·  38 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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Community Reviews

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Marc L
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
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
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
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
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
Michael K.
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
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
David Cheshire
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
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
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 28, 2008 Morgan rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
Terry Clague
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
Dec 13, 2007 Pspealman rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
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
Chris Aldrich
Oct 15, 2014 Chris Aldrich rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
Mar 06, 2014 Ricardo rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
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
George Zedan
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
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
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
Baal Of
A fascinating and comprehensive overview of big history, grand in scope, and scholarly in tone. Other people have written rather good reviews of this book, so I'm not going to repeat any kind of summary of the material. David Christian approaches the subjects with an even hand and moderate voice. My only complaint is his use of the word myth, where I think he incorrectly equates the approach of science with previous narratives like religion, not giving appropriate credit to the power of evidence ...more
If you are daring enough to want to read 500 pages of history starting at 300,000 years ago then you can read this book. It mixes the disciplines of astronomy, biology, paleontology, anthropology, and finally regular history. The history comes last as human history starts about half-way through the book. If those fields of study interest you then this book will be entertaining, otherwise it will feel like a beast to get through. Like I said you have to be daring or interested in the fields I lis ...more
I love the subject: our origins.
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
Honestly, this was probably the most interesting history book I have ever read. Who knew history could be fun? I would even recommend this book to someone. The only issue I have is that it's slightly confusing at times, especially towards the middle. But overall the book was great. Unlike I previously thought, it's a fairly short read. David Christian did a fantastic job of showing us the "big history" while also making it flow. Very nicely done!
I like the interdisciplinary approach to setting history in a broad context, but there are parts where he could have done a better job as a historian writing and contextualizing events. It is really too much for one book. He needs the space of a 2-3 volume work to really do this with equal depth of research and explanation of the interrelation of world events, particularly for the last 100 years.
David Christian's Maps of Time is a wonderful book that puts the development of man into the context of the universe. If you have questions about the story of mankind in the world this is a great place to look. It truly starts at the beginning of the universe and chapter by chapter moves you through time and place of the universe, the world and man's development. Thanks for your insights.
A better opening salvo into macro history, the interweaving of culture and geography, and hard-science I have not read. This is ideal for anyone who wants a broad strokes understanding of who we are, where we come from , and perhaps, where we are going as a species. It's very broad, but well-sourced so any further research you may want to do is presented for your convenience.
Adam Gutschenritter
Most of the book are things that I have heard before. The true value of the book came in chapter 9 with the description of "Human domestication" in how the governments of early civilizations came to be in charge and maintain their authority. It was worth the read and would easily fit in any history library.
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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
More about David Christian...
This Fleeting World: A Short History of Humanity Big History: The Big Bang, Life On Earth, And The Rise Of Humanity (Great Courses, #8050) A History of Russia, Central Asia and Mongolia: Inner Eurasia from Prehistory to the Mongol Empire Big History: Between Nothing and Everything Power And Privilege: Russia And The Soviet Union In The Nineteenth And Twentieth Centuries

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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.” 3 likes
“Maps of Time attempts to assemble a coherent and accessible account of origins, a modern creation myth.” 0 likes
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