What is Big History?

David Christian

Abstract

Big history is a new disciplinary field of scholarship that studies the past at all possible scales.  Its approach is historical, but it links disciplines from cosmology to geology to evolutionary biology and human history.  Beginning with E.H. Carr’s What is History?, this essay describes the evolution of big history, and in particular, its relationship to the history discipline.  It describes what the new discipline is and what it could become.  It argues that big history can help overcome the fragmentation characteristic of modern education and scholarship in all disciplines.  By doing so, it can tease out something like a modern, global origin story, based on the best of modern scientific scholarship.

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