Big history

Cliodynamics, deep history, big-picture history

Placeholder for the increasing mathematization, formalisation and data-led approaches to history at a massive scale. I am not expert enough in any of these things for mentions to count as recommendations.

By big history I mean something briefer than the universal concerns of cosmology. I am open to big histories that include the history of all life, of all intelligence, or just of modern human institutions, depending on whim and grandiosity of theorist in question.

At this resolution, crackpottery is indistinguishable from bold theorising, so I will be permissive and inclusive in citations.

Energetics and thermodynamics

Smil (2019), Muthukrishna (2023), Salthe (2005).



Bowles, Samuel. 2004. Microeconomics: Behavior, Institutions, and Evolution. Princeton University Press.
Bowles, Samuel, Jung-Kyoo Choi, and Astrid Hopfensitz. 2003. β€œThe Co-Evolution of Individual Behaviors and Social Institutions.” Journal of Theoretical Biology 223 (2): 135–47.
Choi, Jung-Kyoo, and Samuel Bowles. 2007. β€œThe Coevolution of Parochial Altruism and War.” Science 318 (5850): 636–40.
Harari, Yuval. 2018. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Reprint edition; Reprint edition. New York: Harper Perennial.
Harari, Yuval Noah. 2018. Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. Illustrated edition. New York: Harper Perennial.
Johansen, Anders, and Didier Sornette. 2001. β€œFinite-Time Singularity in the Dynamics of the World Population, Economic and Financial Indices.” Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and Its Applications 294 (3–4): 465–502.
Moral Sentiments and Material Interests: The Foundations of Cooperation in Economic Life. 2006. The MIT Press.
Morris, Ian. 2011. Why the West Rules―for Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future. First Edition. Picador.
β€”β€”β€”. 2014. The Measure of Civilization: How Social Development Decides the Fate of Nations. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
β€”β€”β€”. 2015. Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels: How Human Values Evolve. Edited by Stephen Macedo. Updated ed. edition. Princeton University Press.
β€”β€”β€”. 2022. Geography Is Destiny: Britain and the World: A 10,000-Year History. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Muthukrishna, Michael. 2023. A Theory of Everyone: The New Science of Who We Are, How We Got Here, and Where We’re Going. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.
Salthe, Stanley N. 1997. β€œThe Overall Pattern of the Evolution of Information in Dissipative, Material Systems.” World Futures 50 (1-4): 457–65.
β€”β€”β€”. 2005. β€œEnergy and semiotics: the Second Law and the origin of life.” Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy 1 (1): 128–46.
β€”β€”β€”. 2010. β€œDevelopment (and Evolution) of the Universe.” Foundations of Science 15 (4): 357–67.
Scott, James C. 2017. Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States. 1st edition. Yale University Press.
Smil, Vaclav. 2000. β€œEnergy in the Twentieth Century: Resources, Conversions, Costs, Uses, and Consequences.” Annual Review of Energy and the Environment 25 (1): 21–51.
β€”β€”β€”. 2008. Energy in Nature and Society: General Energetics of Complex Systems. MIT Press.
β€”β€”β€”. 2019. Energy in World History. Routledge.
Tainter, Joseph A. 1988. The Collapse of Complex Societies. Cambrige: Cambridge University Press.
β€”β€”β€”. 1995. β€œSustainability of Complex Societies.” Futures 27: 397–407.
β€”β€”β€”. 2006. β€œArchaeology of Overshoot and Collapse.” Annual Review of Anthropology 35 (1): 59–74.
Tainter, Joseph A, T F H Allen, Amanda Little, and Thomas W Hoekstra. 2003. β€œResource Transitions and Energy Gain: Contexts of Organization.” Conservation Ecology 7.
Turchin, Peter. 2015. Ultrasociety: How 10,000 Years of War Made Humans the Greatest Cooperators on Earth. Chaplin, Connecticut: Beresta Books.
β€”β€”β€”. 2018. Historical Dynamics: Why States Rise and Fall. Reprint edition. Princeton, N.J. Oxford: Princeton University Press.
Turchin, Peter, and Daniel Hoyer. 2020. Figuring Out the Past: The 3,495 Vital Statistics that Explain World History. 1st edition. New York: The Economist.
Turchin, Peter, and Sergey A. Nefedov. 2009. Secular Cycles. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.

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