Big History

short history

Big History is a field of historical study that examines history on large scales across long time frames through a multidisciplinary approach, focusing on both the history of the non-human world and on major adaptations and alterations in the human experience. It arose as a distinct field in the late 1980s and is related to, but distinct from, world history, as the field examines history from the beginning of time to the present day. In some respects, the field is thus similar to the older universal history (the presentation of the history of humankind as a whole, as a coherent unit).

Big history looks at the past on all time scales, from the Big Bang to modernity, seeking out common themes and patterns. It draws on the latest findings from many disciplines, such as biology, astronomy, geology, climatology, prehistory, archeology, anthropology, cosmology, natural history, and population and environmental studies. Big History arose from a desire to go beyond the specialized and self-contained fields that emerged in the 20th century and grasp history as a whole, looking for common themes across multiple time scales in history. Conventionally, the study of history concerns only the period of time since the invention of writing, and is limited to past events relating directly to the human race; yet this only encompasses the past 5,000 years or so and covers only a small fraction of the period of time that humans have existed on Earth, and an even smaller fraction of the age of the universe.

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