history, big history, evolution, David Christian, Leonid E. Grinin


What is history? Or rather, what are the appropriate time-scales that can be constituted as “history”? The general consensus among scholars is that history is the study of approximately the last 5,000 years or so due to the existence of written records. Anything prior to that is generally considered pre-history, at least as far as it concerns the existence of human beings on earth. As for the creation of the earth we live upon, or the solar system our planet dwells within, or the universe as a whole these are considered outside the formal domain of historical research. That is, until the advent of the field of Big History that has emerged within the past few decades to challenge these distinctions as merely arbitrary and encourage scholars to think on much larger timescales. David Christian is generally attributed as the father of the field, and he outlines his vision for it in his monumental book Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History.