The Big History of Civilizations

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36 videos in this collection

A Tale of Two Ancient Cities
Jericho and Anau are two of the world's oldest cities, and their stories have much to tell us about the scope of human history. Begin the course by examining what…
The Rise of Humanity
Trace the origins of the human species from the emergence of proto-humans 2.5 million years ago to the rise of Homo sapiens from about 200,000 years ago. Professor Benjamin offers…
Foraging in the Old Stone Age
Although it is often skimmed over in the history books, the Paleolithic Era is the longest time in human history, ranging from 200,000 to 11,000 years ago. Understanding this period…
Origins of Agriculture
Archaeologists continue to debate precisely why and how humanity transitioned from foraging to agriculture 10,000 years ago. Delve into the agricultural revolution to find out how some combination of climate…
Power, Cities, and States
After the agricultural revolution, the next major transition in human history was the rise of cities. After introducing you to life in the early farm communities, Professor Benjamin investigates the…
The Era of Agrarian Civilizations
The vast Era of Agrarian Civilizations stretches nearly 5,000 years, from 3,200 B.C.E. to 1750 C.E. and the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Tease out the large-scale trends and patterns…
Innovations of Mesopotamia
Gain new insights into civilization by looking at one of the first: the Sumerians of Mesopotamia. Here, use techniques from linguistics, genetics, archeology, climatology, and more to see how this…
The Downfall of Sumer
Wars and rumors of war abound in this next lecture on Mesopotamia. Survey the rise and fall of empires in the 1,000 years after the collapse of the Sumerians. See…
Egypt: Divine Rule in the Black Land
Dive into the world of Ancient Egypt during the time of the great pharaohs. In this sweeping lecture, Professor Benjamin shows you how environmental circumstances led to Egyptian power. Examine…
Society and Culture of Egypt
Shift your attention from Ancient Egyptian power to the society's fascinating social, economic, and cultural achievements. Investigate Egyptian urban life, its system of trade, hieroglyphics, and religion. Thanks to its…
Early Mediterranean Civilizations
The Mediterranean Sea played a key role in the development of the ancient world. Here, explore four smaller cultures that had an enormous influence on subsequent history, particularly trade and…
Mysteries of the Indus Valley
While agrarian civilizations were flourishing in Egypt and the Mediterranean, the extraordinary Indus civilization was emerging in South Asia. Witness the development of one of the most advanced and intriguing…
South Asian Civilizations and Beliefs
Continue your study of South Asia. Here, Professor Benjamin traces the rise of Hinduism, Buddhism, and other religious traditions during the millennium between 1500 and 500 B.C.E. He then turns…
China: Born in Isolation
Although contemporaneous with civilizations emerging in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and South Asia, East Asia's geographic isolation allowed for the development of unique ideas about government, society, and the individual. Find out…
China's Dynasties and Influence
In this second lecture on early East Asian civilization, follow the history from the Warring States Period through the Qin and Han dynasties. Along the way, examine many of Chinese…
The Importance of the Nomads
Go inside the steppe environment to learn about the role militarized pastoral nomads played in world history. As you see how these societies responded to climate pressures and influenced neighboring…
Oxus Civilization and Powerful Persia
Pastoral nomads weren't the only early settlers of Central Asia. The recently discovered Oxus civilization and the Persians reveal a number of key themes for Big History, including the role…
Greece in Its Golden Age
Geography plays one of the most important roles in a civilization's development, and this holds true for the ancient Greeks. But it is the Greek experiments in government that drove…
Greek Gods, Philosophy, and Science
The Greeks created one of the richest and most influential cultures in human history. From myths to music to philosophy, as you delve into this world, you'll explore the major…
Alexander's Conquests and Hellenism
Although Big History looks at the macro lens, sometimes one individual truly shapes the course of human history. Alexander of Macedon is one of those people. As you'll find out…
Building the Roman Republic
Rome began as an unremarkable city-state with a monarchy, but once the city established itself as a republic, Roman conquests spread dramatically across the Mediterranean. Here, review some of Rome's…
Triumphs and Flaws of Imperial Rome
Pick up the story of Rome in the Augustan Golden Age and follow it through the infamous sack by the Visigoths. Explore the literature and propaganda of the empire, and…
New Ideas along the Silk Road
The Era of Agrarian Civilizations was one of fluid borders and nomadic activity, which eventually led to dynamic trade routes between east and west. Here, Professor Benjamin transports you into…
Chaos and Consolidation in Eurasia
Between the 3rd and 6th centuries, Afro-Eurasian civilization experienced a crisis with the collapse of the Han Dynasty in the east and the end of Roman administration in the west,…
Islamic Expansion and Rule
The expansion of the Islamic civilization between the 8th and 10th centuries played a major role in the history of Afro-Eurasian states and cultures. Survey the story of Islam from…
Legacy of the Mongols
In the early 13th century, Mongol horsemen swept out of their homeland in the steppes to conquer the known world, and they would go on to create the largest contiguous…
North American Peoples and Tribes
Shift your attention to the Americas, which developed on an alternate path from Afro-Eurasia. This first lecture traces the settlement of North America and investigates societies across different regions, from…
Agrarian Civilizations of Mesoamerica
The unique geography of Mesoamerica - the long isthmus that runs from the present-day Panama Canal through Mexico - has driven the region's history over the millennia. Review the geologic…
Culture and Empire in South America
Round out your study of the Americas with a journey down the Andean spine and up the Amazon River to discover the many civilizations of South America, including the Nazcans,…
African Kingdoms and Trade
Sub-Saharan Africa has often been overlooked by outside historians who are considering the rise of human civilization, yet nations such as Mali and Ghana and the Bantu and Swahili civilizations…
Lifeways of Australia and the Pacific
The Pacific islands represent perhaps the last great chapter in humanity's colonization of the globe. The vast Pacific made migration slow until comparatively recently, yet seafaring technologies allowed many Polynesian…
The Advent of Global Commerce
In this lecture, Professor Benjamin surveys the "Malthusian Cycle" of expansion from 500 to 1750 C.E., when favorable climate, global population growth, expanding exchange networks, and rapid innovation all paved…
The Industrial Revolution and Modernity
Zoom in on an obscure corner of Europe in the 18th century, where the burning of coal served as the necessary spark to launch the world into modernity. Find out…
The Transformative 20th and 21st Centuries
Welcome to the Anthropocene! The 20th and 21st centuries are merely an eye blink on the scale of Big History, yet these years have wrought astonishing changes in the history…
Civilization, the Biosphere, and Tomorrow
Historians traditionally focus solely on the past, but here you have the chance to apply what you've learned about Big History to see what might be in store for us…
Civilizations of the Distant Future
We can envision scenarios for the year 2100, but what about 2600? Or 3100? Reflect on the possibilities, drawing from the imaginative work of futurists and science fiction writers. See…

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