The Big History of Civilizations : The Great Courses: Civilization & Culture

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Craig G. Benjamin
  • Series: The Great Courses: Civilization & Culture
  • 17 hrs and 49 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

The history of human civilization is an astonishing story of migration, innovation, and social development. Now, the exciting new field of "big history" allows us to explore human civilizations in ways unavailable to historians of previous generations. Big history scholars take a multidisciplinary approach to study great spans of time, unlocking important themes, trends, and developments across time and space.
Unlike a traditional survey of history - with its focus on dates and events, kings and battles - The Big History of Civilizations is your chance to apply this cutting-edge historical approach to the epic story of humanity around the world. Taught by acclaimed Professor Craig G. Benjamin of Grand Valley State University, these 36 sweeping lectures trace the story of human civilizations from our emergence as a species, through the agricultural and industrial revolutions, and into the future.
It only takes a few minutes of one lecture for you to discover that Big History is an amazing approach to history. Its grand vision will give you powerful new insights into human civilization, and it offers a profound analysis of some of our biggest questions: What makes us human? Where did we come from? And where are we going? There may be no easy answers, but Professor Benjamin takes you on a powerful journey to the limits of our understanding.
What differentiates big history from any other field is the way it combines divergent fields, from archaeology and anthropology to ecology and philosophy, and ties them together, allowing you to see patterns of our past, present - and even future. From the just-right "Goldilocks factors" that allow civilizations to emerge to different ways civilizations have emerged across time and around the word, this riveting approach to history offers a multidisciplinary toolkit to tell the story about what makes us human.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Global vision

Brilliant outline of the rise and fall of civilizations over the last 10,000 years. (Is that all it's been?) Benjamin is an enthusiastic lecturer and manages to cram an amazing amount of information into each lesson. It ends with a vision of human possibilities a billion years into the future.

I would have wished for only one change, and even at that I'm not sure how it could fit in without breaking the delicate balance of the course's trajectory. The 19th and 20th centuries are well covered in a couple of powerhouse lessons; I wish they'd been matched by a single lesson (at least) on the earlier history of Europe. It gets short shrift here. But there's no fat in the course that could be trimmed to make room for this.

Ultimately I guess the intention was to represent more fully the civilizations that are often glossed over in "world histories." Benjamin's history is truly global.

One feature is the emphasis he places on environmental issues. The environment has played a far greater role in enabling the rise and fall of human societies than is usually recognized. And that in turn leads to the almost prophetic themes of the conclusion of the course. Humans as a species have dominated far more than their share of the planet's resources, and we have upset the apple cart to such an extent that our own survival is in question. It's the only planet we have. We need to act urgently to reduce our footprint.
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- Tad Davis

Horrible delivery, constant self-promotion.

What didn’t you like about Professor Craig G. Benjamin’s performance?

I don't know where to begin. He speaks in a mechanical, repetitive way--every sentence has the same delivery and intonation. He doesn't sound like he is talking naturally, more like he's reading a powerpoint presentation. But the worst part is that he is constantly interrupting his own lecture to promote his "Big History" brand of scholarship. It's more of an academic infomercial than a course. He can't seem to stay on any topic, because he keeps feeling the need to stress why his approach to history is so important. I understand that the whole idea is to make broad connections, but he jumps around so much that he starts sounding as though he has ADD. I love ancient history and can usually listen to lectures endlessly but I couldn't get through more than an hour of this before I turned it off in disgust.


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- Paulybrooklyn

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-09-2016
  • Publisher: The Great Courses