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Looking for Great ‘Big History’ Books

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Posted on Aug 10, 2009
Library of Congress interior
Flickr / Matti Matila

Inside the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

By John Dean

My late friend Ron Silver, the actor and political activist, once asked me a question that I have continued to think about ever since. On the afternoon of his last New Year’s Eve, when he surprised me by coming to California, he wanted to know if I had found any great “big history” books.

Diagnosed with a fatal form of esophageal cancer and having already lived beyond his physician’s expectations, Ron was visiting to say good-bye to friends and spend quality time with family, as he departed the mortal coil with the extraordinary grace and dignity that included his usual good humor and concern about others. Except for the side effects accompanying the periodic experimental drug treatments, he said he felt surprisingly good. Thus, when he was not with family and friends, he was doing a lot of reading.

Ron was smart and well-read. For spiritual guidance and comfort, he had immersed himself in writings of his religion, Judaism. For entertainment, he had been rereading favorite classics. But he was also looking for material that might help him place his interest in government and politics in better perspective. More specifically, he asked, did I have any suggestions of “big history”-type works? He explained that he was having trouble tracking them down and figuring out which might be worthwhile reads, so he was asking others for recommendations. He was surprised that no one had started a big history Web site or blog where those who were interested might find such works.

By big history, Ron was not referring to multi-volume works. Clearly, he did not have time for such tomes. If he was lucky, he hoped, he had another six weeks to six months. (As it turned out, tragically, he had only another seventy-four days.) One of the legacies he left came in the form of his interesting and provocative question.

Big History Studies

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Ron had introduced me to the notion of big history many years earlier, when he urged that I read Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies” (1997). Diamond addresses big historical questions: “Why did wealth and power become distributed as they now are, rather than in some other way? For instance, why weren’t Native Americans, Africans, and Aboriginal Australians the ones who decimated, subjugated, or exterminated Europeans and Asians?”

Big history is a relatively new approach which examines human history in wide frameworks. Like Ron, once I discovered big history, I too found myself looking for these works. They are not that easy to find. The Library of Congress cataloging system, for example, has no entry for big history.

Big history was introduced in the late 1980s by scholars like David Christian, who make a powerful case that to understand human history, we must look beyond our borders and our species and our planet to “the whole of time.” Accordingly, many big history writers begin with the Big Bang, tracing, examining, and compressing the historical record from the beginning to the present as they probe for insights. A well-known explanation of this multidisciplinary approach is found in Fred Spier’s “The Structure of Big History: From the Big Bang until Today” (1996).

These studies, however, can be more modest in scope. For example, works that I have enjoyed include: Isaac Asimov’s “Beginnings: The Story of Origins – Of Mankind, Life, the Earth, the Universe” (1987) and Amy Chua’s “Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance – and Why They Fail” (2008). These works, like Jared Diamond’s study, are relatively focused while covering great spans of times and countless events. Thus, Amy Chua looks at empires (in near-equal proportion) across time: Persia, Rome, the Tang Dynasty, the Mongols, medieval Spain, the Dutch Republic, the Ottoman Empire, the Moguls, the British, the Axis powers, and the United States – as opposed to over all time.

Ron’s frustration in hunting for books addressing big history was understandable, since there is no applicable genre. When I ask librarians and bookstore clerks, while browsing, if there are any new big histories, only a few know what I am talking about. Yet many big history books are extremely popular bestsellers, like Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Nearly Everything” and Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time” (1988).

Until I talked with Ron when he was literally fighting for his life, it never occurred to me how particularly helpful these works might be for anyone facing the end yet still searching for a better understanding of humankind. In addition, readers of big history quickly discover the remarkable authors of these works, men and women with wonderful minds, for no small minds could ever grasp the subjects so vast. I laughed when Ron said that another friend of his, clearly not familiar with these works, thought them to be “CliffsNotes for the intellectually lazy.” To the contrary, these works are original research, they bristle with fresh thinking, and they offer new perspectives that provide helpful insights to better understand our lives.


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By Terry MacKinnell, August 13, 2011 at 11:48 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

My recently published book, “The Dawning” by Terry MacKinnell draws upon the work of a number of historians including John Landon’s “World History and the Eonic Effect”.  Basically the book describes how historical periodicity or Big History aligns with the archeo-astronomy concept of the Great Ages if viewed the ancient way (ie based on the heliacal rising of stars and constellation in place of the Vernal Point). 

Based on a highly innovative approach to the astrological ages, I have the following dates (correct to within 2 to 3 years) for the astrological ages that basically tally with Landon’s eons:

Aries Age - 2916 BCE (Ancient Egypt)
Pisces Age - 732 BCE (the Axial age and Ancient Rome)
Aquarian age - 1433 CE (Modernity & the European invasion of the world - globalization)

My book is 95% history with a background 5% astrology of a most simplistic kind.  If you are interested in Big history, you may find this book insightful.

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By MarthaA, August 21, 2009 at 5:46 pm Link to this comment

OzarkMichael,

You are a Right-Wing sophist, I do not expect you to answer anything.  It is your job to regurgitate sophistry, but I suspect you are a “sophist monkey” because you don’t act like you are intelligent enough to be paid for your sophistry.

BTW, Did you ever figure out what a pipe dream is?

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By OzarkMichael, August 21, 2009 at 4:47 pm Link to this comment

MarthaA,

This is how you have talked to me for a long time: It is apparent that YOU are one of the Rupert Murdoch/Dick Armey “Nazi” disrupter sociopathic “sophist monkey” recruits.

I have been rather patient about it. I have answered some of your questions.

As an aside, I point out to jjohnjj that calling someone a ‘fruitcake’ is pretty tame compared to what a conservative has to put up with from the Left everyday.

Anyway, I have answered questions from people like MarthaA for 30 years. Any answer I gave only validated the fact that an accusation was made. The accusation itself sticks when its answered. But thats the whole idea for people like MarthaA. They keep hurling the crap at their target and answers dont matter to them.

Like this link, which is supposed to prove that i am a whatever-it-is, but its about Opium shipments in Shanghai. The accusations just come faster and faster and mean less and less:

http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/History/om/om7.htm

So I am going to use the “Barney Frank method”. I warned about this on the Barney Frank thread, just a few hours ago. Amazing that i have to use it already.

After at least fifty Nazi accusations from MarthaA, I now use the Barney Frank answer to “why are you a Nazi”:

“When you ask me that question, I revert to my ethnic heritage and answer your question with a question: On what planet do you spend most of your time?”

“Ma’am, trying to have a conversation with you would be like arguing with a dining room table.”

That means MarthaA, I admit I was a fool to read your posts, to take you seriously and try to answer your questions, since its like arguing with a dining room table.

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By MarthaA, August 21, 2009 at 2:53 pm Link to this comment

OzarkMichael,

(Page 1 of 2)

OzarkMichael: “I guess that makes me one of the dogs.”

There are 3 classes & cultures in the United States: the 10% Noble Aristocratic Elite Capitalist Class & Culture, the new 20% Nearly Noble Professional Class & Culture, and the 70% MAJORITY COMMON POPULATION CLASS & CULTURE.

So, YOU think YOU are one of the minority NEW CLASS Nearly Noble dogs. YOU do spend a lot of time obfuscating on Truthdig; “if” is a mighty big word for YOU to carry around in hopes of becoming a dog, OMikie.

BTW, Can you tell me in 10 words or less what capital is?  My guess is that you can’t and that YOU are a lumpen-prole “sophist monkey” spouting capitalist doctrine against your own best interest.

I suspect YOU are a “genteel peasant” supporting an agenda of the so called evangelical “worthy wealthy” as an indulgence for God to make you wealthy, so YOU can have dominion over this earth?  A dominionist pipe dream.  http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/History/om/om7.htm .

YOU wouldn’t say I am ignorant and hateful if YOU actually lived off $250,000+/year capital; YOU accost me for being ignorant and hateful because YOU don’t, YOU are a “duck” defending the “dogs and lions”; a “wanna be” dog or lion, but still a “duck”.

There was a 90% majority common duck population, before 20% of the ducks flew away to be Nearly Noble dogs, now the remaining 70% common duck majority are no longer treated like ducks, since the 20% Nearly Noble dog/ducks deserted the common duck population, like YOU, OMikie; there’s very few wise ducks left, causing the following Nearly Noble dog power:  http://www.alternet.org/rights/142109/how_yawning_got_one_court_spectator_six_months_in_the_slammer_&_eight_more_disturbing_acts_of_judicial_tyranny_/?page=entire

I am not into reporting people like YOU; even though YOU have used YOUR sophist useless obfuscation to get the site shut down, account too many REPUBLICAN wiener “sophist monkey do badders” like YOU to portray President Obama’s good deed as bad, and keep drumming, even though YOU say not, YOU don’t communicate anything else. 

It is apparent that YOU are one of the Rupert Murdoch/Dick Armey “Nazi” disrupter sociopathic “sophist monkey” recruits.  If not, give me a list of RIGHT-WING REPUBLICAN WEBSITES where a Left-Winger can post, oh yeah, there aren’t any RIGHT WING WEB SITES where a Left-Winger can post. Why is that, OMichael?

OzarkMichael: “Its not too late to spray capital letters at me whenever our paths cross.”

Caps are for highlighting what I want people to think about; besides, who started the doxy that caps is shouting?  My computer has no other form of highlighting for emphasis.

OzarkMichael: “Its not too late to keep the Code Pink hate campaign going,”

CODE PINK is a PEACE TEAM; they LOVE—- the exact opposite of YOUR SOPHIST HATE—- and they risk their lives in hope of saving lives, and I bow to them.
OzarkMichael,

OzarkMichael: “I guess that makes me one of the dogs.”

There are 3 classes and cultures in the United States: the 10% Noble Aristocratic Elite Capitalist Class & Culture, the new 20% Nearly Noble Professional Class and Culture, and the 70% MAJORITY COMMON POPULATION CLASS and CULTURE.

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By MarthaA, August 21, 2009 at 2:52 pm Link to this comment

OzarkMichael,

(Page 2 of 2)

So, YOU think YOU are one of the minority NEW CLASS Nearly Noble dogs, do you?  YOU do spend an awful lot of time obfuscating on Truthdig; “if” is a mighty big word for YOU to carry around in hopes of becoming a dog, OMikie.

BTW, Can you tell me in 10 words or less what capital is?  My guess is that you can’t and that YOU are only a lumpen-prole “sophist monkey” spouting capitalist doctrine against your own best interest.

I suspect YOU are a “genteel peasant” supporting an agenda of the so called evangelical “worthy wealthy” as an indulgence for God to make you wealthy, so YOU can have dominion over this earth?  A dominionist pipe dream.  http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/History/om/om7.htm .

YOU wouldn’t say I am ignorant and hateful if YOU actually lived off $250,000+/year capital; YOU accost me for being ignorant and hateful because YOU don’t, YOU are a “duck” defending the “dogs and lions”; a “wanna be” dog or lion, but still a “duck”, and the dogs know it.

There was a 90% majority common duck population, before 20% of the ducks flew away to be Nearly Noble dogs, now the remaining 70% common duck majority are no longer treated like ducks, since the 20% Nearly Noble dog/ducks deserted the common duck population, like YOU, OMikie; there’s only a very few wise ducks left, causing the following Nearly Noble dog power:  http://www.alternet.org/rights/142109/how_yawning_got_one_court_spectator_six_months_in_the_slammer_&_eight_more_disturbing_acts_of_judicial_tyranny_/?page=entire

I am not into reporting people like YOU; even though YOU claim YOUR sophist useless obfuscation got the site shut down, account too many REPUBLICAN wiener sophist monkey “do badders” like YOU to portray President Obama’s good deed as bad, and keep drumming, even though YOU say not, YOU don’t communicate anything else. 

It is apparent that YOU are one of the Rupert Murdoch/Dick Armey “Nazi” disrupter sociopathic “sophist monkey” recruits.  If not, give me a list of RIGHT-WING REPUBLICAN WEBSITES where a Left-Winger can post, oh yeah, there aren’t any RIGHT WING WEB SITES where a Left-Winger can post. Why is that, OMichael?

OzarkMichael: “Its not too late to spray capital letters at me whenever our paths cross.”

Caps are for highlighting what I want people to think about; besides, who started the doxy that caps is shouting?  My computer has no other form of highlighting for emphasis.

OzarkMichael: “Its not too late to keep the Code Pink hate campaign going,”

CODE PINK is a PEACE TEAM; they LOVE—- the exact opposite of YOUR SOPHIST HATE—- and they risk their lives in hope of saving lives, and I bow to them.

Obama got stuck with a REPUBLICAN war market, but YOU love the war market? War is Peace for YOU, right Michael?  You should by all means sign yourself up and get yourself over to Afghanistan or Iraq and help Obama get out of the REPUBLICAN’S war market?  It isn’t too late.  You are a REPUBLICAN PATRIOT, aren’t you?  Doesn’t REPUBLICAN patriots, like YOU, help with the REPUBLICAN war market?—or, did YOU stay home to obfuscatingly supervise the chicken hawk contingent of greater greed?—- since YOU hate the CODE PINK PEACE TEAM.  By all means, OMichael, YOU should hurry, you’re not too old.  Be as expedient as possible, strap on YOUR guns and head on off to protect the resources of Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan away from the brown people, who must be killed as YOUR doxy says they are the axis of evil, and don’t deserve to live, right?  If YOU for some reason can’t get into the military, join the mercenaries, they pay a lot more anyway and YOU will get to kill brown people.  Hurry.  Run like the wind, Bullseye.

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By jjohnjj, August 21, 2009 at 12:41 pm Link to this comment

John Holdren: Current Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by a vote of 61 to 31 in the Senate.

John Holdren: Trained in aeronautics, astronautics and plasma physics. A strong advocate for environmental protection, clean energy and limiting human population growth. Author of over 200 papers, co-author and editor of 20 books and book-length reports.

John Holdren: An influential scientist and science program administrator whose views on global warming are an immediate threat to the profits of the coal and oil industries.

John Holdren: A scientist who never dreamed that his co-authors’ clinical descriptions of Worst Case Scenarios would one day be mistaken for advocacy of those scenarios rather than as a warning to avoid them by preemptive action.

John Holdren: Fruitcake.

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By OzarkMichael, August 21, 2009 at 11:14 am Link to this comment

jjohnjj said; Erlich wasn’t the only scientist concerned about overpopulation. I recall that there was even a Congressional commission that studied the problem between 1969 and 1972.

First, all is well, i am not mad at ya. Second, and this is crucial, I want you to understand what you are saying to me. I will explain by changing the story and turning the tables on you:

I know a man very concerned about morality. He sees all the problems. And many other people see the same problem, in Congress they had a hearing about it.  So this man wrote a book where he offered some options, which included a worldwide police force to inforce morality, and putting chemicals in the water to make people less inclined to sin.

You would say “that man is a fascist, whether he knows it or not.” Yes. He is.

You would say, “That man is a fascist, whether there was a problem with morality or not.” True, and thats a great point.

You would say, “That man is a fascist, even if congress has a session about problems with morality.” Yes. exactly.

And imagine how you would react, if 30 years later, a Republican President appointed the morality man to a high post and NOBODY asked about his fascist tendency. And the conservatives defended him whenever his name comes up.

Back to reality. I too have been in some fights about Holdren. So far not a single Truthdigger has acknowledged a problem with holdren. Not one. So i too am a little frazzled about it.

jjohnjj, perhaps we will see eye to eye now.  we can agrue about population, morality, anything. It isnt just the cause but the method of Holdren, a tendency to prescribe dictatorial cures to a problem.

Maybe I shouldnt call Holdren a fruitcake. What should i call him instead?

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By jjohnjj, August 21, 2009 at 10:33 am Link to this comment

OzarkMichael,

Thanks for responding. I apologize for the report. I had to respond to a despicable right-wing rant against “nazi baby-killer” John Holdren on my local newspaper’s blog last week, and the experience left me a little trigger happy.

However, using terms like “fruitcake” and “crazy person” does no credit to your intellect and education.

Erlich wasn’t the only scientist concerned about overpopulation. I recall that there was even a Congressional commission that studied the problem between 1969 and 1972.

Yes, Erlich failed to anticipate the effect of dumping gigatons of fossil fuel energy into food production. But now that we’ve entered the era of “peak oil”, global warming and aquifer depletion… is it wise to continue to mock him?

Some believe that the population bomb has already exploded… and the first casualties are the 27,000 species going extinct every year.

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By OzarkMichael, August 21, 2009 at 6:53 am Link to this comment

I would like to recommend a Big History book: “How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture” by Francis Schaeffer.

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By OzarkMichael, August 21, 2009 at 6:10 am Link to this comment

MarthaA explains why she is nice to me: I have never reported you because there is a possibility, though remote, that you may learn something while posting here, because I seriously doubt you are a capitalist or are even in the $250,000 per year income range,

I think your judgement of people based purely on class is ignorant and hateful.

If you count benefits as income, which Obama is probably going to do, I make more than the amount you specified. I guess that makes me one of the dogs. So you should have been reporting me all along, and flagging me to Obama too. Unfortunately the flag website is shutdown, so its too late for that. No sense crying over your missed opportunities.

But its not too late to report all my posts to Truthdig. Its not too late to spray capital letters at me whenever our paths cross. Its not too late to keep the Code Pink hate campaign going, MarthaA.

So get to it.

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By maria wexler, August 20, 2009 at 7:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is a great discussion.  I hope it stays “splendid” as Jennifer Walden said.  Other books than Ibarra’s novel that readers might consider: Weston LaBarre’s THE GHOST DANCE (the origins of religion), Albert Pollard’s inside history on the Confederacy, Edmund Wilson’s TO THE FINLAND STATION (the intellecutal history behind communism)and Richard J. Evans’ three-volume history of the Third Reich (read along side Naomi Klein’s THE SHOCK DOCTRINE.

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By MarthaA, August 17, 2009 at 6:10 pm Link to this comment

OzarkMichael,

Free speech is not dead on the Left; but free speech is DEAD on the Right and that is in line with “Mein Kampf” by Adolph Hitler, who had no problem with eliminating free speech from all opposition.

You ARE a troll.  You always manage to use time and space on TD without actually saying anything, looks like that would hurt your brain, or maybe it has.

I have never reported you because there is a possibility, though remote, that you may learn something while posting here, because I seriously doubt you are a capitalist or are even in the $250,000 per year income range, which makes you a part of the common population, lumpen-proletariat is YOUR status, just one more gentile peasant living on credit trying to pretend to be middle class.  You want to know TRUTH—that is the TRUTH, what YOU post is nothingness.

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By OzarkMichael, August 17, 2009 at 3:32 pm Link to this comment

jjohnjj said: If you had referred to Paul Erlich as the author “The Population Bomb” I would have let your comment pass.

But the reference to “Ecoscience” suggests that all you know about him is what you’ve been reading on right-wing blogs that have been attacking the President’s science advisor, John Holdren.

Therefore, I accuse thee of being a Troll, and I have reported your comment. Care to defend yourself

Yes, i shall. First, there is a way to check my 600 some posts here at Truthdig, and my 2 year participation. Although I will admit that doesnt prove that my posts are of good quality. After all, I could be a very persistant troll!

So, second line of defense: Probably I know more about the matter than you think, since I was a biology major when Ecoscience came out. It was a textbook at the time, and much talked about. So I am very familiar with Ehrlich. I argued against the stupid things he said when i was in college and also in post graduate studies, where one of my professors thought Ehrlich was on the right track.

However, i never pull rank like that on people during a debate. Even if you are not a science major, you could defend Ehrlich and i wouldnt say “well, i have a degree in this and you dont so shut up”. I have never done that, it never occurs to me to do that. In fact I keep my own life out of debates to the point that some Truthdiggers are bothered that i wont tell them about myself.  The only reason i bring it up now is for my own defense against your charge of ‘troll’.

Hopefully my defense is adequate?

Yet i am well aware that no matter how educated or how well read I am, my opinion will be viewed with a jaundiced eye by the gang here at Truthdig. Its ok, I come here knowing that is the environment.

A word about the “report this” button: Truthdig has never edited/deleted/prevented me from posting for 2 years in spite of many unhappy Leftists who just cant resist the ‘report this’ button when they are rattled by the truth.

Which is a compliment to the management at Truthdig since I attack their lame articles mercilessly.

So free speech isnt dead on the Left yet.

jjohnjj… you can report every one of my posts if it makes you feel better. It doesnt seem to hurt me and I dont hold it against you.

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By C Neal, August 17, 2009 at 11:58 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’d recommend William Cronon, an environmental geographer who’s written a couple of brilliant books and essays about the role of natural environments and resources in the histories of various civilizations.

His best and most famous book is “Nature’s Metropolis,” which essentially frames the history of the American West in terms of how Chicago’s stockyards, railroads, and trading floors made commodities of the West’s natural resources - in effect, bringing half the continent rapidly into the capitalist system.

“Nature’s Metropolis” doesn’t have quite the global, sweeping scope of these other books you mention, but I think Cronon’s work is tighter than Diamond’s because it does avoid sweeping generalizations and is more focused. Like Diamond’s, though, Cronon’s works do draw incredible, beautiful connections between history, economics, anthropology, and environmental science.

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By Jennifer Walden, August 15, 2009 at 11:40 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A Splendid Exchange/How Trade Shaped the World by William J. Bernstein is the book for Ron.  I couldn’t put it down.  It’s much better than Guns, Germs, and Steel and A People’s History of the U.S.; it’s not overly academic, not a tome, encyclopedia, nor textbook.  (He does acknowledges MacNeill’s The Rise of the West for his ideas about diseases, but it’s also more readable than that.)  This author has a sense of humor, tells vivid stories to illustrate the eras he writes about, and illuminates contemporary events.

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By RootJensen, August 15, 2009 at 1:50 am Link to this comment

Whatever, we still need to get past the notion that we are unique!
Lets take the dinosaur timeline, a rather long period in earths evolutionary history, we see that as 5 minutes and our human timeline as being the greatest in all history.
Without religion and it’s zealots we would understand our nature better

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By jjohnjj, August 14, 2009 at 6:34 pm Link to this comment

Hey OzarkMichael,

If you had referred to Paul Erlich as the author “The Population Bomb” I would have let your comment pass.

But the reference to “Ecoscience” suggests that all you know about him is what you’ve been reading on right-wing blogs that have been attacking the President’s science advisor, John Holdren.

Therefore, I accuse thee of being a Troll, and I have reported your comment. Care to defend yourself?

As for the topic of BIG HISTORY: I recommend Kevin Kelley’s work-in-progress The Technium. He’s been posting chapters on his website http://www.kk.org.

His thesis is that technology is evolving according to principles very much like biological evolution. The scope of his research is dizzying.

He’s weaving microbiology, geology, neurology, engineering, genetics, physics, anthropology and more into a “big picture” that takes one’s breath away.

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By MarthaA, August 13, 2009 at 9:40 pm Link to this comment

Purple Girl,

It does seem that people are mighty forgetful, or don’t know shi_ from siccum in the first place. Possibly true history would help. One of the things people should first learn is what conservatism really is.  If they knew maybe they wouldn’t be jumping to Republicans to help the poor, because Republicans certainly have no concern for the poor, and that is where one is when one is on Medicare.  I agree with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s description of conservatism in “The Conservative” 100% which is at the following website: http://www.emersoncentral.com/conservative.htm

I really hate to see Republicans using the poor in such manner, but whatever it takes to get their way, they will do, which isn’t Christian at all.

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By Jacki, August 13, 2009 at 1:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think the term used more often is “Total History” rather than “Big History.” You may have more luck finding sources using this terminology.

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By Peetawonkus, August 13, 2009 at 8:23 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I wonder which Ron Silver this was. The Liberal Democrat Ron Silver…or the self-described “911 Republican”. The one who threw himself fully into support for the Bush Administration and was vocal in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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By Purple Girl, August 13, 2009 at 1:54 am Link to this comment

You are looking in the Wrong Section-it’s Sociology and Antrhropolgy books with a historical perspective.
Trying to find a History book without a bias is almost impossible.Other than the ‘fact’s printed in texts, you will always get the writers perspective.
This type of overview is desperately needed nowadays.
As a recovered Catholic, if find the Evangelicals “Guns and Gods” terrifying since it is a ‘been there done that’ for humanity.Same goes for the advent of ‘Trickle Down’- what was once called ‘feudalism’.
But we needn’t reach that far back to see the errors of our ways- an all encompassing analysis of the last several decades would suffice.
But would this genre sell…Not if Seniors can’t even remember which party created and maintained Medicare all these years and Republicans can’t remember who drove the economy into the ground. If those concrete facts elude them, why bother with the mental gymnastics required for such ‘high brow’ concepts as historical sociology and anthropology?
Liberals ‘get it’ without a scholarly dissertation, conservatives never will. Conservatives are the personification of the definition of Insanity- ‘doing the same thing over & over and expecting a different result’.

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By Kesey Seven, August 13, 2009 at 12:52 am Link to this comment

Wow. This is an interesting topic I had not heard of.  Thanks for the introduction and the suggested readings. 

I would be interested in such a website. Suggestions would be to make it interactive like this one where people can comment. Provide support for streaming video; the Adobe flash player and the supporting network server software would be a good choice. 

Ask writers who write article for the site to also respond to reader comments—respond using their real names so readers no they are actually communicating with the author. That would be cool.

Provide excellent navigation, like Truth Dig does. 

Take care and good luck.

Kesey Seven

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By samosamo, August 12, 2009 at 10:58 pm Link to this comment

By bluerdier, August 13 at 12:20 am
I refused to make a list but yours seems impressive as I have read Mike Davis’ ‘Late Victorian Holocausts’, but not to be left out is one of the all time shapers of life on earth, the ice ages, which are as regular as the sun rising and setting AND, the number of those ages that us humans have endured and lived through, so I add these to the list, Richard Alley’s ‘Two Mile Time Machine’; Doug Macdougall’s ‘Frozen Earth’; and Eugene Linden’s ‘Winds of Change’, and all this was pre-industrial pollutions and Davis’ ‘Holocausts’(I really liked Davis’ description of the El Nino’ systems that are big shapers of current weather and climate phenomena.

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By bluerdier, August 12, 2009 at 9:20 pm Link to this comment

I agree with Patrick’s comment above: much of recent academic scholarship focuses upon the “local” and the “marginal”, while self-consciously steering away from overarching explanatory frameworks and meta-narratives.  I believe that the advent of social history, ethnic history, and critical theory (ala Foucault) has been instrumental in this divergence from “big history.”  This is not to say, however, that big history has been entirely displaced.  Here is a short list of what I consider to be excellent readings:  Mike Davis “Late Victorian Holocaust,” Janet Abu-Lughod “Before European Hegemony”; Charles Tilly, “Coercion, Capital, and European States”; Alfred Crosby, “Ecological Imperialism”; Kenneth Pomeranz, “The Great Divergence”; Emmanuel Wallerstein,” World-Systems”.

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By OzarkMichael, August 12, 2009 at 7:04 pm Link to this comment

“Paul Ehrlich about his latest book, “Human Natures: Genes, Cultures, and the Human Prospect”.”

Isnt that the same guy who coauthored “Ecosciece” 30 years ago?

For crying out loud, John Dean.

Paul Ehrlich is a fruitcake. A friend who is dying doesnt have time to waste on that book, unless he wants a big wide view of how a crazy person looks at the world.

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By fiddlinshim, August 12, 2009 at 7:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I suggest a big religious history book by Karen Armstrong, “The Great Transformation”.

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By paranoidmystic, August 12, 2009 at 5:43 pm Link to this comment
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Another “big history” book that is completely mindblowing (if also equally conjectural) is Julian Jaynes’ “Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind.”

IMHO, a big history book that fails to take into account the religious, artistic, political, martial and familial dimensions of the cultures it studies is not so big at all.

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By carol, August 12, 2009 at 5:17 pm Link to this comment
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I. F. Stone rightly said that we cannot solve our large problems at the thinking level on which they were created.  The tool we will need will be a new form of wisdom.  ‘Big History’ studies appear to be a part of the natural search for that level of wisdom. 

I suggest that you give Pierre Teilhard de Chardin a new read:  “The Phenomenon of Man”.  He sounds different to me now.

The only real tragedy in this life occurs if we leave before doing what it will become us to have done before all time. 

If you leave before getting arrested for standing up for justice, that may be a clue that you didn’t live a full life… or you were as lucky as you were wise.

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By samosamo, August 12, 2009 at 5:10 pm Link to this comment

This has to be a good idea especially since the ‘youngesters’ of today pretty much don’t know squat about history or much less care and there in lies the rub, how to make these historically deficient people WANT to read and learn about the real history NOT some politically trumped up ‘view’ that casts a pall on a sort of good idea like wikipedia which can be ‘edited’ to suit an individual’s own idea that may or may not have any basis in reality.

I guess I could rifle off a list of what I think is big history but it would big too long and that is something also, history IS big history and taking something like H.G. Wells ‘History of the World’ or Columbia’s ‘History of the World’ is just the short synoposis of the much more detailed workings.

A good place to try would be James Burke’s ‘Connections’ series on video and books, check out amazon

Another would be ‘Wonders’ by Phillip and Phylis Morrison which is also from Scientific American magazine as was ‘Connections’.

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By ClassAct, August 12, 2009 at 3:01 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I highly recommend Eric Wolf’s “Europe and the People Without History.” Also all the books of Fernand Braudel.

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By Joel, August 12, 2009 at 1:36 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Yes, please very very interested!

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By MarthaA, August 12, 2009 at 1:16 pm Link to this comment

Anyone should be interested in Big History of the World, Howard Zinn covers the United States really well.

A thorough study of the period in England before Capitalism was started, and after Capitalism was started would be really interesting as long as it isn’t myth. Because in this period there was EXTREME hardship that caused family’s to have to desert their children because they were unable to provide for them as no jobs were available for everyone after all the land and animals was taken from them that they had relied upon for subsistence.  Hans Christian Anderson’s, “Little Match Girl” was about this time. There undoubtedly was a lot of people that starved to death. Capitalism has been being greedy for a mighty long time.

I am fed up with the common population being fed myths for history from the cradle to the grave to keep people of the common population from knowing what is in their best interest as a class and culture, so that they will choose to fight and die patriotically in wars of relevance to no one, only the capitalists.

Truth instead of Myth Big history would be a blessing to the common population, like Howard Zinn’s, “A People’s History of the United States”, it should be “A People’s Big History of the World”.

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By jomugwump, August 12, 2009 at 11:12 am Link to this comment

Wasn’t the first big history book the Old Testament?
I agree with many included here, particularly Zinns and Boorstins. I’d suggest “The Rise and FAll of the Great Powers,” By PAul Kennedy, Paul Johnson’s ultra-conservative but still very redable “Modern Times,” James W. Loewen’s “Lies My TEacher Told Me,” E. J. Dionne’s, Jr.‘s “Why Americans Hate Politics,” and a rather remarkable book that came out in 1981 called “The Nine Nations of North America,” which was a fanciful look at how the U.S., Canada and Mexico could easily be sub-divided into nine autonomous nations. Fun read and lots of info.
I also recently booked up a book at Barnes and Noble called the “History of the world in 6 Glasses.” Haven’t read it it yet, but it explains six epochs of world history within the context of the most popular beverage of the time (beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and coca-cola).
Keep the suggestions coming! And you folks who deem to use this thread to weigh in with your anti-history, profanity-laced screeds: Save it, and get a job.

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By John Stoner, August 12, 2009 at 10:47 am Link to this comment
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I’d be very interested in such a site.

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By godistwaddle, August 12, 2009 at 2:32 am Link to this comment

Zinn’s “People’s History.”  Diamond’s “Collapse.”

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By marcus medler, August 11, 2009 at 3:45 pm Link to this comment
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I was in the late sixties discouraged by my history profs. to do big history,one told me,“we don’t do that sort of history any more”. There are hundreds of books. As a bookseller of thirty years, I can assure you of that. One obstacle will be the great scholarly infection of define and narrow. The great and some say first historian, Herodotus, is a place to start. Not of our generation but he did love to conclude. He noted,in reflecting upon religion that Greek gods have blond hair while Egyptian gods have black hair. Other greats are,Spengler,Toynbee,H.G.Wells;“The Rise of the West” by William McNeill. We have Huntington and his rejected climate theories and John Quincy Adam’s grandson,the other one, not Henry but Brooks Adams author of several books, one that fits is,” Law of Civilizations and Decay’. For the -gold guys- he wrote one about that too,“The Gold Standard a History”. Why not James Burke’s “Connections”, Jacob Bronowski’s; “Ascent of Man”, I like books by Robert Heilbroner. Maybe the problem with many -big histories- is that they are forgot fast, since they were writ for or became soon part of the popular ma

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By Spiritgirl, August 11, 2009 at 1:38 pm Link to this comment
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History love it!  A few to try:

Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine”,
David Sirota’s “Hostile Takeover”
Thomas Paine “Common Sense & the Rights of Man”

In this day when the dumbing down of America has been and continues to hold back civil discourse on a whole host of issues: from Afghanistan to health-care to welfare for the corporate oligarchy - this scene has been played out numerous times, yet people don’t want to learn from the past!  It is time that we all learn….Or we will all perish together.

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By Samson, August 11, 2009 at 12:24 pm Link to this comment

Gabriel Kolko is a wonderful historian to read.  His “Century of War” is a good starting place for ‘big’ as in the last hundred years.

Read lots of history, big to small.  There are good storytelling historians out there, so it doesn’t have to be boring.  If you happen across a boring book, put it down and go find another.  Libraries are wonderful things.

History is a bull$#!^ defense.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve falling out of my chair laughing at the nonsense that politicians and the media try to tell us ... and I know its bull$#!^ because I read history.  Stuff like Obama saying “America doesn’t torture” is hilariously funny if you know history.  Or Democrats acting like Bush invented torture is so freakin funny if you’ve read Mark Twain about the Philippines.

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By Viola, August 11, 2009 at 11:21 am Link to this comment
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thank you hippie4ever…

i have similar feelings… for example: “knowledge is power”  no.  knowledge is knowledge unless you do something with it.  how many people “know” yet continue on their same complicit paths.

excellent readings.  i would sincerely encourage people to look at the writings of james petras as well as Joel Beinin (specifically “The New American McCarthyism”).

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By hippie4ever, August 11, 2009 at 11:08 am Link to this comment

If you don’t know your past, you won’t understand your present condition; nor will you have any control over your future. That, however, is always dicey and nebulous, by its very nature.

Whoever said “the truth shall set you free”? That was wrong; the truth will not liberate you; only we collectively can accomplish that. What it does, is give one a sense of responsibility (assuming one is moral and not seeking new ways to inflict harm on society). Once you know something is wrong, you either accept your duty to change it, or slavishly capitulate.

I wish Americans understood even their own history: this would be an excellent first step towards sentience and (dare I say it?) democracy. Howard Zinn’s “A Peoples History of the United States” ought to be required reading for all citizens, along with Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine” and a representative sampling of essays and speeches by Noam Chomsky.

I’m struck by the prevalence of Nazi history books in American shops; clearly a template for many who wish to remake this country in Hitler’s image.

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By Inherit The Wind, August 11, 2009 at 10:45 am Link to this comment

Annal School? Wow! I haven’t heard that name in 30 years—Fernand Braudel and all that!

Big history?  How about: A ball of dust developed enough mass to form an 8000 mile diameter sphere. 
Complex organic compounds coalesced into a major biological infestation that covered most of the sphere. This took about 3 billion years to do so—the first 2 billion developing single cell infestations and the last billion evolving more complex bio-infestations, one of them developing self-awareness over the last 3 million years.
That one self-aware species of infestation wandered the sphere, but only in the last 5,000 years was it able to create anything substantial….mainly vast amounts of toxic poisons.

Big enough?

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By Sioan Bethel, August 11, 2009 at 10:20 am Link to this comment
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To be steeped in history in present day America is akin to taking the the red pill in the Matrix. If courageous and lucky, you can slough off the foolishness that permeates our high culture but then be accosted by the lethal malaproprisms of our financial sector, the bread and circuses of our political sector and the moral and ethical turpitude of the high, middle and low brows. You may fill in the exceptions.

As for great histories, books with the names 1815, Congress of Vienna; 1848; the Paris Peace Conference 1919; and the Yalta Conference 1945, provide powerful geo-politcal perspectives. The book 1848, in particular, shows the dynamic and parodoxical nature of the political spectrum Left, Right and Center in Eastern and Western Europe. Here, the newly propertied peasants and serfs, benefiting from the Leftist revolutions which established constitutional monarchies in many countries,abruptly turned to the Right,fearing the loss of their new gains. This is pretty analogous to the millions of Americans placed in homes by Federal Housing Adminstration mortgage guarantees, enjoying this increase in their household net worth, turning to the Right for the last three decades, decrying big government as their enemy. Dysfunctional isn’t it. Now as prodigals they run back to government for succor.

Other books include, Masters and Commanders; Roosevelt, Churchill, Marshall and Brook (Grand Strategies that won World War II);Patton’s Peers (Executors of Grand Military Strategies); Empire of Debt (Role of Money in the American Republic and Empire and the current financial debacle); From Dawn to Decadence (western history written at age 95 by Jacques Barzun); Oxford History of the British Empire (Five volume compendium of essays written by Oxbridge scholars on the means and methods of subjugating the world,including the American Colonies; Worlds Made of Words: Republic of Letters (life of the mind) and Weimar Republic: The Promise and the Tragedy (actually provides solution to current U.S. financial crisis).

There are, of course, many other books,now and to come; they only need readers to be complete.

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By felicity, August 11, 2009 at 9:30 am Link to this comment

Reading big, or for that matter little, history (which I do now and then) can be very upsetting when one reads of a major man-made event that happened in the past which led to monumental human suffering and realizes that a similar event is happening today and its progress practically guarantees that it also will lead to monumental human suffering.

The ‘upset’ is facing the reality that the tragedies of the past are of little difference to the tragedies of the present - each was avoidable yet each happened and each is more than likely to happen again. They say that we learn from history.  When.

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By cabdriver, August 11, 2009 at 9:23 am Link to this comment
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My favorite “big history” book is still Daniel Boorstin’s The Discoverers- a fairly comprehensive (if not complete) history of human progress and achievement in science, technology, material culture, literacy, art, philosophy, etc. through the ages. Not only is it massively detailed- Boorstin gets the narrative to move. I find it as readable as Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel- and much, much wider in scope. If I were designing a school curriculum, I’d include Boorstin’s book- or readings from it- as important texts for both history and science courses.

I’m also a fan of the (frequently updated) editions of the book Timelines Of History, which enables the reader to do things like following the rise and decline of empires and dynasties, and to locate historical overlaps in time between the civilizations and empires of disparate geographic regions. It’s an impossible task even for college level survey courses in world history to cover the array of subjects thoroughly, and a book like this at least provides an outline for pursuing further studies to make up knowledge gaps, particularly in the case of the nations and societies falling outside the rubric of what’s termed “Western Civilization.” References like this are also very helpful as a memory aid.

I’m also a fan of encyclopedias, which make for good browsing, even if they don’t quite fit the definition of “big history.” I enjoy getting the perspective found from reading older editions, too- like from the era between the world wars of the 20th century, for example. It’s possible to get a sense of the public consensus and “conventional wisdom” on the political questions of the day that won’t be found in retrospective historical accounts, however thoroughly researched they may be. There’s often a lack of self-consciousness in the historical-journalistic accounts found in encyclopedias, which are required to report on historical questions in the contemporary sense due to their frequent updatings. So one gets to see how historical perspectives shift over time, as well as finding out about how such texts are time-bound with the extant level of technological developments underpinning their writing and publication. I find it a treat simply to browse through the photographs of an old edition from an era before jet airliners- or, for that matter, one from an era before the existence of any passenger airliners at all. You get to realize that not very long ago, the people of your own society lived very differently, and in some ways had very different notions about their times and the course of the human future…

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By Viola, August 11, 2009 at 8:22 am Link to this comment
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i believe history is very relevant.  understanding history is the only way we can learn from those that came before us, much less understand and remove the cancers that plague many societies and have carried many indigenous peoples to the brink of genocide.

people didn’t spontaneously discover how to remove a tumor.  there had to be a history of illness, research, and trials.

delving into history doesn’t necessarily mean wasting time rehashing the past.  delving into history we can use it as a tool, an education, on how best to lay the foundations for a new and secure structure.

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By dave reid, August 11, 2009 at 8:17 am Link to this comment
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The Long Now Foundation hosts seminars mostly dealing with the concept of Big History by famous scientists, anthropologists, and historians.

http://www.longnow.org/projects/seminars/

The foundation can be described as, “providing counterpoint to today’s “faster/cheaper” mind set and promote “slower/better” thinking.”
- if you like thinking about the long history of the world and humans within it, check it out.

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By Folktruther, August 11, 2009 at 8:14 am Link to this comment

I think the major problem with such a big history, not addressed in the article, is that an honest history of earthpeople is highly subversive, especially of the US power system.

Religion, for example, has been hijacked by power structures to legitimate Divine and earthly power.  It is a power ideology traditionally used to justify war and oppression.

Also homicidal racism.  The Pilgrims who Settled the US did so by ethnic cleanisng, now occurring in Israel, the Holy Land.  The perverted values of religion are used as presuppositions for political ideologies, just as Christian anti-Semitism mophed into the Nazi Jewish racism. 

the morality of the clergy easily descends to the Protestant fundimentalism welcoming of a new Holocaust, the Catholic priests raping chldren, the Jewish rabbis dealing in counterban human organs.

This is history, as is the perverted morality of class based power.  But it is a what Michael Parenti calls a DIRTY truth, and therefore excluded from the nice clean sanitized mainstream truth of polities.

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By maria wexler, August 11, 2009 at 7:46 am Link to this comment
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John Dean should check out Morgan Ibarra’s Scamming God.  Morgan Ibarra’s sly, subversive novel says more in three hundred or so pages than most three-volume history tomes. I feel it is the most deeply appreciative book on Jesus yet in that it is brutally honest and realistic and explains—finally and brilliantly—the anti-Semitism in the Gospel of John.

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By sundog, August 11, 2009 at 7:21 am Link to this comment
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It’s too bad Ron Silver didn’t read these types of books before decided to take up with George Bush.  I could understand supporting Bush on to enhance your own pocketbook. But to support George Bush on the idea that Bush was going to make the world a better place, proves to me that Ron Silver didn’t know enough politically to get out of the rain.  A few good books on Empire, Environment, Human Rights, Culture, and basic Science would have dispelled Ron Silver of that notion.

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By thebeerdoctor, August 11, 2009 at 7:08 am Link to this comment

Sometimes I wonder if history is even important, in a culture with a president who prefers to move forward, instead of delving into the crimes of the recent past. I found a recent article by Robert Fisk, where he points to the glossing over the invasion of Egypt, called the Suez Crisis, where England, France and Israel illegally invaded Egypt, has been almost totally forgotten, 53 years later. But what was even more striking were the statements by the later Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, who combined a Bush/Obama rationale to the matter. Said the Prime Minister: “I believe history will justify what we did.” And: “our best interests will be served if we concentrate on the future and do not revive controversy”.
Which is the heart of the matter, as far as governments are concerned. Unless the historical narrative is written in acceptable stone, all examination of history will “revive controversy” as the complicit Prime Minister explained. A permanent state of amnesia is preferable in any state, where their our wars and constant rumors of wars. In such a setting, the only thing to be concerned with is what is going to happen next.

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By Patrick, August 11, 2009 at 6:55 am Link to this comment
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I am a professional historian.  There is a place for synthetic “big history,” but there is also an important place for “small history,” local stories that are, often, the engine of change.  And small studies can be transformative in the way we understand big topics.

For instance, I am one of a small but growing number of younger academic historians that is fundamentally challenging the way we understand race relations and the struggle for racial justice during the post-WWII period in the U.S. by pushing the civil rights narrative beyond the South.  When we look at the struggle for racial justice in the urban North, for example, we see new things and old ways of knowing, which we thought were solid, become more complex, or are challenged altogether.  Moreover, the story of the Movement in the urban North, Midwest and West speaks most powerfully to the roots of the on-going urban crisis today; so it is relevant to contemporary issues and struggles.

If you are interested in race relations, the civil rights/Black Power era or urban inequality, you might pick up my recent book - The Selma of the North:  Civil Rights Insurgency in Milwaukee - published by Harvard University Press to seewhat I mean.

Here are a couple of review excerpts:

“Think you know the full story of the civil rights era? Patrick Jones’s masterful study of the movement in Milwaukee will make you think again. Meticulously researched and elegantly written, The Selma of the North provides a devastating rebuttal of many of the conventional narratives of the civil rights movement. Here a vibrant nonviolent movement in the de-industrializing Midwest grows into a Black Power movement led by urban youth and a white Catholic priest who use confrontational direct action to lay bare the fissures of racial inequality in the ‘liberal’ North.”
—Jeanne Theoharis, Brooklyn College

“The Selma of the North is a riveting new story of the civil rights movement in America, a tale on par with Selma, Birmingham, and Montgomery in its power and importance. Jones’s magisterial research and magnetic prose illuminate the untold story of the battle for the urban north in the 1960s, a battle that shows how race has always been the Achilles heel of white progressives. This story transcends easy dichotomies of black and white, North and South, radical and reformist. How did a group called ‘the Commandos’ define nonviolence? How did a white Catholic priest become a ‘Black Power’ leader? If this is not a saga for the age of Obama, I don’t know what is.”
—Timothy B. Tyson, author of Blood Done Sign My Name


Here is the link for more info:
http://www.amazon.com/Selma-North-Rights-Insurgency-Milwaukee/dp/0674031350

best,
Patrick Jones
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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By Rodger Lemonde, August 11, 2009 at 6:48 am Link to this comment

I am not deeply into history but I will recommend to those who are a web site about a friend of mine. William Woodruff is now history himself. He was a charming gentleman I met while working on a six hour video series that had a very small distribution.
To learn about him and find his published works use this link.

http://www.williamwoodruff.com/

History buffs who haven’t heard of him will be delighted.

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By NYCartist, August 11, 2009 at 6:26 am Link to this comment

I have been a student of history for decades, but chose art, “the magnificent obsession” or “itch that
must be scratched”.

There’s a problem with looking for “the” answer, such
as “big history” implies - it has to leave out a lot.
I’d suggest starting, as many have, with some Howard Zinn US history (“A People’s History of the U.S.”
and my favorite book, “You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train”)
and some Noam Chomsky on US and empire.

There are no easy asnwers.

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By eileen fleming, August 11, 2009 at 5:58 am Link to this comment

“To understand human history, we must look beyond our borders and our species and our planet to “the whole of time.”-John Dean

As a ‘baby boomer’ who only got interested in history after That Day we call 9/11, I began researching, writing and traveling to Israel Palestine-so far 7 times since 2005.


My first book, “KEEP HOPE ALIVE” is an historical fiction based on the memories of a 1948 refugee from the Galilee-a Palestinian Muslim who made his way to the USA and into a Top Secret position in the defense industry during the Cold War- entwined with my spiritual journey as a child of the ‘60’s.

 
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Mairead Maguire, wrote:

  “I have just finished reading your wonderful book ‘Keep Hope Alive’. I found it most inspiring and can see in your story the influences of your Spiritual journey – Merton, Dorothy day, Fox, St. John of the cross, Francis!!  All of whom I share as they are, I believe, great guides to the Spiritual journey.  The book brought me closer to you Eileen – and I was Moved by your great heart and compassion for all those who suffer – Especially the Israelis and the Palestinians and people of Gaza.Thank you for your faithfulness to them (and for helping to provide and Plant so many Olive trees – a real symbol of hope for the Palestinians.”

Eileen Fleming, Founder of wearewideawake.org/

Author “Keep Hope Alive” and “Memoirs of a Nice Irish American ‘Girl’s’ Life in Occupied Territory”

I produced “30 Minutes With Vanunu” and “13 Minutes with Vanunu” because corporate media has been MIA all during a Freedom of Speech Trial in Israel.

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By RootJensen, August 11, 2009 at 5:34 am Link to this comment

I’m ready for such a book or website, I’ve just purchased some of the titles suggested in this article.
I believe we need to rethink history because I agree we don’t know enough out of our local environment and history. I also believe that we are still beasts and not gods, if we were so unique and clever would we not be a better society.
An overall history is definitely the way forward, my history lessons at school (I am English by the way) were the World Wars and industrialisation etc. So that really helped me to understand our place on earth ‘conquer, build and profit’.

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By Ross Musselman, August 11, 2009 at 4:00 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As a recovering historian who is plying a trade in web development, I am interested in this project. However, I would like to know how the author differentiates the concept of “Big History” from the approach of the Annal school. It seems that the difference lies in asking these big, and frankly political, questions. The way that the question is phrased often determines the outcome, tending more to sophistry than to good historical analysis. Why not ask, as the Annal school does, “what is going on here?” and then take lessons from what is found?

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