L&S Curricular Connections

L&S Discovery Courses

LS C70X / Earth and Planetary Science C51

Big History: Cosmos, Earth, Life, Humanity

Physical Science, Historical Studies

Usually when we think of “history,” we have in mind the story of humanity—what has happened to people over the last few thousand years —the history that is written down in books and documents.

But there is another, much broader view—that “history” is everything that has ever happened—not just to human beings, but to all living organisms, and to the Earth, and to the entire cosmos.

Here at Berkeley, many different departments are involved in reconstructing the past. The Astronomy and Physics Departments are figuring out cosmic history. The Department of Earth and Planetary Science studies the history of the Earth and the planets. IB and MCB focus on the history of life. And the history of humanity is spread across many different departments in Humanities and Social Sciences. And yet, up to now, no one has tried to tie all these kinds of history together.

Big History is a class that takes this very broad viewpoint, and investigates all of history. Very few universities have a course in Big History, so this Berkeley class is a unique opportunity to appreciate all of the past.

Why you might want to take L&S C70X:

* Whatever kind of history you find interesting—from the solar system, to rocks and fossils, to classical civilizations or 20th century politics —L&S C70X will give you a very broad perspective, helping you to see the deep significance and relevance of your own particular interests. Or it may introduce you to fascinating topics that you have not yet even thought of majoring in.

* In L&S C70X, we will study some of the most exciting things that have happened in the past—the Big Bang that started our universe, the formation of the Earth, and ice ages, volcanoes, giant impacts, strange animals from the past, and the great revolutions through which humanity has achieved its present dominance.

Enrollment in this class is by instructor approval only.

Walter Alvarez faculty profile
Walter Alvarez (Earth and Planetary Science)

Terms Offered

  • Spring 2011
  • Spring 2010
  • Spring 2009
  • Spring 2008