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Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History New Ed Edition

17 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0520244764
ISBN-10: 0520244761
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Editorial Reviews


"No work in this genre [macro-history] is better than David Christian's Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History.... [I]t is a brilliantly executed act of provocation." - The Times "Forges bold and ingenious connections between the physical and social sciences." - The Age "A good read, a fascinating prospectus for a new kind of history." - American Scientist"

From the Inside Flap

"You've all seen the poster of the milky way galaxy with an arrow to a point about halfway out from the center and the caption, ‘You are here.’ This book is like that only more so. It locates the human experience in the entirety of space-time."—Alfred Crosby, author of Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 664 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; New Ed edition (February 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520244761
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520244764
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #539,057 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Stan Prager on April 17, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have just completed reading Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History, by David Christian, and even after more than 500 small-font pages of dense ideas, I inhaled the final section - twin appendices actually - and audibly exhaled a satisfied "Wow."

Maps of Time is one of the most significant books to impact upon my recent intellectual development, if not the most significant. Prior to this book, I was not even aware of the new genre of history known as "Big History". Now - and forever after - I will view everything - and I mean everything - through the prism of Christian's fascinating concepts, which essentially unite all of science and all of human history into a single grand discipline.

Christian launches his opus by promising the reader "a modern creation story" -- sans supernatural creatures - that explains how we got to be the advanced, networked, highly-intelligent 21st century beings reading this book, and he eloquently delivers. So we begin our human history not with the first cities in 3000 BCE or Neolithic villages in 8000 BCE or even the australopithecines circa 3 million years ago, but rather with the Big Bang event itself, some 13 billion years ago.

For the non-scientist, some of the physics concepts are a bit tough - it is difficult for me to "grok" the "theory of inflation," for example, which posits that ". . . for a fraction of a second, between ca.10-34 and 10-32 seconds after the big bang, the universe expanded faster than the speed of light . . . driven apart by some form of antigravity." But the overall ideas are easier to negotiate than with a Stephen Hawking book, and the science does not bog down the text, but rather enlightens it.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Coert Visser on March 10, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
David Christian had a great ambition with this book: to write the history of everything there has ever been. In other words, it describes not only human history but also natural history from the very first beginning. Of course, I had read this on the cover but I had not quite anticipated how elaborate and detailedly the author would describe the formation of the cosmos from the moment of the big bang. I had expected the book to go rather briefly through this part of history and to move on quickly to human history. But I was pleasantly surprised because this first part of the book turned out to be the most fascinating part, as far as I am concerned. The rest of the book is quite interesting too, I must add. The plan and ambition of this book are great, the way the author has worked them out, too. If you liked THE HUMAN WEB by JR McNeill and William H. McNeill, you may like MAPS OF TIME even more. If you admired A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME by Stephen Hawking, you may admire this book just as much.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Bruijns on October 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
The book is not always easy, but well worth reading. It debates the different theories about life, the Universe and everything, through zooming in. The first part is about the big bang en the formation of stars, than follows the geological processes that formed the earth, the evolution of live, humans and our history. It ends with the 20 th century and possible futures. What I liked most about this book, was that it did not present a clear story, but gave the facts, and the different theories (different stories) that might come with those facts.

It was for me the book at the center of my expending library, because it comes with a extensive bibliography from which I'm now selecting books about the different parts of the big everything to continue reading.

The best book I've read in years (and I read a lot of (non)fiction books, about a large variaty of subjects).
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Roger Sweeny on August 27, 2008
Format: Paperback
Mostly this is a very good book, which is amazing considering how much Christian tries to do. It is well worth reading, though hard to follow in places. Having given it five stars, let me offer a few warnings for potential readers:

Christian can be kind of fuzzy. For a book of history there are remarkably few dates, and I often found myself asking, "Just when did this take place?" I was also bothered by the way Christian didn't "define his terms." For example, a fair amount of the last part of the book talks about Europe becoming "commercial." But he never tells us just what he means by commercial, or how we can tell when one country is more commercial than another, or how we can tell whether a country has gotten a lot more commercial or just a little more commercial.

I was especially frustrated by a section near the end. He seems to say, "The modern world is capitalist. The modern world has tremendous poverty. Therefore, capitalism has caused tremendous poverty." This seems silly. Most people would agree that capitalism involves well-defined and well-protected property rights, and a large amount of freedom to engage in economic transactions without interference by a government. By this standard, much of the world isn't all that capitalist. Moreover, in general, the less "capitalist" the country, the poorer it is. Blaming capitalism for poverty seems like blaming medicine when people refuse to allow their children to get vaccinated and then the kids get sick. No doubt Christian means something different by capitalism--but since he doesn't say what, it is impossible to know how to agree or disagree.
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