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Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History

Popular Science

Series: California World History Library

By: David Christian (Author), William H McNeill (Foreword By)

642 pages, 47 b/w illustrations, 9 maps, 32 tables

University of California Press

Paperback | Oct 2011 | Edition: 2 | #212367 | ISBN-13: 9780520271449
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £19.95 $24/€22 approx

About this book

An introduction to a new way of looking at history, from a perspective that stretches from the beginning of time to the present day, Maps of Time is world history on an unprecedented scale. Beginning with the Big Bang, David Christian views the interaction of the natural world with the more recent arrivals in flora and fauna, including human beings.

Cosmology, geology, archeology, and population and environmental studies – all figure in David Christian's account, which is an ambitious overview of the emerging field of "Big History." Maps of Time opens with the origins of the universe, the stars and the galaxies, the sun and the solar system, including the earth, and conducts readers through the evolution of the planet before human habitation. It surveys the development of human society from the Paleolithic era through the transition to agriculture, the emergence of cities and states, and the birth of the modern, industrial period right up to intimations of possible futures. Sweeping in scope, finely focused in its minute detail, this riveting account of the known world, from the inception of space-time to the prospects of global warming, lays the groundwork for world history – and Big History – true as never before to its name.

"No brief can possible do even minimal justice to an author and his summa cum laude opus [...] Christian not only melds their accounts into his own but also stresses when and how- and often why as part of evolution itself- those who came before him made their own discoveries."
– Andre Gunder Frank, Journal Of World History

"Forges bold and ingenious connections between the physical and social sciences."
– Peter Spinks, The Age

"No work in this genre [macro-history] is better than David Christian's Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History [...] [I]t is a brilliantly executed act of provocation."
– Felipe Fernandez Armesto, The Times

"A remarkable work of synthesis and scholarship [...] Christian's Olympian perspective on the story of time is exhilarating."
– P. D. Smith, The Guardian
"A good read, a fascinating prospectus for a new kind of history."
– Anthony Grafton, American Scientist

"The best historical synthesis I have ever read."
– Fred Spier, History & Theory: Stds In The Philosophy Of History

"In Maps of Time, Australian historian David Christian has given us a state-of-the-art instance of Big History, a work of breathtaking synthesis [...] Christian has done his homework. He freely draws from the best and brightest science writers, economists, sociologists, and world historians [...] This catalogue of topics and sources does not do justice to the sophistication of the argument in Maps of Time."
– Donald A. Yerxa, Books & Culture: A Christian Review

"Christian has hit a home run."
College & Research Libraries News

"A fascinating read."
– Ian Garrick Mason, San Francisco Chronicle

"[Christian's] book is remarkably successful. It has the essential effect of first stimulating and then retaining the reader's interest."
– Douglas Palmer, New Scientist

"An ambitious and clearly-written account."
Future Survey

"You've all seen the poster of the milky way galaxy with an arrow to a point about halfway out from the center and the caption, 'You are here.' This book is like that only more so. It locates the human experience in the entirety of space-time."
– Alfred Crosby, author of Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900


Introduction: A Modern Creation Myth?

1. The First 300,000 Years: Origins of the Universe, Time, and Space
2. Origins of the Galaxies and Stars: The Beginnings of Complexity
3. Origins and History of the Earth
4. The Origins of Life and the Theory of Evolution
5. The Evolution of Life and the Biosphere
6. The Evolution of Humans
7. The Beginnings of Human History
8. Intensification and the Origins of Agriculture
9. From Power over Nature to Power over People: Cities, States, and Civilizations
10. Long Trends in the Era of Agrarian Civilizations
11. Approaching Modernity
12. Globalization, Commercialization, and Innovation
13. Birth of the Modern World
14. The Great Acceleration of the Twentieth Century
15. Futures

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David Christian is Professor in the Department of History at San Diego State University. He is the author of Living Water: Vodka and Russian Society on the Eve of Emancipation (1990), Imperial and Soviet Russia: Power, Privilege and the Challenge of Modernity (1997), and A History of Russia, Central Asia and Mongolia: Volume 1: Inner Eurasia from Prehistory to the Mongol Empire (1998).

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