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Presents a new perspective for looking at history from the origins of the universe to present day.
Extend the human story backward for the five thousand years of recorded history and it covers no more than a millionth of a lifetime of the Earth. Yet how do we humans take stock of the history of our planet, and our own place within it? A “vast historical mosaic” (Publishers Weekly) rendered engaging and accessible, Big History interweaves different disciplines of knowledge to offer an all-encompassing account of history on Earth. Since its publication, Cynthia Brown’s “world history on a grand scale” (Kirkus) has been translated into nine languages and has helped propel the “big history” concept to viral status. This new edition of Brown’s seminal work is more relevant today than ever before, as we increasingly must grapple with accelerating rates of change and, ultimately, the legacy we will bequeath to future generations. Here is a pathbreaking portrait of our world, from the birth of the universe from a single point the size of an atom to life on a twenty-first-century planet inhabited by 7 billion people.
People have always lived in families, but what that means has varied dramatically across time and cultures. The family is not a "natural" phenomenon but an institution with a dynamic history stretching 10,000 years into the past. Mary Jo Maynes and Ann Waltner tell the story of this fundamental unit from the beginnings of domestication and human settlement. They consider the codification of rules governing marriage in societies around the ancient world, the changing conceptions of family wrought by the heightened pace of colonialism and globalization in the modern world, and how state policies shape families today. The authors illustrate ways in which differences in gender and generation have affected family relations over the millennia. Cooperation between family members--by birth or marriage--has driven expansions of power and fusions of culture in times and places as different as ancient Mesopotamia, where kings' daughters became priestesses who mediated among the various cultures and religions of their fathers' kingdom, and sixteenth-century Mexico, in which alliances between Spanish men and indigenous women variously allowed for consolidation of colonial power or empowered resistance to colonial rule. But family discord has also driven - and been driven by - historical events such as China's 1919 May Fourth Movement, in which young people seeking an end to patriarchal authority were key participants. Maynes's and Waltner's view of the family as a force of history brings to light processes of human development and patterns of social life and allows for new insights into the human past and present.
How should we respond to our converging crises of violent conflict, political corruption, and global ecological devastation? In this sweeping, big-picture synthesis, Louis G. Herman argues that for us to create a sustainable, fulfilling future, we need to first look back into our deepest past to recover our core humanity. Important clues for recovery can be found in the lives of traditional San Bushman hunter-gatherers of South Africa, the closest living relatives to the ancestral African population from which all humans descended. Their culture can give us a sense of what life was like during the tens of thousands of years when humans lived in wilderness, without warfare, walled cities, or slavery. Herman suggests we draw from the experience of the San and other earth-based cultures and weave their wisdom together with the scientific story of an evolving universe to help create something radically new — an earth-centered, planetary politics with the personal truth quest at its heart.
Historians go to great lengths to avoid confronting discontinuity, searching for explanations as to why such events as the fall of the Berlin Wall, George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq, and the introduction of the euro logically develop from what came before. Moved by the Past radically breaks with this tradition of predating the past, incites us to fully acknowledge the discontinuous nature of discontinuities, and proposes to use the fact that history is propelled by unforeseeable leaps and bounds as a starting point for a truly evolutionary conception of history. Integrating research from a variety of disciplines, Eelco Runia identifies two modes of being "moved by the past": regressive and revolutionary. In the regressive mode, the past may either overwhelm us—as in nostalgia—or provoke us to act out what we believe to be solidly dead. When we are moved by the past in a revolutionary sense, we may be said to embody history: we burn our bridges behind us and create accomplished facts we have no choice but to live up to. In the final thesis of Moved by the Past, humans energize their own evolution by habitually creating situations ("catastrophes" or sublime historical events) that put a premium on mutations. This book therefore illuminates how every now and then we chase ourselves away from what we were and force ourselves to become what we are. Proposing a simple yet radical change in perspective, Runia profoundly reorients how we think and theorize about history.
When does history begin? What characterizes it? This brilliant and beautifully written book dissolves the logic of a beginning based on writing, civilization, or historical consciousness and offers a model for a history that escapes the continuing grip of the Judeo-Christian time frame. Daniel Lord Smail argues that in the wake of the Decade of the Brain and the best-selling historical work of scientists like Jared Diamond, the time has come for fundamentally new ways of thinking about our past. He shows how recent work in evolution and paleohistory makes it possible to join the deep past with the recent past and abandon, once and for all, the idea of prehistory. Making an enormous literature accessible to the general reader, he lays out a bold new case for bringing neuroscience and neurobiology into the realm of history.
In the last thirty years, there have been fierce debates over how civilizations develop and why the West became so powerful. The Measure of Civilization presents a brand-new way of investigating these questions and provides new tools for assessing the long-term growth of societies. Using a groundbreaking numerical index of social development that compares societies in different times and places, award-winning author Ian Morris sets forth a sweeping examination of Eastern and Western development across 15,000 years since the end of the last ice age. He offers surprising conclusions about when and why the West came to dominate the world and fresh perspectives for thinking about the twenty-first century. Adapting the United Nations' approach for measuring human development, Morris's index breaks social development into four traits--energy capture per capita, organization, information technology, and war-making capacity--and he uses archaeological, historical, and current government data to quantify patterns. Morris reveals that for 90 percent of the time since the last ice age, the world's most advanced region has been at the western end of Eurasia, but contrary to what many historians once believed, there were roughly 1,200 years--from about 550 to 1750 CE--when an East Asian region was more advanced. Only in the late eighteenth century CE, when northwest Europeans tapped into the energy trapped in fossil fuels, did the West leap ahead. Resolving some of the biggest debates in global history, The Measure of Civilization puts forth innovative tools for determining past, present, and future economic and social trends.

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