Big History

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A diagram of the Big Bang expansion according to NASA
Notable events from the Big Bang to the present day depicted in a spiral layout. Every billion years (Ga) is represented in 90 degrees of rotation.

Big History is an academic discipline which examines history from the Big Bang to the present. Big History resists specialization, and searches for universal patterns or trends. It examines long time frames using a multidisciplinary approach based on combining numerous disciplines from science and the humanities,[1][2][3][4] and explores human existence in the context of this bigger picture.[5] It integrates studies of the cosmos, Earth, life, and humanity using empirical evidence to explore cause-and-effect relations,[6][7] and is taught at universities[8] and primary and secondary schools[9][10] often using web-based interactive presentations.[11][12][13]

Historian David Christian has been credited with coining the term "Big History" while teaching one of the first such courses at Macquarie University.[6][8][14] An all-encompassing study of humanity's relationship to cosmology[15] and natural history[16] has been pursued by scholars since the Renaissance, and the new field, Big History, continues such work.

Comparison with conventional history[edit]

Conventional history Big History
5000 BCE to present Big Bang to present
7,000–10,000 years 13.8 billion years
Compartmentalized fields of study Interdisciplinary approach
Focus on human civilization Focus on how humankind fits within the universe
Taught mostly with books Taught on interactive platforms at: Coursera, YouTube's Crash Course, Big History Project, Macquarie University, ChronoZoom
Microhistory Macrohistory
Focus on trends, processes Focus on analogy, metaphor
Based on a variety of documents, including written records and material artifacts Based on current knowledge about phenomena such as fossils, ecological changes, genetic analysis, telescope data, in addition to conventional historical data

Big History examines the past using numerous time scales, from the Big Bang to modernity,[3] unlike conventional history courses which typically begin with the introduction of farming and civilization,[17] or with the beginning of written records. It explores common themes and patterns.[11] Courses generally do not focus on humans until one-third to halfway through,[6] and, unlike conventional history courses, there is not much focus on kingdoms or civilizations or wars or national borders.[6] If conventional history focuses on human civilization with humankind at the center, Big History focuses on the universe and shows how humankind fits within this framework[18] and places human history in the wider context of the universe's history.[19][20]

Conventional history often begins with the development of agriculture in civilizations such as Ancient Egypt.

Unlike conventional history, Big History tends to go rapidly through detailed historical eras such as the Renaissance or Ancient Egypt.[21] It draws on the latest findings from biology,[3] astronomy,[3] geoscience,[3] chemistry, physics, archaeology, anthropology, psychology, sociology, economics,[3] prehistory, ancient history, and natural history, as well as standard history.[22] One teacher explained:

We're taking the best evidence from physics and the best evidence from chemistry and biology, and we're weaving it together into a story ... They're not going to learn how to balance [chemical] equations, but they're going to learn how the chemical elements came out of the death of stars, and that's really interesting.[11]

Big History arose from a desire to go beyond the specialized and self-contained fields that emerged in the 20th century. It tries to grasp history as a whole, looking for common themes across multiple time scales in history.[23][24] Conventional history typically begins with the invention of writing, and is limited to past events relating directly to the human race. Big Historians point out that this limits study to the past 5,000 years and neglects the much longer time when humans existed on Earth. Henry Kannberg sees Big History as being a product of the Information Age, a stage in history itself following speech, writing, and printing.[25] Big History covers the formation of the universe, stars, and galaxies, and includes the beginning of life as well as the period of several hundred thousand years when humans were hunter-gatherers. It sees the transition to civilization as a gradual one, with many causes and effects, rather than an abrupt transformation from uncivilized static cavemen to dynamic civilized farmers.[26] An account in The Boston Globe describes what it polemically asserts to be the conventional "history" view:

Early humans were slump-shouldered, slope-browed, hairy brutes. They hunkered over campfires and ate scorched meat. Sometimes they carried spears. Once in a while they scratched pictures of antelopes on the walls of their caves. That's what I learned during elementary school, anyway. History didn't start with the first humans—they were cavemen! The Stone Age wasn't history; the Stone Age was a preamble to history, a dystopian era of stasis before the happy onset of civilization, and the arrival of nifty developments like chariot wheels, gunpowder, and Google. History started with agriculture, nation-states, and written documents. History began in Mesopotamia's Fertile Crescent, somewhere around 4000 BC. It began when we finally overcame our savage legacy, and culture surpassed biology.[26]

Artist's depiction of the WMAP satellite gathering data to help scientists understand the Big Bang

Big History, in contrast to conventional history, has more of an interdisciplinary basis.[11] Advocates sometimes view conventional history as "microhistory" or "shallow history", and note that three-quarters of historians specialize in understanding the last 250 years while ignoring the "long march of human existence."[2] However, one historian disputed that the discipline of history has overlooked the big view, and described the "grand narrative" of Big History as a "cliché that gets thrown around a lot."[2] One account suggested that conventional history had the "sense of grinding the nuts into an ever finer powder."[22] It emphasizes long-term trends and processes rather than history-making individuals or events.[2] Historian Dipesh Chakrabarty of the University of Chicago suggested that Big History was less politicized than contemporary history because it enables people to "take a step back."[2] It uses more kinds of evidence than the standard historical written records, such as fossils, tools, household items, pictures, structures, ecological changes and genetic variations.[2]

Criticism of Big History[edit]

Critics of Big History, including sociologist Frank Furedi, have deemed the discipline an "anti-humanist turn of history."[27] The Big History narrative has also been challenged for failing to engage with the methodology of the conventional history discipline. According to historian and educator Sam Wineburg of Stanford University, Big History eschews the interpretation of texts in favor of a purely scientific approach, thus becoming "less history and more of a kind of evolutionary biology or quantum physics."[28]

Another criticism of Big History made by associate professor Ian Hesketh, is that it mixes up science disciplines using holistic views that is very close to mythic or religious approaches, without mentioning this in its narrative. Currently, the Big History is a consolidated academic field that is giving rise to new views and epistemological approaches, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean, whose decolonial vision of history, economics and Science has opened new questions. In this sense, the transdisciplinary and biomimetics research of Javier Collado [29] represents an ecology of knowledge between scientific knowledge and the ancestral wisdom of native peoples, such as Indigenous peoples in Ecuador. This transdisciplinary vision integrates and unifies diverse epistemes that are in, between, and beyond the scientific disciplines, that is, it includes ancestral wisdom, spirituality, art, emotions, mystical experiences and other dimensions forgotten in the history of science, specially by the positivist approach. In approaching the Big History from the complexity sciences, the transdisciplinary methodology seeks to understand the interconnections of the human race with the different levels of reality that co-exist in nature and in the cosmos,[30] and this includes mystical and spiritual experiences, very present in the rituals of shamanism with ayahuasca and other sacred plants. The common denominator of all indigenous and aboriginal ancestral worldviews is the spiritual and ecological conception that structures their social organizations, which are in harmony and respect with the different forms of life that exist on our planet.[31] In the same way that Fritjof Capra carried out an analysis of the parallels between modern physics and Eastern mysticism, the teaching of the Big History in universities of Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, and Argentina is nourished by the worldview of their ancestor to analyze the parallels between the scientific discoveries and the original knowledge of the native and indigenous peoples.

Time scales and questions[edit]

Big History makes comparisons based on different time scales and notes similarities and differences between the human, geological, and cosmological scales. David Christian believes such "radical shifts in perspective" will yield "new insights into familiar historical problems, from the nature/nurture debate to environmental history to the fundamental nature of change itself."[22] It shows how human existence has been changed by both human-made and natural factors: for example, according to natural processes which happened more than four billion years ago, iron emerged from the remains of an exploding star and, as a result, humans could use this hard metal to forge weapons for hunting and war.[6] The discipline addresses such questions as "How did we get here?," "How do we decide what to believe?," "How did Earth form?," and "What is life?"[3] According to Fred Spier it offers a "grand tour of all the major scientific paradigms" and helps students to become scientifically literate quickly.[19] One interesting perspective that arises from Big History is that despite the vast temporal and spatial scales of the history of the Universe, it is actually very small pockets of the cosmos where most of the "history" is happening, due to the nature of complexity.[32]

Cosmic evolution[edit]

Cosmic evolution, the scientific study of universal change, is closely related to Big History (as are the allied subjects of the epic of evolution and astrobiology); some researchers regard cosmic evolution as broader than Big History, since the latter mainly examines the specific historical trek from Big Bang → Milky Way → Sun → Earth → humanity. Cosmic evolution, while fully addressing all complex systems (and not merely those that led to humans) has been taught and researched for decades, mostly by astronomers and astrophysicists. This Big-Bang-to-humankind scenario well preceded the subject that some historians began calling Big History in the 1990s. Cosmic evolution is an intellectual framework that offers a grand synthesis of the many varied changes in the assembly and composition of radiation, matter, and life throughout the history of the universe. While engaging in issues of the origins of humanity, this interdisciplinary subject attempts to unify the sciences within the entirety of natural history—a single, inclusive scientific narrative of the origin and evolution of all material things over ~14 billion years, from the origin of the universe to the present day on Earth.

The roots of the idea of cosmic evolution extend back millennia. Ancient Greek philosophers in the fifth century BCE, most notably Heraclitus, are celebrated for their reasoned claims that all things change. Early modern speculation about cosmic evolution began more than a century ago, including the broad insights of Robert Chambers, Herbert Spencer, Charles Sanders Peirce, and Lawrence Henderson. Only in the mid-20th century was the cosmic-evolutionary scenario articulated as a research paradigm to include empirical studies of galaxies, stars, planets, and life—in short, an expansive agenda that combines physical, biological, and cultural evolution. Harlow Shapley widely articulated the idea of cosmic evolution (often calling it "cosmography") in public venues at mid-century,[33] and NASA embraced it in the late 20th century as part of its more limited astrobiology program. Carl Sagan,[34] Eric Chaisson,[35] Hubert Reeves,[36] Erich Jantsch,[37] and Preston Cloud,[38] among others, extensively championed cosmic evolution at roughly the same time around 1980. This extremely broad subject now continues to be formulated as both a technical research program and a scientific worldview for the 21st century.[39][40][41]

One popular collection of scholarly materials on cosmic evolution is based on teaching and research that has been underway at Harvard University since the mid-1970s.[42]

Complexity, energy, thresholds[edit]

Cosmic evolution is a quantitative subject, whereas big history typically is not; this is because cosmic evolution is practiced mostly by natural scientists, while big history by social scholars. These two subjects, closely allied and overlapping, benefit from each other; cosmic evolutionists tend to treat universal history linearly, thus humankind enters their story only at the most very recent times, whereas big historians tend to stress humanity and its many cultural achievements, granting human beings a larger part of their story. People can compare and contrast these different emphases by watching two short movies portraying the Big-Bang-to-humankind narrative, one animating time linearly, and the other capturing time (actually look-back time) logarithmically; in the former, humans enter this 14-minute movie in the last second, while in the latter we appear much earlier—yet both are correct.[43]

These different treatments of time over ~14 billion years, each with different emphases on historical content, are further clarified by noting that some cosmic evolutionists divide the whole narrative into three phases and seven epochs:

Phases: physical evolution → biological evolution → cultural evolution
Epochs: particulate → galactic → stellar → planetary → chemical → biological → cultural

This contrasts with the approach used by some big historians who divide the narrative into many more thresholds, as noted in the discussion at the end of this section below. Yet another telling of the Big-Bang-to-humankind story is one that emphasizes the earlier universe, particularly the growth of particles, galaxies, and large-scale cosmic structure, such as in physical cosmology.

Notable among quantitative efforts to describe cosmic evolution are Eric Chaisson's research efforts to describe the concept of energy flow through open, thermodynamic systems, including galaxies, stars, planets, life, and society.[39][44][45] The observed increase of energy rate density (energy/time/mass) among a whole host of complex systems is one useful way to explain the rise of complexity in an expanding universe that still obeys the cherished second law of thermodynamics and thus continues to accumulate net entropy. As such, ordered material systems—from buzzing bees and redwood trees to shining stars and thinking beings—are viewed as temporary, local islands of order in a vast, global sea of disorder. A recent review article, which is especially directed toward big historians, summarizes much of this empirical effort over the past decade.[46]

One striking finding of such complexity studies is the apparently ranked order among all known material systems in the universe. Although the absolute energy in astronomical systems greatly exceeds that of humans, and although the mass densities of stars, planets, bodies, and brains are all comparable, the energy rate density for humans and modern human society are approximately a million times greater than for stars and galaxies. For example, the Sun emits a vast luminosity, 4x1033 erg/s (equivalent to nearly a billion billion billion watt light bulb), but it also has a huge mass, 2x1033 g; thus each second an amount of energy equaling only 2 ergs passes through each gram of this star. In contrast to any star, more energy flows through each gram of a plant's leaf during photosynthesis, and much more (nearly a million times) rushes through each gram of a human brain while thinking (~20W/1350g).[47]

Cosmic evolution is more than a subjective, qualitative assertion of "one damn thing after another". This inclusive scientific worldview constitutes an objective, quantitative approach toward deciphering much of what comprises organized, material Nature. Its uniform, consistent philosophy of approach toward all complex systems demonstrates that the basic differences, both within and among many varied systems, are of degree, not of kind. And, in particular, it suggests that optimal ranges of energy rate density grant opportunities for the evolution of complexity; those systems able to adjust, adapt, or otherwise take advantage of such energy flows survive and prosper, while other systems adversely affected by too much or too little energy are non-randomly eliminated.[48]

Fred Spier is foremost among those big historians who have found the concept of energy flows useful, suggesting that Big History is the rise and demise of complexity on all scales, from sub-microscopic particles to vast galaxy clusters, and not least many biological and cultural systems in between.[49]

David Christian, in an 18-minute TED talk, described some of the basics of the Big History course.[50] Christian describes each stage in the progression towards greater complexity as a "threshold moment" when things become more complex, but they also become more fragile and mobile.[50] Some of Christian's threshold stages are:

In a supernova, a star which has exhausted most of its energy bursts in an incredible explosion, creating conditions for heavier elements such as iron and gold to form.
  1. The universe appears, incredibly hot, busting, expanding, within a second.[50]
  2. Stars are born.[50]
  3. Stars die, creating temperatures hot enough to make complex chemicals, as well as rocks, asteroids, planets, moons, and our solar system.[50]
  4. Earth is created.[50]
  5. Life appears on Earth, with molecules growing from the Goldilocks conditions, with neither too much nor too little energy.[50]
  6. Humans appear, language, collective learning.[50]

Christian elaborated that more complex systems are more fragile, and that while collective learning is a powerful force to advance humanity in general, it is not clear that humans are in charge of it, and it is possible in his view for humans to destroy the biosphere with the powerful weapons that have been invented.[50]

In the 2008 lecture series through The Teaching Company's Great Courses entitled Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity, Christian explains Big History in terms of eight thresholds of increasing complexity:[51]

  1. The Big Bang and the creation of the Universe about 14 billion years ago[51]
  2. The creation of the first complex objects, stars, about 12 billion years ago[51]
  3. The creation of chemical elements inside dying stars required for chemically complex objects, including plants and animals[51]
  4. The formation of planets, such as our Earth, which are more chemically complex than the Sun[51]
  5. The origin and evolution of life from roughly about 4.2 billion years ago, including the evolution of our hominine ancestors[51]
  6. The development of our species, Homo sapiens, about 300,000 years ago, covering the Paleolithic era of human history[51]
  7. The appearance of agriculture about 11,000 years ago in the Neolithic era, allowing for larger, more complex societies[51]
  8. The "modern revolution", or the vast social, economic, and cultural transformations that brought the world into the modern era[51]
  9. What will happen in the future and predicting what will be the next threshold in our history[52][53]

Goldilocks conditions[edit]

The Earth is ideally located in a Goldilocks condition—being neither too close nor too distant from the Sun.

A theme in Big History is what has been termed Goldilocks conditions or the Goldilocks principle, which describes how "circumstances must be right for any type of complexity to form or continue to exist," as emphasized by Spier in his recent book.[19] For humans, bodily temperatures can neither be too hot nor too cold; for life to form on a planet, it can neither have too much nor too little energy from sunlight. Stars require sufficient quantities of hydrogen, sufficiently packed together under tremendous gravity, to cause nuclear fusion.[19]

Christian suggests that complexity arises when these Goldilocks conditions are met, that is, when things are not too hot or cold, not too fast or slow. For example, life began not in solids (molecules are stuck together, preventing the right kinds of associations) or gases (molecules move too fast to enable favorable associations) but in liquids such as water that permitted the right kinds of interactions at the right speeds.[50]

Somewhat in contrast, Chaisson has maintained for well more than a decade that "organizational complexity is mostly governed by the optimum use of energy—not too little as to starve a system, yet not too much as to destroy it". Neither maximum energy principles nor minimum entropy states are likely relevant to appreciate the emergence of complexity in Nature writ large.[54]

Other themes[edit]

Big Historians use information based on scientific techniques such as gene mapping to learn more about the origins of humanity.

Advances in particular sciences such as archaeology, gene mapping, and evolutionary ecology have enabled historians to gain new insights into the early origins of humans, despite the lack of written sources.[2] One account suggested that proponents of Big History were trying to "upend" the conventional practice in historiography of relying on written records.[2]

Big History proponents suggest that humans have been affecting climate change throughout history, by such methods as slash-and-burn agriculture, although past modifications have been on a lesser scale than in recent years during the Industrial Revolution.[2]

A book by Daniel Lord Smail in 2008 suggested that history was a continuing process of humans learning to self-modify our mental states by using stimulants such as coffee and tobacco, as well as other means such as religious rites or romance novels.[17] His view is that culture and biology are highly intertwined, such that cultural practices may cause human brains to be wired differently from those in different societies.[17]

Another theme that has been actively discussed recently by the Big History community is the issue of the Big History Singularity.[55][56][57][58][59]

A 2021 book, Expanding Worldviews: Astrobiology, Big History and Cosmic Perspectives,[60] edited by Ian Crawford explores links between Big History and astrobiology, and argues that both subjects have the potential to yield positive intellectual and societal benefits owing to their inherent cosmic and evolutionary perspectives.

Presentation by web-based interactive video[edit]

Big History is more likely than conventional history to be taught with interactive "video-heavy" websites without textbooks, according to one account.[11] The discipline has benefited from having new ways of presenting themes and concepts in new formats, often supplemented by Internet and computer technology.[1] For example, the ChronoZoom project is a way to explore the 14 billion year history of the universe in an interactive website format.[8][61] It was described in one account:

ChronoZoom splays out the entirety of cosmic history in a web browser, where users can click into different epochs to learn about the events that have culminated to bring us to where we are today—in my case, sitting in an office chair writing about space. Eager to learn about the Stelliferous epoch? Click away, my fellow explorer. Curious about the formation of the earth? Jump into the "Earth and Solar System" section to see historian David Christian talk about the birth of our homeworld.

— TechCrunch, 2012[61]

In 2012, the History channel showed the film History of the World in Two Hours.[1][8] It showed how dinosaurs effectively dominated mammals for 160 million years until an asteroid impact wiped them out.[1] One report suggested the History channel had won a sponsorship from StanChart to develop a Big History program entitled Mankind.[62] In 2013 the History channel's new H2 network debuted the 10-part series Big History, narrated by Bryan Cranston and featuring David Christian and an assortment of historians, scientists and related experts.[63] Each episode centered on a major Big History topic such as salt, mountains, cold, flight, water, meteors and megastructures.

History of the field[edit]

Early efforts[edit]

Alexander von Humboldt in 1843
Astronomer Carl Sagan

While the emerging field of Big History in its present state is generally seen as having emerged in the past two decades beginning around 1990, there have been numerous precedents going back to the 1500s with Giordano Bruno's works, especially Lo spaccio della besta trionfante (1584)(The Return of the Triumphant Beast). In this work, Bruno traces out the decline of the Christian era and posits that this decline will be based on a massive ecological and economic crisis, which he allegorizes as a 'cetus', a whale, whose thrashings create disruptive waves and cause people to question the religious and philosophical underpinnings of the west. According to Bruno, it is exactly the laser-like focus, for hundreds of years, on the economic growth and spread of people (through colonialism and capitalism, which were rationalized through Christianity) that will lead to an environmental tipping point, or crisis, when humans recognize that their own material well being is predicated and completely dependent on the presence of myriad other beings, animals, plankton, plants, bacteria, and so forth. In a sense, Bruno's work foresaw the Material Turn, which dates to the 1990s. It should be stressed that Bruno sees this flow of history as based on evolution and the learning curve. In the mid-19th century, Alexander von Humboldt's book Cosmos, and Robert Chambers' 1844 book Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation[19] were seen as early precursors to the field.[19] In a sense, Darwin's theory of evolution was, in itself, an attempt to explain a biological phenomenon by examining longer term cause-and-effect processes. In the first half of the 20th century, secular biologist Julian Huxley originated the term "evolutionary humanism",[1] while around the same time the French Jesuit paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin examined links between cosmic evolution and a tendency towards complexification (including human consciousness), while envisaging compatibility between cosmology, evolution, and theology. In the mid and later 20th century, The Ascent of Man by Jacob Bronowski examined history from a multidisciplinary perspective. Later, Eric Chaisson explored the subject of cosmic evolution quantitatively in terms of energy rate density, and the astronomer Carl Sagan wrote Cosmos.[1] Thomas Berry, a cultural historian, and the academic Brian Swimme explored meaning behind myths and encouraged academics to explore themes beyond organized religion.[1]

The famous 1968 Earthrise photo, taken by astronaut William Anders, may have stimulated, among other things, an interest in interdisciplinary studies.

The field continued to evolve from interdisciplinary studies during the mid-20th century, stimulated in part by the Cold War and the Space Race. Some early efforts were courses in Cosmic Evolution at Harvard University in the United States, and Universal History in the Soviet Union. One account suggested that the notable Earthrise photo, taken by William Anders during a lunar orbit by the Apollo 8, which showed Earth as a small blue and white ball behind a stark and desolate lunar landscape, not only stimulated the environmental movement but also caused an upsurge of interdisciplinary interest.[19] The French historian Fernand Braudel examined daily life with investigations of "large-scale historical forces like geology and climate".[22] Physiologist Jared Diamond in his book Guns, Germs, and Steel examined the interplay between geography and human evolution;[22] for example, he argued that the horizontal shape of the Eurasian continent enabled human civilizations to advance more quickly than the vertical north–south shape of the American continent, because an east–west continental axis and correspondingly similar climates facilitated the transfer and exchange of animals (as protein, for pulling carts, and other uses), ideas and information, as well as structures of human competition that honed and fine-tuned cultural and technological achievements.

In the 1970s, scholars in the United States including geologist Preston Cloud of the University of Minnesota, astronomer G. Siegfried Kutter at Evergreen State College in Washington state, and Harvard University astrophysicists George B. Field and Eric Chaisson started synthesizing knowledge to form a "science-based history of everything", although each of these scholars emphasized somewhat their own particular specializations in their courses and books.[19] In 1980, the Austrian philosopher Erich Jantsch wrote The Self-Organizing Universe which viewed history in terms of what he called "process structures".[19] There was an experimental course taught by John Mears at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and more formal courses at the university level began to appear.

In 1991 Clive Ponting wrote A Green History of the World: The Environment and the Collapse of Great Civilizations. His analysis did not begin with the Big Bang, but his chapter "Foundations of History" explored the influences of large-scale geological and astronomical forces over a broad time period.

Sometimes the terms "Deep History" and "Big History" are interchangeable, but sometimes "Deep History" simply refers to history going back several hundred thousand years or more without the other senses of being a movement within history itself.[64][65]

David Christian[edit]

One exponent is David Christian of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.[66][67] He read widely in diverse fields in science, and believed that much was missing from the general study of history. His first university-level course was offered in 1989.[19] He developed a college course beginning with the Big Bang to the present[11] in which he collaborated with numerous colleagues from diverse fields in science and the humanities and the social sciences. This course eventually became a Teaching Company course entitled Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity, with 24 hours of lectures,[1] which appeared in 2008.[8]

Since the 1990s, other universities began to offer similar courses. In 1994 at the University of Amsterdam and the Eindhoven University of Technology, college courses were offered.[19] In 1996, Fred Spier wrote The Structure of Big History.[19] Spier looked at structured processes which he termed "regimes":

I defined a regime in its most general sense as 'a more or less regular but ultimately unstable pattern that has a certain temporal permanence', a definition which can be applied to human cultures, human and non-human physiology, non-human nature, as well as to organic and inorganic phenomena at all levels of complexity. By defining 'regime' in this way, human cultural regimes thus became a subcategory of regimes in general, and the approach allowed me to look systematically at interactions among different regimes which together produce big history.

— Fred Spier, 2008[19]

Christian's course caught the attention of philanthropist Bill Gates, who discussed with him how to turn Big History into a high school-level course. Gates said about David Christian:

He really blew me away. Here's a guy who's read across the sciences, humanities, and social sciences and brought it together in a single framework. It made me wish that I could have taken big history when I was young, because it would have given me a way to think about all of the school work and reading that followed. In particular, it really put the sciences in an interesting historical context and explained how they apply to a lot of contemporary concerns.

— Bill Gates, in 2012[3]

Educational courses[edit]

By 2002, a dozen college courses on Big History had sprung up around the world.[22] Cynthia Stokes Brown initiated Big History at the Dominican University of California, and she wrote Big History: From the Big Bang to the Present.[68] In 2010, Dominican University of California launched the world's first Big History program to be required of all first-year students, as part of the school's general education track. This program, directed by Mojgan Behmand, includes a one-semester survey of Big History, and an interdisciplinary second-semester course exploring the Big History metanarrative through the lens of a particular discipline or subject.[8][69] A course description reads:

Welcome to First Year Experience Big History at Dominican University of California. Our program invites you on an immense journey through time, to witness the first moments of our universe, the birth of stars and planets, the formation of life on Earth, the dawn of human consciousness, and the ever-unfolding story of humans as Earth's dominant species. Explore the inevitable question of what it means to be human and our momentous role in shaping possible futures for our planet.

— course description 2012[70]

The Dominican faculty's approach is to synthesize the disparate threads of Big History thought, in order to teach the content, develop critical thinking and writing skills, and prepare students to wrestle with the philosophical implications of the Big History metanarrative. In 2015, University of California Press published Teaching Big History, a comprehensive pedagogical guide for teaching Big History, edited by Richard B. Simon, Mojgan Behmand, and Thomas Burke, and written by the Dominican faculty.[71]

Big History is taught at the University of Southern Maine.

Barry Rodrigue, at the University of Southern Maine, established the first general education course and the first online version, which has drawn students from around the world.[18] The University of Queensland in Australia previously required all history majors to take an undergraduate big history course entitled Global History, but in 2020 remade the course to remove its big history aspects. The University of Queensland has since taken an active stance against big history, with Associate Professor Ian Hesketh being a world-leading critic.[72] By 2011, 50 professors around the world have offered courses. In 2012, one report suggested that Big History was being practiced as a "coherent form of research and teaching" by hundreds of academics from different disciplines.[8]

In 2008, Christian and his colleagues began developing a course for secondary school students.[19] In 2011, a pilot high school course was taught to 3,000 kids in 50 high schools worldwide.[11] In 2012, there were 87 schools, with 50 in the United States, teaching Big History, with the pilot program set to double in 2013 for students in the ninth and tenth grades,[3] and even in one middle school.[73] The subject is a STEM course at one high school.[74]

There are initiatives to make Big History a required standard course for university students throughout the world. An education project founded by philanthropist Bill Gates from his personal funds was launched in Australia and the United States, to offer a free online version of the course to high school students.[6]

International Big History Association[edit]

Founding members of the International Big History Association gathered at Coldigioco, Italy in 2010.

The International Big History Association (IBHA) was founded at the Coldigioco Geological Observatory in Coldigioco, Marche, Italy, on 20 August 2010.[75] Its headquarters is located at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan, United States. Its inaugural gathering in 2012 was described as "big news" in a report in The Huffington Post.[1] The Second IBHA Conference took place in Dominican University of California (San Rafael, CA) on August 6–10, 2014. [1] The Third IBHA Conference was held in University of Amsterdam on 14–17 July 2016. [2]

People involved[edit]

Some notable academics involved with the concept include:[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Rev. Michael Dowd (May 8, 2012). "Big History Hits the Big Time". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2012-12-13. "Big History" has entered the big leagues ...
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Patricia Cohen (September 26, 2011). "History That's Written in Beads as Well as in Words". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-12-13.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Tom Vander Ark (December 13, 2012). "Big History: An Organizing Principle for a Compelling Class, Block or School". Education Week. Retrieved 2012-12-13.
  4. ^ Christian, David (2004). Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History. University of California Press. ISBN 9780520235007.
  5. ^ Stearns, Peter N. Growing Up: The History of Childhood in a Global Context. p. 9.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Vanessa Thorpe (27 October 2012). "Big History theories pose latest challenge to traditional curriculum: Maverick academic's 'Big History' – which is backed by Bill Gates – is subject of new documentary". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-12-13. Big History, a movement spearheaded by the Oxford-educated maverick historian David Christian,...
  7. ^ "International Big History Association". Retrieved September 17, 2012.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Craig Benjamin (July 2012). "Recent Developments in Big History". History of Science Society. Vol. 41, no. 3. Archived from the original on 2013-01-09. Retrieved 2012-12-13.
  9. ^ "Big History School".
  10. ^ "Big History Project".
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Further reading[edit]

The Cosmos[edit]

  • Bally, J., and B. Reipurth. The Birth of Stars and Planets. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
  • Bryson, Bill. A Short History of Nearly Everything. New York: Broadway Books, 2003.
  • Chaisson, Eric. Epic of Evolution: Seven Ages of the Cosmos. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006.
  • Christian, David. Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History. Berkeley: University of California Press. 2004.
  • Delsemme, Armande. Our Cosmic Origins: From the Big Bang to the Emergence of Life and Intelligence. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
  • Greene, Brian. The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time and the Texture of Reality. London: Penguin Books, 2005.
  • McSween, H. Y. Stardust to Planets. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993.
  • Morrison, D., and T. Owen. The Planetary System. New York: Addison-Wesley, 1988.
  • Primack, Joel, and Nancy Abrams. The View from the Center of the Universe: Discovering Our Extraordinary Place in the Cosmos. New York: Penguin, 2006.
  • Taylor, S. R. Solar System Evolution. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
  • Ussher, J. The Annals of the World. London: E. Tyler, for F. Crook and G. Bedell, 1658.

The Earth[edit]

  • Alvarez, Walter. T. Rex and the Crater of Doom. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997.
  • Cloud, P. Oasis in Space: Earth History from the Beginning. New York: Norton, 1988.
  • Condie, K. C. Earth: An Evolving System. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2005.
  • Erwin, Douglas H. Extinction: How Life on Earth Nearly Ended 250 Million Years Ago. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2006.
  • Fortey, R. A. Earth: An Intimate History. New York: Knopf, 2004.
  • Hazen, Robert M. The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years, from Stardust to Living Planet. New York: Viking, 2012.
  • Lunine, J. I. Earth: Evolution of a Habitable World. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
  • Tarbuck, E. J., and F. K. Lutgens. Earth: An Introduction to Physical Geology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005.
  • Ward, P., and D. Brownlee. The Life and Death of Planet Earth. New York: Henry Holt, 2002.


  • Browne, Janet. Charles Darwin: The Power of Place. Vol. 2. New York: Knopf, 2002.
  • Dawkins, Richard. The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. New York: Free Press, 2009.
  • Goodenough, Ursula. The Sacred Depths of Nature. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
  • Margulis, Lynn, and Dorion Sagan. Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of Evolution from Our Microbial Ancestors. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986.
  • Smith, Cameron M., and Charles Sullivan. The Top Ten Myths about Evolution. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2007.
  • Weiner, Jonathan. The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution for Our Time. New York: Knopf, 1994.
  • Wilson, Edward O. The Social Conquest of Earth. New York and London: Liveright Publishing (division of Norton), 2012.

Human Prehistory[edit]

  • Bellwood, Peter, and Peter Hiscock. “Australians and Austronesians.” In Chris Scarre, ed., The Human Past: World Prehistory and the Development of Human Societies. London: Thames & Hudson, 2005, 264–305.
  • Brantingham, P. J., S. L. Kuhn, and K. W. Kerry. The Early Upper Paleolithic beyond Western Europe. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.
  • Burroughs, William James. Climate Change in Prehistory: The End of the Reign of Chaos. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
  • Deacon, Terrence W. The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the Brain. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1997; New York: Norton, 1998.
  • Dunbar, Robin. The Human Story: A New History of Mankind's Evolution. London: Faber and Faber, 2004.
  • Gazzaniga, Michael S. Human: The Science behind What Makes Us Unique. New York: Ecco/HarperCollins, 2008.
  • Goodall, Jane. Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1990.
  • Hardy, Sarah Blaffer. Mother Nature: A History of Mothers, Infants and Natural Selection. New York: Pantheon, 1999.
  • Klein, Richard. The Dawn of Human Culture. New York: Wiley, 2002.
  • Lewis-Williams, D. The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origin of Art. London: Thames & Hudson, 2002.
  • Lee, Richard. The Dobe !Kung. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1984.
  • McBrearty, Sally, and Alison S. Brooks. “The Revolution That Wasn't: A New Interpretation of the Origin of Modern Human Behavior.” Journal of Human Evolution 39 (2000):453–563.
  • Markale, Jean. The Great Goddess: Reverence of the Divine Feminine from the Paleolithic to the Present. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 1999.
  • Milner, George R., and W. H. Wills. “Complex Societies of North America.” In Chris Scarre, ed., The Human Past: World Prehistory and the Development of Human Societies. London: Thames & Hudson, 2005, 678–715.
  • Moseley, Michael E., and Michael J. Hechenberger. “From Village to Empire in South America.” In Chris Scarre, ed., The Human Past: World Prehistory and the Development of Human Societies. London: Thames & Hudson, 2005, 640–77.
  • Pinker, Steven. The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. New York: Penguin, 2003.
  • Ristvet, Lauren. In the Beginning: World History from Human Evolution to the First States. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007.
  • Scarre, Chris, ed. The Human Past: World Prehistory and the Development of Human Societies. London: Thames & Hudson, 2005.
  • Sherratt, Andrew. Economy and Society in Prehistoric Europe: Changing Perspectives. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997.
  • Stix, Gary. “Human Origins. Traces of a Distant Past.” Scientific American, July 2008, 56–63.
  • Tattersall, Ian. Becoming Human: Evolution and Human Uniqueness. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1998.
  • Wrangham, Richard. Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human. New York: Basic Books, 2009.

The Agricultural Revolution[edit]

  • Ammerman, A. J., and L. L. Cavalli-Sforza. The Neolithic Transition and the Genetics of Populations in Europe. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984.
  • Bellwood, Peter. First Farmers: The Origins of Agricultural Societies. Oxford/Malden (MA): Blackwell, 2005.
  • Bellwood, Peter, and Colin Renfrew. Examining the Language/Farming Dispersal Hypothesis. Cambridge, UK: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 2002.
  • Bronowski, Jacob. The Ascent of Man. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1974.
  • Carneiro, R. L. “A Theory on the Origin of the State.” Science 169 (1970):733–38. Catalhoyuk Research Project, Institute of Archaeology, University College London (2008).
  • Diamond, Jared. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York: Norton, 1997.
  • Hodder, I. “Women and Men at Catalhoyuk.” Scientific American 290, no. 1 (2004):76–83.
  • Johnson, A. W., and T. Earle. The Evolution of Human Societies: From Foraging Group to Agrarian State. 2nd ed. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000.
  • Kenyon, Kathleen M. Digging up Jericho. London: Ernest Benn, 1957.
  • Kitch, Patrick V. The Evolution of the Polynesian Chiefdoms. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1984.
  • Lewis-Williams, D. “Constructing a Cosmos—Architecture, Power, and Domestication at Catalhoyuk.” Journal of Social Archaeology 4, no. 1 (2004):28–59.
  • Richerson, P., R. Boyd, and R. L. Bettinger. “Was Agriculture Impossible during the Pleistocene but Mandatory during the Holocene? A Climate Change Hypothesis.” American Antiquity 66, no. 3 (July 2001):387–411.
  • Ristvet, Lauren. In the Beginning: World History from Human Evolution to the First States. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007.
  • Robinson, R. “Ancient DNA Indicates Farmers, Not Just Farming, Spread West.” PLoS Biology 8, no. 11 (2010):e1000535. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000535.
  • Ruddiman, William. Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005. * Scarre, Chris, ed. The Human Past: World Prehistory and the Development of Human Societies. London: Thames & Hudson, 2005.
  • Smith, Bruce D. The Emergence of Agriculture. New York: Scientific American Library, 1995.

Traditional Civilizations[edit]

  • Anderson, Bonnie S., and Judith P. Zinsser. A History of Their Own: Women in Europe from Prehistory to the Present. New York: Harper and Row, 1988.
  • Andrea, Alfred J., and James H. Overfield. The Human Record: Sources of Global History, Vol. 1 to 1700, 4th ed. Boston, MA: Wadsworth, 2008.
  • Anthony, David W. The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2007.
  • Barber, Elizabeth Wayland. Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth and Society in Early Times. New York: Norton, 1994.
  • Bentley, Jerry, and Herbert Zeigler. Traditions and Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past. 5th ed. New York: McGrawHill, 2010.
  • Biraben, J. R. “Essai sur l’evolution du nombre des hommes.” Population 34 (1979). The Cambridge Ancient History. 14 Volumes, 2nd ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1970.
  • Brotherson, Gordon. Book of the Fourth World: Reading the Native Americas Through Their Literature. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
  • Brown, Chip. “The King Herself.” National Geographic, April 2009, 88-111.
  • Brown, Judith K. “Note on the Division of Labor by Sex.” American Anthropologist 72 (1970):1075–76.
  • Coningham, Robin. “South Asia: From Early Villages to Buddhism.” In Chris Scarre, ed., The Human Past: World Prehistory and the Development of Human Societies. London: Thames & Hudson, 2005.
  • Benjamin, Craig. “Hungry for Han Goods? Zhang Qian and the Origins of the Silk Roads.” In M. Gervers and G. Long, Toronto Studies in Central and Inner Asia, Vol. 8. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007, 3–30.
  • Christian, David. A History of Russia, Central Asia, and Mongolia, Vol. 1. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004.
  • Davies, Nigel. Human Sacrifice in History and Today. New York: William Morrow, 1981.
  • D’Altroy, Terence N. The Incas. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2002.
  • Fernandez-Armesto, Felipe. Pathfinders: A Global History of Exploration. New York: Norton, 2007.
  • Fernandez-Armesto, Felipe. The World: A History. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007.
  • Garnsey, Peter. Famine and Food Supply in the Greco-Roman World. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
  • Gately, Iain. Tobacco: The Story of How Tobacco Seduced the World. New York: Grove Press, 2001.
  • Gillmor, Frances. Flute of the Smoking Mirror: A Portrait of Nezahualcoyotl, Poet-King of the Aztecs. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1983.
  • Jaspers, Karl. The Way to Wisdom: An Introduction to Philosophy. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003.
  • Johnson, Allen W., and Timothy Earle. The Evolution of Human Societies. 2nd ed. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000.
  • Kemp, Barry J. Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilization. 2nd ed. London and New York: Routledge, 2006.
  • Leick, Gwendolyn. Mesopotamia: The Invention of the City. London: Penguin, 2001.
  • Leon-Portilla, Miguel. Fifteen Poets of the Aztec World. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992.
  • McIntosh, Jane R. A Peaceful Realm: The Rise and Fall of Indus Civilization. New York: Westview, 2002.
  • McNeill, J. R., and William H. McNeill. The Human Web. New York: Norton, 2003.
  • Man, John. Atlas of the Year 1000. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.
  • Mann, Charles C. 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus. New York: Knopf, 2006.
  • Marcus, Joyce. Mesoamerican Writing Systems: Propaganda, Myth and History in Four Ancient Civilizations. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992.
  • Mitchell, Stephen. Gilgamesh: A New English Version. New York: Free Press, 2004.
  • Nemet-Nejat, Karen Rhea. Daily Life in Ancient Mesopotamia. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998.
  • Ristvet, Lauren. In the Beginning: World History from Human Evolution to the First States. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007.
  • Schmandt-Besserat, Denise. How Writing Came About: Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996.
  • Shaffer, Lynda. “Southernization.” Journal of World History 5, no. 1 (1994):1–21.
  • Smith, Michael E. "The Aztecs." 2nd ed. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003.
  • Strayer, Robert. Ways of the World: A Global History. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's Press, 2009.
  • Toner, Jerry. Popular Culture in Ancient Rome. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2009.
  • Taagepera, Rein. “Size and Duration of Empires: Growth-Decline Curves, 3000 to 600 BC.” Social Science Research 7 (1978):180–96.
  • Wallerstein, Immanuel. “The Timespace of World-Systems Analysis: A Philosophical Essay.” Historical Geography 23, nos. 1 and 2 (1995).
  • Webster, David, and Susan Toby Evans. “Mesoamerican Civilization.” In Chris Scarre, ed., The Human Past: World Prehistory and the Development of Human Societies. London: Thames & Hudson, 2005, 594–639.
  • Weisner-Hanks, Merry E. Gender in History: New Perspectives on the Past. Oxford: Blackwell, 2001.
  • Wolf, Eric. Europe and the People without History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982.
  • Worrall, Simon. “Made in China.” National Geographic, June 2003, 112ff.

The Modern Revolution[edit]

  • Allen, Robert C. The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
  • Ansary, Tamin. Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World through Islamic Eyes. New York: Public Affairs, 2009.
  • Bayly, C. A. Birth of the Modern World, 1780–1914: Global Connections and Comparisons. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004.
  • Bin Wong, Robert. China Transformed: Historical Change and the Limits of European Experience. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1997.
  • Bulliet, Richard, et al. The Earth and Its Peoples: A Global History. 2nd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003.
  • Clossey, Luke. “Merchants, Migrants, Missionaries, and Globalization in the Early-Modern Pacific.” Journal of Global History 1 (2006):41–58.
  • Crosby, Alfred W. Children of the Sun: A History of Humanity's Unappeasable Appetite for Energy. New York: Norton, 2006.
  • Crosby, Alfred W. The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1972.
  • Crosby, Alfred W. Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900–1900. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1986.
  • Davis, Mike. Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World. London: Verso, 2001.
  • Crutzen, Paul. "The Geology of Mankind." Nature 415 (January 3, 2002):23.
  • Ferguson, Niall. Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power. New York: Basic Books, 2004.
  • Fernlund, Kevin Jon. A Big History of North America, from Montezuma to Monroe. Columbia: University of Missouri Press. 2022.
  • Fernlund, Kevin Jon. "The Great Battle of the Books between the Cultural Evolutionists and the Cultural Relativists: from the Beginning of Infinity to the End of History" in Journal of Big History 4 (2020): 6-30.
  • Fernlund, Kevin J. "To Think Like a Star: The American West, Modern Cosmology, and Big History." Montana: The Magazine of Western History 59 (Summer 2009): 23–44.
  • Headrick, Daniel. Technology: A World History. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2009.
  • Headrick, Daniel R. The Tools of Empire: Technology and European Imperialism in the Nineteenth Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.
  • Hobsbawm, Eric. Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century: 1914–1991. London: Little, Brown, 1994.
  • Hunt, Lynn. Inventing Human Rights: A History. New York: Norton, 2007.
  • McNeill, John. Something New under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World. New York: Norton, 2000.
  • McNeill, William H. The Shape of European History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1974.
  • Maddison, Angus. The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective. Paris: OECD, 2001.
  • Marks, Robert. The Origins of the Modern World: A Global and Ecological Narrative from the Fifteenth to the Twenty-First Century. 2nd ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007.
  • Morris, Ian. Why the West Rules--for Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011.
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  • Strayer, Robert W. Ways of the World: A Brief Global History, 2 vols. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2009.
  • Tignor, Robert, et al. Worlds Together: Worlds Apart. 2nd ed., Vol. 1. New York: Norton, 2008.
  • Uglow, Jenny. The Lunar Men: Five Friends Whose Curiosity Changed the World. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002.

The Future[edit]

  • Brown, Lester R. Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization. New York and London: Norton, 2009.
  • Davidson, Eric A. You Can't Eat GNP: Economics as If Ecology Mattered. Cambridge, MA: Perseus, 2000.
  • Diamond, Jared. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Viking, 2005.
  • Kaku, Michio. Visions: How Science Will Revolutionize the Twenty-First Century. Oxford, New York, and Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1998.
  • Kilgore, De Witt Douglas. Astrofuturism: Science, Race, and Visions of Utopia in Space. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003.
  • Korten, David. The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2006.
  • Kurzweill, Ray. The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. New York: Penguin, 2006.
  • Lovelock, James. The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning. New York: Basic Books, 2009.
  • McAnany, Patricia A., and Norman Yoffee. Questioning Collapse: Human Resilience, Ecological Vulnerability, and the Aftermath of Empire. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
  • Miller, Walter M. A Canticle for Leibowitz. New York: Bantam, 1997. Originally published 1959.
  • Mueller, Richard A. Physics for Future Presidents: The Science behind the Headlines. New York and London: Norton, 2008.
  • Prantzos, Nikos. Our Cosmic Future: Humanity's Fate in the Universe. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
  • Roberts, Paul. The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004.
  • Roston, Eric. The Carbon Age: How Life's Core Element Has Become Civilization's Greatest Threat. New York: Walker, 2008.
  • Sachs, Jeffrey D. Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet. New York: Penguin, 2008.
  • Sagan, Carl. Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. New York: Ballantine, 1994.
  • Shiva, Vandana. Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2005.
  • Smil, Vaclav. Energy in World History. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994.
  • Stableford, Brian, and David Langford. The Third Millennium: A History of the World, AD 2000–3000. London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1985.
  • Wagar, Warren. A Short History of the Future. 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

External links[edit]