Christian, David 1946–
Christian, David 1946–
(David Gilbert Christian)
Born December 8, 1946, in New York, NY; son of John and Carol Cathay Christian; married Richarda Haidin Randall, October 17, 1969; children: Joshua Richard, Emily Carol Sophia. Education: University of Oxford, B.A., 1968, D.Phil., 1974; University of West Ontario, M.A., 1970. Hobbies and other interests: Singing, walking.
Academic and writer. Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, lecturer, 1975-81, senior lecturer, 1982-91, associate professor, 1991-2001; San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, department of history, associate professor, 2001-02, professor, 2002—; assisted in the production of the world history Web site World History for Us All.
Australian Academy of the Humanities, Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities.
Living Water: Vodka and Russian Society on the Eve of Emancipation, Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), 1990.
Imperial and Soviet Russia: Power, Privilege, and the Challenge of Modernity, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1997.
A History of Russia, Central Asia, and Mongolia, Volume 1: Inner Eurasia from Prehistory to the Mongol Empire, Blackwell (Malden, MA), 1998.
(Editor, with Craig Benjamin) Worlds of the Silk Roads, Ancient and Modern: Proceedings from the Second Conference of the Australasian Society for Inner Asian Studies (A.S.I.A.S.), Macquarie University, September 21-22, 1996, Brepols (Turnhout, Belgium), 1998.
(Editor, with Craig Benjamin) Realms of the Silk Roads, Ancient and Modern: Proceedings from the Third Conference of the Australasian Society for Inner Asian Studies (ASIAS), Macquarie University, September 18-20, 1998, Brepols (Turnhout, Belgium), 2000.
Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2004.
This Fleeting World: A Short History of Humanity, Berkshire Pub. (Great Barrington, MA), 2008.
David Christian was born December 8, 1946, in New York, New York. He was educated at the University of Oxford, earning first his undergraduate degree and later returning for his doctorate. In between, he earned his master's degree from the University of Ontario. He began his teaching career at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, where he joined the faculty as a lecturer and worked his way up to the position of associate professor. Christian eventually moved on, taking a position in the department of history at San Diego State University in California. Christian's primary areas of research and academic interest focus on the history of Russia, particularly nineteenth-century Russian history pertaining to the peasantry, and the ways in which diet and access to alcohol affected that social class. Christian has also developed an interest in environmental world history on a broad scale that includes such diverse subjects as biology, astronomy, and the ways in which these sciences are perceived in different parts of the world. Christian is a member of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities. He is the author of several books, including Bread and Salt: A Social and Economic History of Food and Drink in Russia, which he wrote with R.E.F. Smith, Living Water: Vodka and Russian Society on the Eve of Emancipation, Imperial and Soviet Russia: Power, Privilege, and the Challenge of Modernity, A History of Russia, Central Asia, and Mongolia, Volume 1: Inner Eurasia from Prehistory to the Mongol Empire, Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History, and This Fleeting World: A Short History of Humanity. Christian also served as editor, with Craig Benjamin, of Worlds of the Silk Roads, Ancient and Modern: Proceedings from the Second Conference of the Australasian Society for Inner Asian Studies (A.S.I.A.S.), Macquarie University, September 21-22, 1996, and Realms of the Silk Roads, Ancient and Modern: Proceedings from the Third Conference of the Australasian Society for Inner Asian Studies (ASIAS), Macquarie University, September 18-20, 1998.
In Living Water, Christian looks at the financial state of Russia in the wake of the dissolution of the salt tax that took place in 1812. At that point, the government was only able to replenish its coffers through three separate means; the poll tax, the money owed to the state by the peasants that it owned outright, and the fees that merchants paid in order to be able to sell vodka. Forty-five percent of the Russian government's national revenue came from this last category as of 1860, yet the government still considered this a poor deal as the merchants who sold the vodka made a larger income off of the liquor than the government did. To attempt to gain a larger portion of the revenues, Tsar Alexander II declared an excise tax in 1863, which resulted in more money being funneled into the government coffers, and from there into areas where the funding was needed, such as the modernization of the country. David Saunders, in a contribution for the English Historical Review, commented that "Christian tells his story with brio. He is not afraid, in the words of one of his own subheadings, to make vodka ‘an excuse for historical tourism.’"
Imperial and Soviet Russia was prompted in part by the collapse of the Soviet Union, an event that caused many historians to take a fresh look at the history of that region. The book offers readers an overview of the modern history of Russia, with a particular emphasis on the political turmoil of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Christian pays special attention to the class system, illustrating the roles of the different levels of society from peasant to royal. He also addresses ways in which repeated conflicts, which can be seen more clearly when examining the long-term history of Russia, have contributed to the development of the national persona. Despite his attention to overall social changes of the region, Christian pays little attention to the ethnic issues that resulted from such a vast nation swallowing such an assortment of neighboring nations, each with their own cultural heritage. Mark von Hagen, in a review for Europe-Asia Studies, noted that "authors of survey texts face very considerable obstacles in piecing together a narrative of the past that is tied together conceptually. On this score Christian's book is a success; he has a conceptual framework that is grounded in social history and serves his original purpose."
Christian's book A History of Russia, Central Asia, and Mongolia, Volume 1, which is part of the "Blackwell History of the World" series, aims to put the history of Russia and the Central Asian regions into proper perspective for modern readers. The history covers a wide range of territory, delving into various eras, and includes a look at the barbarian influxes into the area. In addition, the book addresses issues of migration and colonization. The wide scope is indicative of Christian's "big history" theory and covers major time periods, including those prior to human settlement. Gary Alan Hanson, in a review for the Canadian Journal of History, remarked that "this work is useful for world history teachers as well as for Russian, Chinese and Near Eastern historians, and also the general history reader. If this volume is typical, Blackwell is producing a series useful for the twenty-first century."
In Maps of Time, Christian introduces readers to the concept of "big history," which serves to include not just a small time frame in the life span of a nation or of a people but the entire known history back before recorded knowledge, encompassing thirteen billion years of the existence of the planet. In this way, he is able to show where human history fits into the larger scheme of natural history as a whole. Jonathan P. Roth, writing for History: Review of New Books, remarked of Christian that "he has set the stage for a new approach to history. The book demands a certain level of historical knowledge, but it is written in clear, engaging prose."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Canadian Journal of History, August 1, 1999, Gary Alan Hanson, review of A History of Russia, Central Asia, and Mongolia, Volume 1: Inner Eurasia from Prehistory to the Mongol Empire, p. 270.
English Historical Review, April 1, 1994, David Saunders, review of Living Water: Vodka and Russian Society on the Eve of Emancipation, p. 500.
Europe-Asia Studies, July 1, 1998, Mark von Hagen, review of Imperial and Soviet Russia: Power, Privilege, and the Challenge of Modernity, p. 923.
History: Review of New Books, June 22, 2004, Jonathan P. Roth, review of Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History, p. 131.
Journal of World History, March 22, 2001, Peter Jackson, review of A History of Russia, Central Asia, and Mongolia, Volume 1, p. 198; September 1, 2005, Jeremy Black, review of Maps of Time, p. 371.
Library Journal, January 1, 2004, Gregg Sapp, review of Maps of Time, p. 150.
New York Times, January 12, 2002, Emily Eakin, "For Big History, the Past Begins at the Beginning," p. 17.
Science News, March 13, 2004, review of Maps of Time, p. 175.
San Diego State University, History Department Web site,http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/ (June 18, 2008), faculty profile.
Teaching Company Web site,http://www.teach12.com/ (June 18, 2008), author profile.