This Fleeting World: A Short History of Humanity

This Fleeting World: A Short History of Humanity

-I first became an avid student of David Christian by watching his course, Big History, on DVD, and so I am very happy to see his enlightening presentation of the world's history captured in these essays.

David Christian is both, and This Fleeting World: A Short History of Humanity makes the journey - from the earliest foraging era to our own modern era - a fascinating one.

Read Online This Fleeting World: A Short History of Humanity

Pretty much a bullet point version of the book for handy reference that you can keep in Evernote or on your smartphone :) -Universe appeared 13.7B years ago with Big Bang, starting smaller than an atom which exploded to create all base elements of universe today -particles passed through phase changes: first forces ala gravity and electromagnetism. -starting point was protons and electrons + 4 forms of energy, all as plasma -380k years later, next phase change was first atoms with protons + electrons (hydrogen and helium), which was electrically neutral and ceased to interact with e-mag radiation - energy from big bang still detected in cosmic background radiation -early universe was just clouds of H and He -then complexity kicked in after 200M years, creating stars from gravity pulling H and He together, which heated up as they contracted, fusing H atoms together and creating pure energy poured out into empty space. -Solar System's Sun created 4.5B years ago -sun's heat drove gassier elements away from center, which is why inner planets are rockier, while outer planets are gassier -early Earth was hot and bombarded by asteroid as it grew larger. -3.5B years ago, first 1-cell prokaryotes formed, capable of metabolism and replication by splitting with DNA mutations, leading to natural selection. Thin population densities, with growth from expansion 2) Agrarian (8000BC-1750CE) 8000-3000BC: pre-city agrarian communities 3000-500BC: earliest cities and states 500BC-1000CE: agriculture, cities, empires 1000-1750: agricultural socities - agriculture appeared 1st in Nile Valley with global warming and fertile areas capable of producing surpluses of food supply. Average human controlled 12k calories/day - intensification with agriculture created larger communities with more people, changing social environments -- need hierarchies of power to administrate surpluses, etc. - division of labor-- larger communities support non-farmer specialists: priests, potters, builders, soldiers, artists who exchange goods and services for food - surpluses grew large enough to support elite groups specializing in exploitation of other people (macroparasites) - villages appeared before cities - new hierarchies created more patriarchy, and complex government and leadership models - statehood arose as large coercive power structures between cities with interexchange of goods and services. 3) Modern (1750-) 1750-1914: industrial revolutiion 1914-1945: 20th century crisis 1945-: contemporary era -population grew from 770M in 1750 to 6B in 2000 (8x in 250 years only!) -productivity gains driven by rapid tech advances. In 1930s John Maynard Keynes argued that governments revive capitalist economies by boosting consumption via unemployment payments (ex: New Deal in US 1930s to create jobs) -cultural revolution driven by tech: realism in cinemas and mass culture and mass media caused artists to experiment with more abstract forms of expression -Communist vs Capitalist models of industrialization competed in Cold War. Communist command economy only works well with military crises or massive resources devoted to prestrige projects (like space programs), but lacks constant innovation via competition.

This text gives the best possible answer for a book seeking mass appeal: sacrifice the culture of prehistoric humans and stick to what is measurable. My disappointment with the book enters with Christian's obvious preference for economics and data. He quantifies human progress in terms of world-wide Gross National Product and gives almost as much attention to the cold war and the collapse of Soviet Russia as he does to animal husbandry. Unfortunately, in keeping with his bias for economic behavior, too much of what we learn about humanity's various lifeways concerns what they bought and sold, the technologies and innovations they developed, rather than the arts or the cultures they practiced.

I suppose it provides a nice outline/structure for teaching about human history, but again, it's nothing that teachers aren't already doing.

But it falls into the trap of often being "Western History" once you leave the agrarian age except where the rest of the world intersects with "western" development.

In doing so it raises questions about how to present and document history.

He began teaching the first course in 1989 which examined history from the Big Bang to the present using a multidisciplinary approach with assistance from scholars in diverse specializations from the sciences, social sciences, and humanities.

  • English

  • History

  • Rating: 3.38
  • Pages: 152
  • Publish Date: January 1st 2008 by Berkshire Publishing Group LLC
  • Isbn10: 1933782048
  • Isbn13: 9781933782041