Big history surveys the past on multiple scales, from those of world history to those of cosmology. It offers a coherent account of the past that is as all-embracing as traditional creation stories or universal histories, but it does so using the information generated by modern scientific scholarship. Though historians rejected such large-scale narratives for much of the twentieth century, new, scientific forms of big history began to appear in the last decades of the twentieth century. Modern big history attempts to unite into a single, coherent story modern understanding of the origins of the universe, the creation of stars and solar systems, the history of the earth and biosphere, the origins of human beings, and the course of human history. Big history courses are now taught at universities in the USA, Australia, the Netherlands and Russia; and there exists a small body of inter-disciplinary scholarship in the field. At the teaching level big history can help students understand the underlying unity of different historical disciplines, from cosmology to world history. As a body of scholarship, the central question of big history is whether there exist universal structures or patterns of change that can be found at many different scales and within many different disciplines. The initial answer appears to be that such structures do exist. Complex but fragile structures can be found at many scales; they all rely on significant flows of energy, and it seems that, over time, the most complex of these structures have become more complex. Limiting the potential impact of big history are the powerful conventions that separate different areas of scholarship in modern universities. However, big history has attracted considerable interest and if it thrives, it will have to do so by creating new institutional structures that encourage interdisciplinary teaching and research.