The What and Why of Big History

The What and Why of Big History

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This lecture by David Christian was part of a Metanexus symposium on the Teaching of Big History at the Harvard Club of New York on September 21, 2013. In the lecture, David Christian explores the possible meanings of Big History.

Originally a historian of Russia who wrote several books on that subject, including a history of vodka, David Christian has in recent years become interested in writing history, as he puts it, “on very large scales.” To this end, he has developed a World History course informally entitled “Big History” which tells the story of the universe – the entire universe, from the moment of the Big Bang 13 billion years ago to the present day.

Using this novel approach, Dr. Christian structures the course to reflect, roughly, the relatively minuscule role played by the human race in the Earth’s overall development: homo sapiens does not appear until more than midway through a 15-week semester. Dr. Christian’s book Maps of Time, published by the University of California Press, mirrors the content of the course.

Dr. Christian’s presentation of Big History was recently made into a 48 lecture course (30 minutes each) for The Teaching Company. Bill Gates presented David Christian at theTED 2011 Conference in Long Beach, CA. At that time, Dr. Christian announced his initiative, the Big History Project, to teach big history to secondary school students in Australia and the United States. He is currently serving as President of the International Big History Association.