Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity

Course No. 8050
Professor David Christian, D.Phil.
Macquarie University
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Course No. 8050
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Course Overview

About 100,000 to 60,000 years ago, a species of hominines—bipedal ape-like creatures—began to move out of its home territory in Africa and into the Asian continent. Today, homo sapiens, the descendants of those first hominines—live in nearly every ecological niche. We fly through the air in planes, communicate instantaneously over immense distances, and develop theories about the creation of the Universe. In Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity, you’ll hear this ever-evolving story—the history of everything—in its monumental entirety from the moment the Universe grew from the size of an atom to the size of a galaxy in a fraction of a second.

Taught by historian David Christian, Big History offers a unique opportunity to view human history in the context of the many histories that surround it. Over the course of 48 thought-provoking lectures, he'll serve as your guide as you traverse the sweeping expanse of cosmic history—13.7 billion years of it—starting with the big bang and traveling through time and space to the present moment.

A Grand Synthesis of Knowledge

Have you ever wondered: How do various scholarly discourses—cosmology, geology, anthropology, biology, history—fit together?

Big History answers that question by weaving a single story from a variety of scholarly disciplines. Like traditional creation stories told by the world's great religions and mythologies, Big History provides a map of our place in space and time. But it does so using the insights and knowledge of modern science, as synthesized by a renowned historian.

This is a story scholars have been able to tell only since the middle of the last century, thanks to the development of new dating techniques in the mid-1900s. As Professor Christian explains, this story will continue to grow and change as scientists and historians accumulate new knowledge about our shared past.

Eight "Thresholds"

To tell this epic, Professor Christian organizes the history of creation into eight "thresholds." Each threshold marks a point in history when something truly new appeared and forms never before seen began to arise.

Starting with the first threshold, the creation of the Universe, Professor Christian traces the developments of new, more complex entities, including:

  • The creation of the first stars (threshold 2)
  • The origin of life (threshold 5)
  • The development of the human species (threshold 6)
  • The moment of modernity (threshold 8).

In the final lectures, you'll even gain a glimpse into the future as you review speculations offered by scientists about where our species, our world, and our Universe may be heading.

Getting the "Big" Picture

While you may have heard parts of this story before in courses on geology, history, anthropology, biology, cosmology, and other scholarly disciplines, Big History provides more than just a recap. This course will expand the scope of your perspective on the past and alter the way you think about history and the world around you.

""Because of the scale on which we look at the past, you should not expect to find in it many of the familiar details, names, and personalities that you'll find in other types of historical teaching and writing,"" explains Professor Christian. ""For example, the French Revolution and the Renaissance will barely get a mention. They'll zoom past in a blur. You'll barely see them. Instead, what we're going to see are some less familiar aspects of the past. ... We'll be looking, above all, for the very large patterns, the shape of the past.""

Thanks to this grand perspective, you'll uncover the remarkable parallels and connections among disciplines that remain to be explored when you view history on a large scale. How is the creation of stars like the building of cities? How is the big bang like the invention of agriculture? These are the kinds of connections you'll find yourself pondering as you undergo the grand shift in perspective afforded by Big History.

Fascinating Facts

Along the way, you'll encounter intriguing tidbits that put the grand scale of this story in perspective, such as:

  • The entire expanse of human civilization—5,000 years—makes up a mere 2 percent of the human experience.
  • Approximately 98 percent of human history occurred before the invention of agriculture.
  • All the matter we know of in the Universe is likely to be no more than 1 billionth of the actual matter that was originally created.
  • The Earth's Moon was probably created by a collision between the young Earth and a Mars-sized protoplanet.
  • At present, we cannot drill deeper than about 7 miles into the Earth, which is just 0.2% of the distance to the center (4,000 miles away).
  • Between 1000 C.E. and 2000 C.E., human populations rose by a factor of 24.
  • Traveling in a jet plane, it would take 5 million years to get from our solar system to the next nearest star.

The Story We Tell about Ourselves

"To understand ourselves," says Professor Christian, "we need to know the very large story, the largest story of all." And that, perhaps, is one of the greatest benefits of Big History: It provides a thought-provoking way to help us understand our own place within the Universe.

From humankind's place within the context of evolutionary history to our impact on the larger biosphere—both now and in our species' past—this course offers a broad yet nuanced examination of our place in creation. It also poses a profound question: Is it possible that our species is the only entity created by the Universe with the capacity to ponder its mysteries?

There is, perhaps, no more profound question to ask, and no better guide on this quest for understanding than Professor Christian. A pioneer in this approach to understanding history, Professor Christian has made big history his personal project for more than two decades. Working with experts in a variety of fields, he designed and taught some of the first big history courses, and has published widely on the topic.

Accept his invitation to get the big picture on Big History, and prepare for a journey through time and across space, from the first moments of existence to the distant reaches of the far future.

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48 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    What Is Big History?
    Is it possible to tell a story of everything, from the big bang up to the present day? This lecture introduces the background and unique aspects of this broad, multidisciplinary perspective on history. x
  • 2
    Moving across Multiple Scales
    Most history courses cover time spans of a few decades or a few centuries, but big history requires us to survey the past over scales that span billions of years. This lecture explores ways to become more familiar with the immense scales needed to cover the modern creation story. x
  • 3
    Simplicity and Complexity
    In this lecture, we introduce one of the unifying themes of the course: the development of increasing complexity since the creation of the Universe. Here, we'll examine the definition of complexity and ask how our Universe builds more complex entities. x
  • 4
    Evidence and the Nature of Science
    Why should we trust the claims of modern science about events in the distant past? This lecture lays some ground rules about evidence for proving scientific claims and describes how new dating techniques have allowed scientists to peer further back into the past than previously thought possible. x
  • 5
    Threshold 1—Origins of Big Bang Cosmology
    We encounter the first threshold of complexity—the creation of the Universe at the moment of the big bang—and explore the scientific evidence that allows us to piece together this ever-evolving story of creation. x
  • 6
    How Did Everything Begin?
    This lecture surveys the history of different ideas about the creation of the Universe, from Ptolemaic theories of an Earth-centered cosmos to the modern notion of a constantly expanding Universe. x
  • 7
    Threshold 2—The First Stars and Galaxies
    How did the Universe change from a cloud of dust to a constellation of stellar bodies? This lecture describes how gravity was fundamental in crossing the second threshold of the course: the creation of stars and galaxies from huge clouds of hydrogen and helium atoms. x
  • 8
    Threshold 3—Making Chemical Elements
    Stars created the preconditions for crossing a third threshold of complexity: the formation of chemical elements. As stars collapse and die, they fuse to create new atoms that are the building blocks of all the complex chemicals that make up our Earth. x
  • 9
    Threshold 4—The Earth and the Solar System
    With this lecture, we shift from the scale of the Universe to that of our solar system. Here we examine the processes by which planets and solar systems are created and the evidence that helps us piece together this part of the story. x
  • 10
    The Early Earth—A Short History
    The tumultuous early history of the Earth is presented in this lecture, including the development of our planet's internal layers, the generation of its magnetic field, the creation of the first seas, and the appearance of its early atmosphere. x
  • 11
    Plate Tectonics and the Earth's Geography
    In this lecture, we examine the history of the Earth's surface and learn how the notion of our planet as fixed and unchanging was eventually overturned by a new vision of the Earth's crust as broken into plates that are constantly on the move. x
  • 12
    Threshold 5—Life
    With the consideration of the next threshold of complexity, life, we develop a definition of life itself, and begin to consider how life-forms adapt and change over time. x
  • 13
    Darwin and Natural Selection
    In On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin revealed a new story: an account of how all living species change and adapt. This lecture recounts how Darwin arrived at his revolutionary theory, and how he shared his ideas with contemporaries who were making similar breakthroughs. x
  • 14
    The Evidence for Natural Selection
    In this lecture, we examine the various kinds of evidence Darwin used to establish his theory of natural selection, including the fossil record, similarities among species, and the geographic distribution of species. We also review modern evidence of natural selection. x
  • 15
    The Origins of Life
    How was life first created from non-life? Modern biologists tell a complex story of the creation of life which involves the development of organic matter from simpler molecules such as amino acids, nucleic acids, sugars, and proteins. x
  • 16
    Life on Earth—Single-celled Organisms
    How was life first created from non-life? Modern biologists tell a complex story of the creation of life which involves the development of organic matter from simpler molecules such as amino acids, nucleic acids, sugars, and proteins. x
  • 17
    Life on Earth—Multi-celled Organisms
    The fusion of single-celled organisms into larger, multi-celled organisms c. 600 million years ago marked a turning point in the development of life forms on this planet. In this lecture, we focus on the evolution of multi-cellular organisms, tracing four evolutionary steps leading to our own species, Homo sapiens. x
  • 18
    How did modern humans evolve from ape-like ancestors? This lecture surveys the evolution of primates and great apes, and then traces the adaptive development of hominines, a group of bipedal primates that appeared in Africa 7 million years ago. x
  • 19
    Evidence on Hominine Evolution
    To construct the story of hominine evolution, scientists rely on three kinds of evidence: archaeological evidence, evidence based on the study of modern primates, and evidence based on genetic comparisons between modern species of primates, including ourselves. x
  • 20
    Threshold 6—What Makes Humans Different?
    Human beings represent a new threshold of complexity in the story of life on Earth. In this lecture, we examine two things that make us unique: use of symbolic language and collective learning. x
  • 21
    Homo sapiens—The First Humans
    Does the archaeological record reveal when the first members of our species appeared? In this lecture, we examine evidence from the Stone Age and consider several theories of the early history of the first humans. x
  • 22
    Paleolithic Lifeways
    Using remains left behind by our ancestors and studies of modern societies that still use stone technologies, modern researchers have constructed a portrait of the Paleolithic way of life. In this lecture, we enter into this world and learn what life was like for our distant ancestors. x
  • 23
    Change in the Paleolithic Era
    Change was gradual over the course of the long Paleolithic era, but there were some significant shifts that altered lifeways for human beings. These include climate changes during two ice ages, the rise of various technological innovations, and adaptive migration to nearly all parts of the globe. x
  • 24
    Threshold 7—Agriculture
    The appearance of agriculture set human history off in entirely new directions by increasing human control of food, energy, and other resources. The development of agriculture brings about changes in the environment and lays the foundation for the development of more complex human societies. x
  • 25
    The Origins of Agriculture
    Why, after 200,000 years of foraging, should human communities in quite different parts of the world take up agriculture almost simultaneously? In this lecture, we explore the different factors leading to this innovation. x
  • 26
    The First Agrarian Societies
    Although early agrarian societies left behind no written record, there is evidence of many important new developments during this period. Here, we explore the lifeways of these societies, and question whether agriculture meant the early farmers lived better than their forager ancestors. x
  • 27
    Power and Its Origins
    Approximately 5,000 years ago, the human species saw the rise of a new form of social organization: the first "tribute-taking" states. We begin our consideration of these states by asking how power is defined and what forms it takes. x
  • 28
    Early Power Structures
    How did humankind move from kinship clans and small agricultural villages to enormous centralized societies? This lecture surveys the archaeological and anthropological evidence used to reconstruct the evolution of power structures and theorizes how these larger societies took shape. x
  • 29
    From Villages to Cities
    This lecture introduces the 5,000 years of human history that were dominated by the huge and powerful societies: agrarian civilizations. With the development of writing, we get the first era of recorded history. x
  • 30
    Sumer—The First Agrarian Civilization
    How did the buildup of human and material resources during the early Agrarian era lead to the development of the first tribute-taking states and the first real cities? Here, we'll examine one of the earliest agrarian civilizations, Sumer in southern Mesopotamia, to learn how these new developments arose. x
  • 31
    Agrarian Civilizations in Other Regions
    How typical was Sumer of agrarian civilizations in general? This lecture briefly surveys six different areas where agrarian civilizations appeared early, including northeastern Africa, northern India, China, and the Americas. x
  • 32
    The World That Agrarian Civilizations Made
    Despite the limited contact among them, early agrarian civilizations the world over shared many features. In this lecture, we'll examine these features and speculate why agrarian societies seem to develop along similar lines despite regional differences. x
  • 33
    Long Trends—Expansion and State Power
    In this lecture, we begin to take the long view of agrarian civilizations, marking two trends that occurred during the course of 4,000 years: the expansion of civilizations to cover larger regions and incorporate more people, and the increasing power and reach of their rulers. x
  • 34
    Long Trends—Rates of Innovation
    Agrarian civilizations were able to expand because they developed new ways to extract resources and manage populations. This lecture examines how features such as population growth, commerce, and tribute-taking states helped encourage innovation. x
  • 35
    Long Trends—Disease and Malthusian Cycles
    Throughout human history, we see periods of innovation, population growth, increasing trade and urbanization, political expansion, and cultural efflorescence. Then, sometimes quite suddenly, there is a crash. In this lecture, we examine the factors that contribute to this cycle of boom and crash, referred to as the Malthusian cycle. x
  • 36
    Comparing the World Zones
    The previous two lectures describe factors that both stimulated and limited growth in the era of agrarian civilizations in Afro-Eurasia, the largest of the four world zones of human history. Here, we begin to question whether these same features and processes appear in American, Australasian, and Pacific zones. x
  • 37
    The Americas in the Later Agrarian Era
    In this lecture, we see that American agrarian civilizations experienced many of the same developments as those in Afro-Eurasia, but these developments appeared much later and never spread as far as in other world region. x
  • 38
    Threshold 8—The Modern Revolution
    In the last millennium, the pace of change accelerated sharply and decisively. Since then, humankind has experienced a number of astonishing changes, including accelerating innovation, the formation of larger and more complex societies, the integration of the four world zones, and the growing human impact on the biosphere. x
  • 39
    The Medieval Malthusian Cycle, 500–1350
    This lecture describes the medieval Malthusian cycle, which lasted from the decline of the Roman and Han Empires to the time of the Black Death. We will focus on Afro-Eurasia, the largest and most significant of the four world zones, and the region that drove change in the early stages of the Modern Revolution. x
  • 40
    The Early Modern Cycle, 1350–1700
    During the Early Modern cycle, for the first time in human history, the four world zones became linked through global exchange networks which stimulated both commerce and capitalism. Yet for other world zones, these changes were catastrophic, bringing disease and population collapse. x
  • 41
    Breakthrough—The Industrial Revolution
    By 1700, many elements of modernity seemed to be in place, yet global rates of innovation remained slow. This lecture describes the breakthrough to modernity after 1700, focusing on one country, Britain, where the transformation has been studied most intensively. x
  • 42
    Spread of the Industrial Revolution to 1900
    Within just two centuries, industrialization had transformed the entire world. No earlier transformation in human history had been so rapid or so far-reaching. This lecture describes the impact of industrialization before 1900. x
  • 43
    The 20th Century
    In this lecture, we examine the hallmark events of the 20th century, including major worldwide wars, two waves of innovation, huge population growth, and an enormous surge in energy use. x
  • 44
    The World That the Modern Revolution Made
    In this lecture, we attempt to describe, as we did for Paleolithic and agrarian societies, the lifeways of the Modern era. What emerges is a portrait of a single, world-spanning community of more than 6 billion people supported by ever-increasing technological innovation. x
  • 45
    Human History and the Biosphere
    How has our increasing power over the natural world affected our relationship to planet Earth? Are we becoming a malignant presence within the biosphere, driving other species to extinction and impacting global climactic systems in unpredictable ways? x
  • 46
    The Next 100 Years
    After surveying 13 billion years, can we resist peering into the future? We take a tantalizing glimpse into speculations about which historic trends may continue into the next century. x
  • 47
    The Next Millennium and the Remote Future
    Our speculations into future developments continue with an examination of several theories about what life will be like 1,000 years in the future. Then we'll jump even further ahead, with scientific theorization about the ultimate fate of the Universe. x
  • 48
    Big History—Humans in the Cosmos
    In the final lecture of this course, we pause to ask some fundamental questions about meaning: What is the place of human beings in the Universe? Are we, perhaps, the only creations of the Universe that have consciousness? x

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Your professor

David Christian

About Your Professor

David Christian, D.Phil.
Macquarie University
Dr. David Christian is Professor of History at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. He earned a B.A. in History from Oxford University, an M.A. in Russian History from The University of Western Ontario, and a D.Phil. in 19th-Century Russian History from Oxford University. He previously taught at San Diego State University. Professor Christian's course on big history stems from an experimental history course he developed...
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Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 207.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The title captured the essence of the course. Outstanding blend of interesting lectures and supporting materials
Date published: 2019-02-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well worth the time A real teacher who not only knows his stuff but knows how to keep your attention.
Date published: 2019-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Valuable experience I have read two of David Christian's books and wish I had watched this first. He has many examples and much evidence for his narrative of the origins of the university and the development of the human species and civilization. For those looking for "the big picture" this is illuminating.
Date published: 2018-11-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Foundational Knowledge Viewing Prof. Christian’s “Big History” series has been an enlightening experience, for exactly the reason I hoped when I purchased it: Big History, in recounting all the visible past using all the evidence currently available, supplies a broad (straightforward, even) narrative which connects and contextualises all other forms of knowledge. All the physical and social sciences, religions, cultures, histories, you name it, stem from the Big History narrative. Because of its fundamental nature, I think this narrative has become an educational prerequisite in the precious few years it has been available, and as such we have also used it as an important facet of our homeschool curriculum to great effect. The course was engrossing from start to end. Those with better general knowledge will obviously encounter fewer new facts than those beginning with less, but I doubt anyone could come away not feeling much the wiser for the elegant context into which Prof. Christian has placed them. While I found the treatment of human prehistory in particular to be fascinating, it was the broad view of the entire sweep of history through the lenses of energy flows, increasing complexity, and emergent properties, that really drove home the unity of the narrative and the relatively simple patterns of cause and effect underlying it. Regardless of how extensive one’s knowledge is, it would almost certainly benefit from Big History’s narrative structure to give it more coherent order. Professor Christian’s delivery was very good, bringing a bit of personality, and a lot of enthusiasm for his work. I particularly appreciated his highlighting, where appropriate, of both our lack of evidence and the often provisional nature of our conclusions, as well as the acknowledgment of differing opinions. In conclusion, I am very satisfied with this purchase, and highly recommend it to others, particularly as a foundation for the erudite and novice both. Having a fundamental structure for one’s knowledge such as that supplied by Big History, creating a backbone narrative, connects everything else and in doing so makes it so much more interesting. Ideally, everyone’s education would include this type of course around the beginning of high school, before moving on to physical and social sciences, history, etc., but better late than never...
Date published: 2018-07-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Reframe This course brings a new perspective to the question, "What does it mean to be human." I listen to this course at least once a year. It reminds me of the old rabbinic aphorism that we must act as though we have a piece of paper in each of our pockets. "The world was created just for you" is written on the paper in one pocket. "We are nothing but dust and ashes" is written on the other. Our challenge is to live our lives as though both are true. Dr. Christian makes that concept so alive and accessible. He uses hard a science to show that the Sagan-est concept that we made of star-stuff and at the same time keeps our humanity in the forefront. A delight. Both humbling and elevating. A wonderful experience.
Date published: 2018-05-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Big History start with, this course is a big long in the tooth at 48 lectures; it takes a while and commitment to work through all of them. However, the reward for doing so is worth the effort. The perspective that Professor Christian brings is simply mind blowing. Biggest of all (spoiler alert!) is "collective knowledge" which is what truly separate humans from all other animals on Earth. When I think of the speed of knowledge transfer in today's networked world and add in the concept of collective knowledge, I really need to expand my thoughts of the potential of the future. Professor Christian is entertaining and lively and brings something new to each lecture. I recommend this course highly. My only suggestion is to shorten it a bit if possible though, as I said, the reward for going through the whole course is worth the effort. As a final note, watch the picture behind Prof. changes as you proceed through the course.
Date published: 2018-05-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Big Story This is the first and one of the best Great Courses that I have studied. Professor Christian is a funny, intelligent, and charming teacher who mixes the science of Carl Sagan (famous for his Cosmos TV series) and the history of H. G. Wells (famous for his sci-fi novels and Outline of History book) to tell an epic story of the birth, life, and death of the universe, world, life, and mankind. The course guidebook also does a great job of summarizing the videos and the pictures shown in the videos of scientific phenomena and historical discoveries are quite marvelous. Bill Gates (the billionaire) loved this course, so both the rich man (Gates) and the poor man (myself) agree that education breaks all economic barriers. Although David explicitly denies being a philosopher in the lecture mentioning Descartes, in my opinion, he is one of the greatest philosophical thinkers and historians of our times and the synthesis of Big History is his greatest achievement (in addition to studying the effects of Russian vodka firsthand).
Date published: 2018-04-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Energetic, enthusiastic and personable presentation - even through the audio. I learned more than in any other course. Highly recommend for new-bies.
Date published: 2018-04-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course Great course in all aspects of it such as contents and professor delivery. I wish I could dive deeper into the each topic discussed, but for this everyone has to go by themselves.
Date published: 2018-04-02
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good but flawed Good summary of history of the universe but flawed by speakers endless thinly veiled attempt to belittle any religion. He seems to continuously carp on that position as if he has any ax to grind. With out that I would recommend it.
Date published: 2018-03-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Audacious and Mostly Successful I should give this course an extra half star for originality and ambition. Presenting a macro-macro-macro treatment of “everything”—that is, the origin and evolution of the universe, the story of our planet and the origins of life on it, an overview of evolution, the origins of humans and their first pre-agrarian 200,000 years, the pre-industrial millennia, the modern revolution of the last 300 years, and what’s likely to happen in the next century as well as in the far-distant future—focusing on the big picture rather than individual subjects typically dealt with in their own courses—is a novel and (I guess) commendable undertaking. Such an undertaking would likely turn out differently if presented by a cosmologist, an evolutionary biologist, an anthropologist, a sociologist, or a “futurist”. In this case the professor is a conventionally-trained historian who has dipped into all those other disciplines rather than put in Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 hours” to master any of them—admittedly an impossibility. The resulting product is remarkably well presented, to the extent that anyone can spend an hour or two explaining a subject area at the collegiate level that he hasn’t formally trained or worked in, and I didn’t pick up many apparent discrepancies or possible errors based on what’s been presented in the other 80 Teaching Company courses I’ve taken (or my own patchy expertise). However, this was, for me, one of the few courses where the professor’s presentation style and teaching approach were just a bit distracting from the content. There seemed to be a subtle sub-theme that this whole thing is incredibly complex and no one else could possibly have pulled it all together. Practically speaking, given the inherently audacious and thrilling premise of the course, the lectures could have been more, well, thrilling, had the presentation not been quite so pedantic and repetitious. Maybe I’m being unfair: it really is a revolutionary way of presenting a whole bunch of material from half a dozen disciplines and trying to stitch it all together. Not all of it does stitch together into the overall construct equally well, and in a few places the lectures seemed a bit forced in order to make them parallel the rest of the narrative. But overall it’s an impressive achievement, frequently thought-provoking, and definitely worth watching all 48 lectures.
Date published: 2017-12-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent! Really well done and interesting. Everyone should watch.
Date published: 2017-10-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic course i am not done with the course, but I just had to write. The professor is so engaging I "can't put it down" -- video download It is not on sale now, but when it comes up on sale grab it. You won't be disappointed.
Date published: 2017-09-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Tells me exactly what the course is about Several years ago I listened to this course. I learned so much. Recently I bought it and am watching it. It is a wonderful origin story! D. Christian is a great teacher.
Date published: 2017-04-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent professor Have watched this twice, and have learned more about the subject than ever before.
Date published: 2017-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best I first watched Big History on Plus. I then purchased it. I read Guns, Germs, and Steel last year which caused me to watch Big History. The course content and the professor are compelling. I have since purchased 4 other books that Dr. Christian cited in the course. I now own 170 Great Courses so when I say it is one of my favorites, it is high praise. Bill Gates did a you tube to tell everyone it was his favorite Great Course. Judge for yourself.
Date published: 2017-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very extensive! What a great course. The professor seemed to be well versed in all areas he touches upon, and that’s saying something considering how much is covered in this vast course. This course is great for anyone who loves the history of just about anything. Astronomy history is covered in the formation of the universe, galaxy, solar system, and Earth. Biology history is covered in the origin of life, single and multi-celled organisms, through the history of evolution. Human history is covered from the first hominines through the emergence of agrarian civilizations to current humans. This course holds your interest through each lecture, and I couldn’t wait to start the next one.
Date published: 2017-03-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is an excellent introduction to Big History. The presentation was dynamic and engaging. A few of the lectures could have been shortened and a few could have been expanded on. However overall it was definitely worthwhile.
Date published: 2017-02-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A History Course Like None You've Ever Taken This is a history course unlike any I've ever experienced that explains trends and events using a very big picture lens (vs. specific civilizations or nations) and organizes the history of creation into eight "thresholds” (a point in history when something truly new appeared and forms never before seen began to arise): o Threshold 1- Creation of the universe o Threshold 2- Creation of the first stars o Threshold 3- Formation of chemical elements (that make up our earth) o Threshold 4- Creation of our solar system and the planet Earth o Threshold 5- Origin of life o Threshold 6- Development of the human species o Threshold 7- Invention of Agriculture o Threshold 8- The age of modernity Very interesting and unique course on the history of everything: 13.7 billion years of the universe is explored using different scholarly disciplines including cosmology, astronomy, physics, chemistry, geology, biology, paleontology, archaeology, anthropology, and history. Definitions of the disciplines and the role they play in Big History: o Cosmology- the study of the origin and development of the universe (helps us understand the Big Bang and how the universe was created) o Astronomy- the study of celestial objects, space, and the physical universe as a whole (helps us study the structure of the universe) o Physics- the study of the nature and properties of matter and energy (helps us study the creation of the sun and our solar system) o Chemistry- the study of the substances of which matter is composed, their properties and the ways in which they interact, combine (to form new substances), and change (helps us study the processes that led to the creation of Earth) o Geology- the study of how Earth's physical structure and substance has changed (helps us study how the changes in the structure of Earth leads to the creation of life) o Biology- the study of living organisms (helps us study the origins of life on our planet and its evolution) o Paleontology- discovery and study of ancient fossils to reconstruct that organism’s life (helps provide information on various species that eventually evolved to the homo sapiens species that exists today) o Archaeology- the study of ancient human artifacts/bones (helps us study the invention of agriculture) o Anthropology- the study of human societies and cultures and their development (helps us study the invention of power structures: city states with kings/high priests, etc.) o History- the study of past events, particularly in human affairs (using the invention of writing (i.e. written documents), history helps us to understand the evolution of large complex agrarian city states) Anytime the professor introduces a new level or sub-level of complexity he doesn’t just assume everyone understands and is in agreement with that entity’s definition. Instead, he takes a pain-staking approach to provide intriguing and thought-provoking definitions for items we may all take for granted including "life", "human species", "agriculture", and “Agrarian civilizations”. These definitions help articulate why they represent a new level of complexity and pinpoint when they were first introduced. Rather than just state theories or make assumptions, the professor provides scientific evidence and explanations on how we “know” certain things like the distance and makeup of stars, the age of the universe, the existence of evolution, and why agriculture first began. Minuses: • Was hoping for a little more time spent on the evolution of life on earth from single-celled organisms to the complex multi-celled organisms including: o The different forms of organisms (those that exist today and those that do not) o Development of vertebrae, teeth, eyes, etc. o Descriptions of the creatures that transitioned from water to land o Rise of the dinosaurs and how the asteroid caused their extinction • The latter lectures on the modern era (the last threshold) were the only ones that just didn’t capture my interest for some reason • The last few lectures tended to tilt a little too much towards the negative side of the human species: i.e. how destructive human beings have been on the earth, its ecology, and its other species All in all this was an interesting take on history and the course was excellently produced by Professor Christian. I recommend this course to anyone with an interest in big picture history be it of our universe, our planet, or our species. I would imagine there would be alot in this course for anyone to learn and contemplate and I thoroughly enjoyed my personal experience through these thought-provoking lectures.
Date published: 2017-02-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course, great presentation I am looking for a method to arrange a course that I teach in astronomy. I am very interested in presenting it in a cogent way emphasizing the history of the cosmos as the underlying theme. Dr. Christian does this in an excellent manner...very well presented for me.
Date published: 2017-01-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A valid and excellent view of our world's history. I was mesmerized listening to this great course. To have a "big" view of History is something that I never thought of. In order to understand what a big view, the listener needs to experience this expanded vision of our world. There is really no minutia here; no small details. And what you hear is fascinating: from the creation of our universe to today.
Date published: 2016-11-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Big HIstory This is a super great course. It covers 13.7 billion years of history in an amazing and digestible way. I give it two thumbs way way up!!
Date published: 2016-08-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The presentation flows very well. The professor's presentation is excellent. However, I would have rated it a 5 if there were more illustrations.
Date published: 2016-07-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting Way to View History I love history and I enjoyed this class very much. The Professor does tend to repeat things, but that's okay with me-it's a long class and if I am interrupted for a few days in watching, the repetition gets me back up to speed quickly without have ing to re-listen to previous lectures. i thought the depth and breath of knowledge of this Professor was wonderful. He uses information and quotes not only from science but also from literature, philosophy, and other arts. He chose examples, in terms of data, visuals, and quotations, very wisely. The graphics and photographs were good and on the screen long enough for the viewer to absorb them. All visuals and other source material reinforce the topic he is discussing. He presents different viewpoints from well-respected scientists. The professor does assume that the listener is on board with things like the big bang theory, evolution, and climate change. If those concepts are not ones you agree with, you may not find this course to your liking.
Date published: 2016-05-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding overview of it all! I loved this introduction to the history of everything, from the Big Bang forward. Professor is an interesting lecturer, the visuals are quite helpful, and I was fully engaged from start to finish. Was a great start to various areas of interest that I am now pursuing in more depth, including archaeology, history, and physics.
Date published: 2016-03-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The answer to "Why?" I have been a student all of my life, and this has been the crowning study, the one which tied all of the rest of it together. Told through the eyes of multiple academic disciplines, the story is new and exciting, even though it is an outline of all that is known. I believe that I have been blessed never to have stopped asking "Why?", and Big History doesn't answer the question, but it gives a view of the syntax of the large story. Probably this should be the first course, but I think listening to it at an advanced age has a special sweetness.
Date published: 2016-02-15
Rated 2 out of 5 by from waste of time and money Do not buy this course. I have bought many courses from this company but this is the worst. Kind of silly scientific Harry Potter novel. Tons of clever words but very few facts. Instead better buy a New history of life by professor Sutherland if you are interested in a Big History.
Date published: 2016-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Big Course Some of the criticisms are correct but I think miss the point. A course that goes from the origin of the universe to the future will omit some important detail. What it does is give a framework to structure understanding of the various disciplines covered. I thought the presentation was very good and the course should serve as a door opener to so much more. I've listened to the course twice and gained a lot from the second hearing.
Date published: 2016-02-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Pretty darn BIG I have not had time to get through all the lectures yet, but what I have seen, I am very impressed with and have enjoyed
Date published: 2016-01-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Big History = Big Value I absolutely love this course. I am currently listening to the CD set for the second time. Professor Christian's calm delivery and occasional bits of understated British humor help to make my commute almost fun. I am so enthusiastic about the course that I even purchased Professor Christian's giant book, The Maps of Time, upon which the course is based. I will be listening to the CD set again and again while delving in to the book for even more illustrations of the author's insights. He has an astounding grasp of history, cosmology, physics, and societal dynamics. I find something surprising in nearly every lecture and chapter. Try it, you will be entertained at the same time your IQ is bound to inch up a bit!
Date published: 2016-01-14
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