Big History: How seemingly small phenomena have large scale effects on humanity as we know it. By Eric James
Mankind has seen massive variation on its desire for an application of knowledge. Thousands of years to begin writing knowledge down rather than passing it through song and stories. Many more years to make the transition from pictures to books and eventually the super computers of today. What we know determines how we live our lives. Institutions are created to preserve and maintain certain ways of life. Institutions are largely at odds with the innovative thinkers of their day. Ancient philosophers were constantly questioning the way things worked, and how things could be improved. Resulted in geometry, philosophy, astronomy, history, etc. Today’s culture scoffs at many practices and technologies that were considered to be innovative a mere thirty years ago. Timeless ideal of innovation. Though Burke’s video depicts a great deal of archaic equipment, the theme shines through. A society’s desire to improve upon old methods and develop new ideas becomes a keynote to its success Even today many isolated societies and “third world” countries are “living in the past.” Knowledge is Power
Dr. Spencer Wells
Geneticist who spent ten years in a lab developing a theory that all races descended from one man living in Africa
This man lived approximately 60,000 years ago and can account for about 90% of our current population.
Many of this man’s descendants traveled north into Eurasia during the Ice Age.
A small faction crossed into Alaska through the frozen sea, during a small window in time where this passage was possible.
Group then traveled south Into the Americas
Rich resources of the Americas treated them well.
The Journey of Man
David Keys Author/historian has theory that at around 535 A.D. the earth underwent a major catastrophe. Catastrophe resulted in major changed to weather, water supply, food resources, and reduced sunlight on a global level. Trees can be utilized to gauge living conditions back thousands of years through analysis of tree rings. Tree evidence suggests that a major climatic event occurred during the middle of the 16th century. John of Athesis (Syrian Bishop) Described a period of 18 months where there were only four hours of diluted sunlight per day. Accounts from all over Eurasia indicate a similar phenomenon. Darkened Sun, Cold, Famine, and Yellow Dust in the air. Climatologists Hypothesize that only a volcano, comet, or asteroid could have caused such an event. Asteroid would have to be at least 4 kilometers wide to create such an impact. Comet would have to be at least 6 kilometers wide to create the impact. No evidence suggest a large enough crater or giant wave consistent with such an event. Catastrophe
Climatologists Use of ice caps produce similar results to tree rings. Suggest massive volcanic activity in mid 6th century A.D. affecting both north and south pole. Eruption would have to take place near the Equator to have such an affect. Historical accounts Chinese recorded massive noise from southwest in February of 535 A.D. Java Island account indicates a similar event. Charcoal Evidence coincides with the timeline and location of the historical accounts. World Powers Rome Recovered from Hun and Gothic invasions. Recaptured much of its former territory, wealth, and glory. 540s A.D. Rome was hammered with plague Strongly related to changes in climate brought on by the Catastrophe of 535 A.D. Plague likely came to Rome through trade with Africa due to huge Ivory trade. Millions died to plague, over 10,000 per day. Severely weakened Roman economy, army, and populace. Catastrophe (Continued)
World Powers Avars Large barbarian tribe dominating the area of Mongolia. Considered the most advanced horsemen in the world. Severely weakened by cold and drought Crushed by the Turks in 550s A.D. Refugees headed westward and dominated the peoples they came in contact with along the way. Avars regained their power and went on to blackmail and harass the Roman Empire. Native Americans Ravaged by drought near 535 A.D. Celtic Roman Natives Stricken with plague allowing the Anglo-Saxons to dominate and establish Britain. Islam Change in power largely resulted in rise of Islam due to Mohammed and his family’s influence on newcomers as they came to Mecca for trade. Future Impact (Literally?) Yellowstone, WY, US is largely considered the grandfather of all potential volcanoes. Another massive volcano in California. Catastrophe (Continued)
Pre Columbus world was full of activity beyond Europe. Regions were widespread and lived in isolation. Norse reached Western Hemisphere long before Spaniards Leif Ericsson led voyage founding Vinland (Newfoundland). Initially got along with Natives (Skraelings) but conflicts developed and combined with little ice age to discourage Norse colonization. World was understood to be round. Most educated individuals believed that the earth was a globe. Idea started with Greek philosophy and was widely accepted and tested. Europe in the 1400s Consisted of a great deal of small states merging periodically into larger units. Spain Freed itself from Italian financial backing through sea exploration. Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabel of Castille started to form what is now Spain, also sponsored Columbus. Gained a great deal of gold and silver from the Americas. Evicted Jewish populace. Staple food was wheat, required large amounts of land, Europeans developed aggression while fighting over low yield wheat crops. World and Trade 1400s
Russia Ivan III loosened the grip of the Mongolian “Golden Horde.” Moscow was declared the third Rome as it was successor of orthodox Christendom from Byzantine Empire. Sweden, Denmark, Norway Unified as Kolmar Union by StenSture I. Poland, Lithuania Expanded to maximum borders by Lasimir IV. Hungary Fought approach of Ottoman Turks. Ottoman Empire Appeared to be next superpower with huge territory from North Africa to Persia and Serbia. In 1453 Sultan Batezid II established Istanbul at what was Constantinople to end the Byzantine Empire. Muslim territories extended to southeast Asia, China, and the Philippines. Lost Granada to Ferdinant and Isabel. World and Trade (Cont.)
Africa North Africa in Turk hands with the occasional clash from Egypt. Kongo and region south of it ruled by John I (Christian) Renounced Christianity when its anti-polygamy resulted in a loss of power. Southeast Asia India invaded by Muslims for short time. Invaded again by Mughals. One of the first civilizations to institute religious tolerance. Vietnam expanded southward and taught China that it would not be stopped. China Could have greatly expanded during this period. Confucian scholar class did not seek conquest, but a harmony within. Saw voyages as a waste of money and men only to amass wealth, which they disdained. China did not have a valid sea threat at this time. Rice crops resulted in large populace concentration with little competition for food and a great deal of loyalty to or dependence upon the government for direction and labor. World and Trade (Cont.)
Japan Remained independent of China but power struggles between Shoguns resulted in a weakened, miserable stage of development. Aztecs Expanding into Mesoamerica. Capital city of Tenochtitlan was rivaled only by Venice as an aquatic city. No interest in a Maritime Navy. Mayans On the decline during this period. Mayapan had only about 12,000 people and was one of thirteen Mayan tribes due to disunity. Same disunity that made the Mayans quite difficult to conquer in measurable area for the Spanish. Potum were seacoast Mayan with heavy aquatic trade as far as Peru Traded with and were friendly to Columbus. Inca Invaded and controlled Ecuador to Chile. 2,500 coastal miles of empire with over 7,000 miles of roads inland. Made a voyage to Gallapagos Islands but it was fruitless. World and Trade (Cont.)
Guns, Germs, and Steel Successes of peoples has to do with the resources available to them. Easier resource gathering leads to larger more effective armies A society lacking an advantage will either acquire it from a neighboring society or be replaced by a stronger society. Continental diffusion of wild animals and plants directly affects social successes. Rates of diffusion and migration of peoples are linked with those of animals and plants. Diffusion between continents result in lack of or increased trade, aggression, or influences. Continental area and population size directly affect the methods in which society must operate to accommodate itself Power has shifted to the West. Huge amount of powerful empires began in the Fertile Crescent. (Babylon, Assyria, Persia, and Hittites). Destroyed itself by using resources faster than they could replenish (Ecologically fragile due to little rainfall). China’s sea expeditions and power potential was halted by its politics while Europe’s disunity resulted in a window of opportunity for Columbus and his voyage. Had to ask several European rulers before finally being granted a chance by Ferdinand and Isabella. Europe is largely divided by natural barriers of water or mountains leading to a stronger sense of independence. China’s coastline is largely smooth with relatively passable mountain ranges. Europe has no real unifying rivers for trade or communication while China has two of the world’s largest. Europe’s barriers were large enough to prevent unification but not large enough to prevent the passing of ideas and technological advances. In closing it can be said that the seemingly smallest event or sequence of events can have drastic, global implications. What seems to be an advantage one minute quickly becomes a fatal disadvantage, while what seemed disadvantageous has become the epitome of situational advantage.