From the Big Bang to the Global Village

“Big history” is a new historical school that emerged in the West in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Its leading figures include David Christian and Fred Spiel. “Big History” advocates the inclusion of human history in the newly described universe’s natural history, using a combination of cosmology, astronomy, physics, biology, anthropology, economics, history and other multidisciplinary knowledge in different time frames. Explore the history of the Big Bang to the modern society and look forward to the possible future of mankind. Since its appearance, “Great History” has attracted the attention of the academic circles. Its theoretical viewpoint has exerted extensive influence in the field of historical research in Australia, the United States, the Netherlands, Russia and other countries, and has carried out fruitful practical activities in the field of history teaching. The famous historian William McNeil praised the great history of David Christian and his masterpiece “Time Map: An Introduction to Great History” [1], and even compared it with the outstanding contributions of Newton and Darwin [1] ](1). Microsoft founder Bill Gates said that he was “stunned when he first came into contact with the big history.” He said that “big history” is his “favorite course” and hopes everyone can listen to it. Lessons of history [2]. Relatively speaking, domestic scholars still pay little attention to the theoretical viewpoints and practices of the historical school of “Great History”. Here, the author does not take the liberty to try to put forward opinions and opinions on the background of the emergence of “big history” and some related issues, in order to seek advice from colleagues.

First, the background of the emergence of “great history”

The emergence of any new historical school has a special background. The “Great History” began in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and it began to appear at this time, mainly based on the following three backgrounds.

First of all, the emergence of “great history” is the response of historical scholars to the increasingly integrated human society in the era of globalization. Since the Second World War, with the continuous advancement of science and technology and the increasingly close economic and cultural links between the world, the concept of human time and space has gradually begun to change. Human beings are increasingly feeling that they live in a similar “global village”. In the world. In this globalized world, any nation or country is inevitably influenced by the outside world. Under this circumstance, transcending the boundaries of nation-states and civilized regions and rewriting history from the perspective of the whole world and all mankind has become the unshirkable responsibility of historical scholars, especially world history scholars. In this context, a number of academic schools and scholars who have studied human history from a global perspective have emerged. In an interview, Christian pointed out: “The difference in big history is the expansion of its historical narrative framework, which enables the world to establish the identity of the entire human race and even the entire biosphere. In the narrative of the great history, you first encountered Not a Chinese or an American, but a member of a biological species, a human being. The great history is to trace the history of mankind and shape the identity of mankind. In today’s world, human beings face more and more challenges from the world, so There is a need to shape the identity of the global community. Only in this way can we solve the problems that cannot be solved by the nation-state alone.” [3] “Great History” advocates the inclusion of human history in the newly described universe’s natural history, from the Big Bang to the modern The history of society is precisely the response to this trend and its development to the extreme.

Second, the emergence of “great history” is the result of historians’ thinking about the current tension between humans and nature. At present, global warming, species extinction and environmental pollution have become problems that plague humanity, and the results have even affected the future of mankind. These problems are highlighted by the tension between the human being and nature as a whole. As a member of many creatures, the Earth is the only habitat that humans have so far survived. Therefore, in a sense, the relationship between human beings and nature is even far greater than the relationship between different groups within human beings. Environmental historian John McNeil once commented: “Humans inadvertently conducted a huge uncontrolled experiment on the earth. I believe that by then this will become the most important aspect of the history of the 20th century, even More important than the Second World War, the communist cause, universal literacy, democratic communication, or women’s liberation.” [4] (4) In this regard, Christian’s time chronology provides an interesting coordinate for humans: if it will be large Since the explosion, the history of the universe’s 13 billion years has been reduced to 13 years, then the earth appeared 5 days ago; complex, multicellular organisms appeared 7 months ago; Homo sapiens appeared 50 minutes ago; It is only five minutes now; the industrial revolution only took place six seconds ago; and the two world wars and the world population of 6 billion are just things in the past two seconds [1] (538-539). In such a coordinate, the narrow view of “anthropocentrism” is unobstructed. Mr. Bao Maohong believes that “the real use of environmental history to construct a global history is relatively in place” is rare. The “Time Map” and Fred Spear, two leading figures of the “Great History” school, David Christian The “Structure of the Great History” is one of the best [5].

Once again, the emergence of “Great History” has benefited from many major breakthroughs in human science in the twentieth century. The emergence of “great history” is inextricably linked with the breakthrough discoveries of humans in the fields of cosmology, astronomy, physics, biology, and ancient anthropology in the twentieth century. In the past twentieth century, mankind has made breakthroughs in many fields of science, such as relativity, quantum mechanics, big bang theory, basic institutions of matter, atomic energy, double helix structure of genetic material, geotectonics theory, computer The creation of the Internet, the theory of information theory, cybernetics, and systems theory has not only greatly broadened the horizons of mankind, but also enabled mankind to create scientific achievements that were unmatched in any previous period within a short century. material wealth. Thanks to these latest scientific discoveries, the writing of “Great History” is possible.

Second, the small points in historical research

“Big history”, as its name implies, is characterized by the grand scope of the object time and space. David Christian wrote in the introduction to Time Map that “I hope this book can help build a more unified plan of history and universal knowledge” [1] (6) and try to make it Become a modern creation myth about the issue of origin. These ambitions are not only too ambitious for most professional historians, but may even be a bit ridiculous. In fact, the grand narrative that seeks to penetrate the past and the present and uses all the boundaries of the known world as the narrative unit has a long tradition in the history of the development of Eastern and Western history. Herodotus and Sima Qian are among the models. However, since the history of Ranke in the 19th century, the research objects of Eastern and Western history have gradually been restricted to the scope of the nation-state, and micro-case studies have gradually become the mainstream of history. In the first half of the twentieth century, this phenomenon began to change with the publication of Spengler’s “The Decline of the West” and Toynbee’s “Historical Research”. In 1963, William McNeil’s “The Rise of the West” was published, which is considered to be an important symbol of the rise of global history [6]. However, global historians such as William McNeil and Jerry Bentley, while emphasizing the breakthrough of the boundaries of nation-states, have studied human history in general, but the object of historical narrative is beyond the scope of humanity. And the expansion of the entire universe is still unheard of. Does such a grand narrative mean that the details are sacrificed and must be considered empty? And can the historian control the huge amount of information in this range?

In response to this question, Christian responded: “The so-called exhaustiveness is relative. Content that is at the core of one scope may become a branch in another, and may lose its meaning in the largest scope. Some problems require telephoto lenses, while others require wide-angle lenses.” Moreover, when historians turn their research and vision from small to large, “on the one hand, there will be a lack of detail, but at the same time, larger subjects will enter the field of vision. To make up for its losses, and these subjects are so large that it is difficult to see the whole picture in the near future. Therefore, there is no single appropriate standard of detail for historians, and there is no reason to regard the time horizon of the practice as sacred and inviolable. The amount of detail required depends entirely on the nature of the question [7] (225-226). Indeed, the object of historical research is small and small, ranging from an item, a character, an event happening on a certain day, to a certain phenomenon in history, a nation-state, a civilized region, or even a whole human being, can become a historical study. Object. If the study is about the economic and social changes of a village in a few years or decades, then historical researchers can collect relevant documents and tax records for research. But if you want to tell a “modern creation myth” about the past history from the beginning of the universe to modern times, such as “great history”, the details required will definitely be completely different from the former. Therefore, the study of major issues does not require detail, but this detail is not the details.

Of course, this is not to say that there is no value in the study of small problems. Only grand historical issues are worthy of narrative.

First, historians have the freedom to choose their subjects. There is a difference in the understanding of “value”. A historical issue that has little value to others, a particular scholar may have a completely different attitude. “The historians’ understanding of what is the value of research is very different, and this is often determined by their historical views and methodology. For example, is there any value in studying all aspects of daily life, eating and drinking Lazar? Researchers of micro-history will of course give a positive answer” [8]. Therefore, for the delineation of the research object, it is first necessary to follow the researcher’s preferences and value judgments, and it is not necessary to force everyone to engage in research on similar themes. Only in this way can we achieve a hundred flowers and a hundred schools of thought, not to kill after a flower, and to cause a situation of tens of thousands of horses.

Second, although historical concerns are far and near, they have irreplaceable values. Recent concerns can solve the current needs, while far concerns can be prepared to prepare for future problems. The study of ethnic history, local history, country history and other special history can give individuals a clear positioning, increase their sense of self-respect and belonging, and solve some real concerns and problems; research such as global history and great history Helping human beings form me in you, I have your consciousness, and make it look at human beings as a whole with a common destiny on a larger level, so that we can face the entire human race in the era of globalization. The challenge. In this sense, although historical concerns are far and near and large and small, they all have important values, and both are indispensable. It is equally worthy of our vigilance to emphasize the nation-state and the practice of emphasizing the common destiny of mankind.

Finally, micro research and macro research are not contradictory. The scorpion once said: No accumulation of steps, no more than a thousand miles; no accumulation of small streams, no rivers. Just as components are machine-like, microscopic research can provide raw materials and foundations for macroscopic research, while macroscopic research can give microscopic research greater value and meaning. “Big history” is not a passive water, no roots, it is also based on the previous research on many micro details. Christians believes that “great history” does not appear as the opposite of “micro-history”, which is a useful supplement to micro-history, and vice versa [9] (28). What is really vigilant here is the practice of strictly limiting historical research to a narrow space and time and field, and using it as the only research method and paradigm of history.

The whole is composed of parts but not a simple part. Similarly, world history is not a simple compilation of the history of each region and nation. Therefore, although microscopic research and macroscopic research are not contradictory, on the basis of microscopic research, the integration of existing research fields and research results is also a necessity for the development of history. Some scholars need to stand up and do research in this area. To be true and innovative, it is not easy, which even has higher requirements for historians to focus on their own research. As for whether it is really valuable, or is it just big and not, or even just an empty overview, it needs to be judged by academics and history. Not only is it a grand narrative, it is worthy of praise. In this sense, there is actually a higher standard of judgment on the distinction between micro research and macro research, namely, good research and bad research. Judging by these standards, Christian and his “great history” have great theoretical and practical perspectives on the great expansion of historical research objects, the interdisciplinary integration of human knowledge and the profound analysis of the relationship between humans and nature.