The BEST Episodes of Big History
Every episode ever - ranked by fan votes!
Last Updated: May 19, 2021
Each episode of Big History will begin with an iconic topic from the pages of traditional history such as the Great Pyramids, The Titanic or the American Revolution but then will spin into surprising journeys through other fields, weaving together insights and evidence from various disciplines such as astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, anthropology, history and economics. Spanning 13.7 billion years, Big History will ultimately pull together the puzzle pieces from all 16 half-hour episodes into an epic two-hour finale, creating one grand narrative and revealing the unifying link among all events.
#1 - H2O
Season 1 - Episode 16 - Aired Dec 21, 2013
Water is the miracle molecule, and mankind has used its perfect properties to revolutionize our lives. It was our first superhighway, the lifeblood of civilization, and gives us 90% of all the power we use today. This episode reveals how the science behind water is the driving force behind history.
#2 - The Big History of Everything
Season 1 - Episode 17 - Aired Dec 28, 2013
This 2-hour special crisscrosses billions of years of time and space to show how everyone, and everything, is linked in one universal story. It weaves together science and history to reveal how an epic series of improbable events connect in order to make life possible–from the Big Bang to the rise of man and even our mysterious future.
#3 - Silver Supernova
Season 1 - Episode 15 - Aired Dec 21, 2013
At critical moments in history, our second place metal was the most important metal on Earth. Big History reveals how silver's place in our minds was determined by the heat of exploding stars, and how this one metal saved democracy, gave us the dollar, and had a secret power to connect the world.
#4 - The Sun
Season 1 - Episode 13 - Aired Dec 14, 2013
The Sun is our master and creator. It gives us our perception of time, controls our reality, and powers our lives. Big History sheds new light on our nearest star, revealing that ancient sun worship intersects with science, that our bodies are fine-tuned to the 24-hour day, and history is driven in unseen ways by the simple way we circle our star.
#5 - Rise of the Carnivores
Season 1 - Episode 14 - Aired Dec 14, 2013
Eating meat made us human…by giving us bigger brains, better tools, and spoken language. The human need for beef has driven history across the hemispheres, but how did we turn an ancient mega-beast into the cow we have today? Big History traces all the beef on earth back to a single prehistoric herd.
#6 - Megastructures
Season 1 - Episode 5 - Aired Nov 16, 2013
From the Great Pyramid at Giza to the towering skyscrapers of today, why do people have the urge to build tall structures, and how do these megastructures reflect a basic principle embedded in the very structure of the universe?
#7 - Decoded
Season 1 - Episode 11 - Aired Dec 7, 2013
Secret codes run the world. The code of life, DNA, is the operating system for all organisms, which spawned intelligent life like us who eventually created codes of our own–language that allows us to talk and the alphabet that lets us write. We've even created an entire digital universe built of binary code that powers the machinery of the modern age. But is it possible that the universe itself runs on code?
#8 - The Superpower of Salt
Season 1 - Episode 1 - Aired Nov 2, 2013
We all know that mankind can't live without air, food and water…the same is true of salt. The salt on your table is a key to unlocking the story of our planet and the cosmos. Big History reveals how this simple molecule underpins our civilization, launched wars, built monuments like the Great Wall of China, sparked revolutions from India to France…and it's even the substance that makes up our thoughts.
#9 - World of Weapons
Season 1 - Episode 8 - Aired Nov 23, 2013
Humans have small teeth and no claws or armour, so how do we project our power? Warfare has defined traditional history, but Big History digs deeper to reveal how it all began. We see how bat poop and ancient trees shaped the history of weapons, and link the gun all the way back to a change in our bodies that turned us into throwing machines.
#10 - Horse Power Revolution
Season 1 - Episode 2 - Aired Nov 2, 2013
The horse has been a revolutionary animal in unexpected ways. It has changed how we speak, what we wear, and sets the hidden limit for the size of our most massive empires. It's a story that spans the cosmos, from the Big Bang, to the Sun, to a changing planet that turned the horse into man's best friend in the animal kingdom.
#11 - Mountain Machines
Season 1 - Episode 9 - Aired Nov 30, 2013
They form natural boundaries, dictate how we spread around the planet, create natural defenses, and control our weather. From the World War that began with a gunshot in the Balkans to the feuds of the Appalachians, mountains have also been flashpoints for violence. They provide minerals and metals that make civilization possible, and the water that feeds billions, yet we were never designed to live in their extreme environments. Without mountains earth would be desolate and uninhabitable, and scientists now believe that an invisible mountain range made life possible in the first place.
#12 - Pocket Time Machine
Season 1 - Episode 10 - Aired Nov 30, 2013
How does the cellphone in your pocket link to the Big Bang, the evolution of human memory, and even the Titanic disaster? Big History reveals how cosmic forces conspired to give us the tool that has revolutionized the planet. From the dial pad to the way we write phone numbers, there's a hidden science behind the cellphone.
#13 - Gold Fever
Season 1 - Episode 3 - Aired Nov 9, 2013
This episode asks why mankind is gold crazy, and discovers there's a hard-wired reason we lust after it, and a microscopic explanation for why it shines. We reveal how the science behind our favourite metal drives men across oceans and continents, and how a difference in the way it's used in each hemisphere leads to a clash of civilizations.
#14 - Brain Boost
Season 1 - Episode 7 - Aired Nov 23, 2013
Behind that cup of coffee or tea is a global story that goes back to the collision that created the Moon and the evolution of plant and animal life. The key is the molecule that gives your morning cup its kick: caffeine, the most popular drug in history. This is the story of how a plant poison became our drug of choice, and stimulated revolutions around the planet.
#15 - Below Zero
Season 1 - Episode 4 - Aired Nov 9, 2013
Reveals how cold has the power to turn men into Barbarians, spark history's longest running war, and create the concept of race. After the heat of the Big Bang, cold creates the Universe and the planet as we know it. For thousands of years on Earth, cold controls the fate of our species by changing our bodies, our skin, and even the metals we use to fight our wars. When we finally take control of the cold, we learn to dominate the planet.
#16 - Deadly Meteors
Season 1 - Episode 12 - Aired Dec 7, 2013
Impacts from space have created our planet and just about everything in it. Like celestial supply ships, they brought in water, metal, and maybe even life. They made our moon and sculpted the geography of our planet, but just as they created everything we know, they will likely snuff it all out in a fiery burst of destruction.
#17 - Defeating Gravity
Season 1 - Episode 6 - Aired Nov 16, 2013
Flight takes more than wings. We need the right kind of air, the perfect materials cooked up over billions of years, and cosmic forces that are just right for us to leave the ground without tumbling off into space. Big History reveals how planet Earth is the perfect planet for flight.