What makes the Big History approach so unique? Whereas a traditional survey might take you through the major events of a period and introduce you to key dates and people (the “kings and battles” approach), Big History zooms out to bring larger trends into focus, from the type of geography best suited for civilization to the way climate patterns drive human activity like the transition into agriculture.
One major trend you’ll uncover is that, regardless of time or place, civilizations require certain “Goldilocks factors” to succeed. At all scales—the cosmic, the planetary, the ecological, and the human—you can view moments where a combination of just-right ingredients creates the necessary conditions to cross the next threshold of complexity. A few such unique conditions that Professor Benjamin examines are:
-Climate changes during the Paleolithic Era
-The relationship between the agricultural revolution and human population growth
-The relationship between power and the rise of early city-states
-The spread of ideas along Silk Roads and other trade routes
-The Industrial Revolution and the development of consumer capitalism
-Peak oil, climate change, over-population, and other near-future scenarios