4.1.1 The History of Our World in 18 Minutes

See a larger version of the Big History timeline here, produced by the Big History Project and shared by Khan Academy.


Since the dawn of history, human beings have been telling stories about their origin and destiny. From the Dreamtime of Aboriginals to the gods of the Hellenes, Norse tales to Abrahamic revelations, our ability to weave imagination and reason, tradition and experience, makes us distinct from other animals. Today, concepts like entropy and evolution are giving us cosmic and biological arrows of history, one inexorably tending to disorder, the other to ever-increasing complexity. These unfolding changes create the conditions of matter and life, bringing us to our present global and interconnected world in which the pace of change is accelerating at an exponential rate. Unfolding across a series of identifiable thresholds, the budding field of Big History combines our nature as storytellers with our skill as scientists to provide a coherent narrative of life and the universe from the big bang to the present, offering what has been called a new creation story for our time. If you’d like to know more about Big History, we recommend the following interview here.


Guiding Questions:

  1. What tale does Big History tell?
  2. What sources of knowledge does it draw on?
  3. In what ways does it challenge traditional beliefs?
  4. What futures does it imagine?


Thumbnail: Celestial map from 1670, by the Dutch cartographer Frederik de Wit. Wikimedia Commons. Public domain.

Note: The above video presentation by David Christian was produced and is owned by TED and can be accessed at http://www.ted.com. It is shared under CC BY–NC–ND 4.0 International.

Note: All Khan Academy content is available for free at (www.khanacademy.org).