Crash Course Big History: John Green Teaches Life, the Universe & Everything

If you don’t under­stand big his­to­ry, you’ll nev­er under­stand small his­to­ry. That idea has­n’t yet attained apho­rism sta­tus, but maybe we can get it there. Last month, we fea­tured a free, Bill Gates-fund­ed short course on 13.8 bil­lion years of “Big His­to­ry”. Back in 2012, we fea­tured well-known online edu­ca­tor (and now even bet­ter-known young adult nov­el­ist) John Green’s Crash Course on World His­to­ry. Now these worlds, or rather these his­to­ries of the world, have col­lid­ed in the form of  Crash Course Big His­to­ry, a web series “in which John Green, Hank Green, and Emi­ly Graslie teach you about, well, every­thing.” In true fash­ion of the biggest pos­si­ble his­to­ry, the Crash Course crew begins at the begin­ning — the real begin­ning, the Big Bang, which the first fif­teen-minute episode gets into above.

“Mr. Green! Mr. Green!” exclaims Green at him­self, momen­tar­i­ly tak­ing on his sig­na­ture sec­ondary pushy-stu­dent per­sona. “That’s not his­to­ry, that’s sci­ence.” Return­ing to his cool-pro­fes­sor per­sona, Green lays it out for him­self: “Aca­d­e­mics often describe his­to­ry as, like, all stuff that’s hap­pened since we start­ed writ­ing things down, but they only start there because that’s where we have the best infor­ma­tion. The advent of writ­ing was a huge deal, obvi­ous­ly, but as a start date for his­to­ry, it’s total­ly arbi­trary. It’s just a line we drew in the sand and said, ‘Okay, his­to­ry begins now!’ ” In order to push that line as far back as pos­si­ble, his­to­ry must fuse with sci­ence, allow­ing the study of the past to best incor­po­rate and con­tex­tu­al­ize all it can about (and stu­dents of Green had to know he would quote Dou­glas Adams on this) “Life, the Uni­verse, and Every­thing.”

Sev­en episodes in and under­way right now, Crash Course Big His­to­ry has gone on to cov­er not just the uni­verse, but the sun and the Earth, the emer­gence of life, the epic of evo­lu­tion, and how that process pro­duced humans. Hav­ing arrived at the appear­ance of Homo sapi­ens, Green and com­pa­ny cov­er, in the fresh­ly released sev­enth episode, the process of “human­i­ty con­quer­ing the Earth. Or at least mov­ing from Africa into the rest of the Earth,” going on to reach “a crit­i­cal mass of inno­va­tors” and devel­op “col­lec­tive learn­ing.” And amid the grand sweep of plan­e­tary move­ment, evo­lu­tion, and mass migra­tion, we con­tin­ue to find new ways to col­lec­tive­ly learn all the time — of which the Crash Cours­es rep­re­sent only one par­tic­u­lar­ly enter­tain­ing vari­ety.

You can watch future Crash Course Big His­to­ry videos by fol­low­ing this playlist on Youtube. It’s also worth men­tion­ing that Bill Gates has helped fund these Crash Course videos, just as he has helped fund the larg­er Big His­to­ry Project men­tioned in our pre­vi­ous post.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Take Big His­to­ry: A Free Short Course on 13.8 Bil­lion Years of His­to­ry, Fund­ed by Bill Gates

A Crash Course in World His­to­ry

The His­to­ry of the World in 46 Lec­tures From Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty

Free Down­load of The His­to­ry Man­i­festo: His­to­ri­ans New Call for Big-Pic­ture Think­ing

Down­load 78 Free Online His­to­ry Cours­es: From Ancient Greece to The Mod­ern World

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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