nLab cohomology





Special and general types

Special notions


Extra structure



Algebraic topology

(,1)(\infty,1)-Topos Theory

(∞,1)-topos theory

structures in a cohesive (∞,1)-topos



There are various different-looking definitions of the general notion of cohomology in different contexts, some familiar, some more exotic. Most, if not all, of these notions of cohomology are special cases of — and in many instances special concrete models for — the following general idea:

Cohomology is something associated to a given (∞,1)-category H\mathbf{H}. For X,AX, A two objects of H\mathbf{H}, the (degree-0) cohomology of XX with coefficients in AA is the set of connected components of the hom ∞-groupoid, hence of homotopy classes of morphisms from XX to AA in H\mathbf{H}:

H(X;A)=H 0(X;A)π 0H(X,A). H(X;A) = H^0(X;A) \coloneqq \pi_0 \mathbf{H}(X,A) \,.

The (∞,1)-category H\mathbf{H} is usually an (∞,1)-topos, where the notion of cohomology is particularly well-behaved. However, it is not uncommon to consider cohomology in other contexts, such as in stable (∞,1)-categories.

More generally, if AA is equipped with an nn-fold delooping A nA_n, then the degree-nn cohomology of XX with coefficients in AA is its degree-0 cohomology with coefficients in A nA_n:

H n(X;A)H 0(X;A n). H^n(X;A) \coloneqq H^0(X;A_n).

Every object AA has a unique nn-fold delooping when nn is a negative integer, namely its (n)(-n)-fold loop object Ω n(A)\Omega^{-n}(A). If AA has an nn-fold delooping for positive nn, then it must be an nn-monoidal group — and conversely, any nn-monoidal group has a canonical (but not unique) nn-fold delooping B nA\mathbf{B}^n A. Finally, nn could be more general than an integer; see below.

For suitable choices of H\mathbf{H}, AA, and nn, this general definition encompasses (1) the traditional (e.g. singular) cohomology of topological spaces taught in algebraic topology, (2) generalized (Eilenberg-Steenrod) cohomology, (3) non-abelian cohomology, (4) twisted cohomology, (5) group cohomology, (6) sheaf cohomology, (7) sheaf hypercohomology, and (8) equivariant cohomology. See below for explanations and discussion.

Furthermore, this general notion of cohomology also accurately captures general classification and extension problems (NSS), such as (1) principal ∞-bundles, (2) group extensions, (3) fiber ∞-bundles, and (4) twisted ∞-bundles.

A non-technical introduction to some concepts in cohomology from this perspective is at

The following section

gives a tour through the zoo of cohomology theories traditionally known, indicating how they all fit into this picture. Then the section

gives the general formal definition and discusses general properties of and constructions in cohomology theory, such as the terminology of cocycles and coboundaries of objects classified by cohomology, of characteristic classes of these objects, of Postnikov towers and Whitehead towers, and so on. In particular the section

describes additional stuff, structure, property that may be present for certain choices of coefficient objects – such as gradings , cohomology group- and ring-structures – and aspects of which are in different parts of the traditional literature often required (differently) on cohomology.

The general definition of cohomology in terms of mapping spaces in an (∞,1)-category also encompasses notions that can be considered variants of “honest” cohomology, notably that of twisted cohomology (which includes other cases such as differential cohomology) and of equivariant cohomology (with its different flavors such as Borel-equivariant and Bredon cohomology). These are discussed in the section

before the next main section

then starts going through concrete examples in detail. The reader uneasy with the abstract generality of our perspective is advised to skip ahead to this section and find from a long list of examples discussed his or her favorite traditional notion of cohomology and how it fits into the general structure.

Finally we discuss why (∞,1)-toposes are a particularly nice environment for cohomology in

Essentially nothing about this perspective on cohomology is really new, many aspects of it have been made explicit in the literature here and there. In fact, to some extent everything here is just an afterthought of the old seminal article

in the light of fully fledged (∞,1)-topos theory, of which it is effectively the seed, by noticing that this article secretly discusses precisely the homotopy categories of hypercomplete (∞,1)-toposes. At the same time, to some extent everything here is also an afterthought of the theory of cohomology in 1-categorical topos theory as reviewed for instance in

  • Ieke Moerdijk, Classifying Spaces and Classifying Topoi , section I.4

by noticing that the constructions on simplicial objects in toposes used there secretly precisely compute the (∞,1)-categorical hom-objects of an (∞,1)-topos as presented by the model structure on simplicial sheaves on the underlying site.

This and a list of other related references and historical developments is given at

About the nPOV on cohomology

As we will see in the list of examples below, large numbers of examples of notions of cohomology do happen to have a natural interpretation in terms of connected components of hom-spaces in (,1)(\infty,1)-categories. There are however some definitions of cohomology in the literature that do not fit this principle. But these tend to be wrong definitions, as illustrated by the following example.

In the literature there is a naive definition of Lie group cohomology and topological group cohomology, which is not interpretable in terms of hom-spaces in any natural (,1)(\infty,1)-category. But later it was found by Segal and then independently by Brylinski that there is a refinement of this definition, which is better behaved. This refinement, it turns out, does have an interpretation in terms of homs in an (,1)(\infty,1)-topos. This is described at group cohomology.

Tour through notions of cohomology

The statement of the above slogan is well familiar for the special case that H=\mathbf{H} = Top is the (∞,1)-topos of topological spaces. In this context for instance for AK(,n)A \coloneqq K(\mathbb{Z}, n) an Eilenberg-MacLane space, we have that for XX any topological space that

π 0H(X,K(,n))=H n(X,) \pi_0 \mathbf{H}(X,K(\mathbb{Z},n)) = H^n(X,\mathbb{Z})

coincides with the “ordinary” integral cohomology of XX, modeled as its singular cohomology.

This definition in Top alone already goes a long way. By the Brown representability theorem all cohomology theories that are called generalized (Eilenberg-Steenrod) cohomology theories are of this form, for AA a topological space that is part of a spectrum. This includes everything that is traditionally just called “a cohomology theory”, such as K-theory, elliptic cohomology, tmf, complex cobordism, etc.

Another big complex of notions of cohomology that on first sight maybe does not seem to fit into this pattern is abelian sheaf cohomology. Usually this is introduced and defined in the language of derived functors. However, derived functors are nothing but a tool, or presentation, for encoding (∞,1)-categorical hom-spaces such as H(X,A)\mathbf{H}(X,A) in cases where H\mathbf{H} is presented by a homotopical category or model category.

Indeed, it turns out that an old result from the 1960s, Verdier’s hypercovering theorem effectively shows that what was introduced as abelian sheaf cohomology is really nothing but an instance of the above general setup. A particularly clear-sighted understanding of this fact was presented in

Therein Brown considers essentially the model structure on simplicial presheaves – which today is known to be one of the standard models for ∞-stack (∞,1)-toposes H\mathbf{H} – rederives Verdier’s hypercovering theorem and shows that ordinary abelian sheaf cohomology is indeed nothing but π 0H(X,A)\pi_0 \mathbf{H}(X,A) in such an (∞,1)-topos, for the special case that the simplicial presheaf AA happens to be objectwise in the image of the Dold-Kan correspondence, i.e. for the special case that AA is a maximally abelian ∞-stack.

One can then understand various “cohomology theories” as nothing but tools for computing π 0H(X,A)\pi_0 \mathbf{H}(X,A) using the known presentations of (∞,1)-categorical hom-spaces: for instance Čech cohomology computes these spaces by finding cofibrant models for the domain XX, called Čech nerves. Dual to that, most texts on abelian sheaf cohomology find fibrant models for the codomain AA: called injective resolutions. Both algorithms in the end compute the same intrinsically defined (,1)(\infty,1)-categorical hom-space.

In other words, abelian sheaf cohomology is of the exact same nature as the familiar cohomology of topological spaces (and hence of spectra) if only we switch from the archetypical (∞,1)-topos Top to a more general ∞-stack (∞,1)-topos. And abelian sheaf cohomology in turn subsumes many special cases, such as Deligne cohomology, deRham cohomology, etale cohomology, crystalline cohomology, syntomic cohomology, etc. You name it.

But this also shows that abelian sheaf cohomology itself is just a very special case of cohomology in an \infty-stack (,1)(\infty,1)-topos: the stable or maximally abelian case. For coefficient objects AHA \in \mathbf{H} that are not maximally abelian (for instance not degreewise in the image of the Dold-Kan correspondence for sheaf cohomology) the cohomology of an \infty-stack topos is a nonabelian cohomology.

Often in the literature the term “nonabelian cohomology” is restricted to nonabelian group cohomology, which is indeed one special case. Another familiar special case is cohomology in Top with coefficients in the classifying space G\mathcal{B}G of a (possibly nonabelian) group GG (which is of course not part of a spectrum, in general). This degree 1 nonabelian cohomology classifies GG-principal bundles.

If the group GG here is generalized to a (possibly nonabelian) 2-group, the coefficient object G\mathcal{B}G gives degree 2 nonabelian cohomology in Top, which classifies nonabelian gerbes and, more generally, principal 2-bundles. The celebrate treatise by Giraud Cohomologie non abélienne is concerned with this case. In fact, Giraud considered gerbes on stacks and hence was implicitly really computing cohomology in a stack 2-topos with both the domain and the coefficient object allowed to have nontrivial homotopy groups of stacks in degree 2.

Conceptually, with higher topos theory in hand, there is no problem in generalizing nonabelian cohomology and its relation to gerbes and principal bundles further from stacks to ∞-stacks. For instance, while the discussion of spin structure on a space/∞-stack requires a 1-stack coefficient object and classifies principal bundles, and the discussion of string structure requires a 2-stack coefficient object and classifies gerbes and principal 2-bundles, the next case of fivebrane structure requires 6-stack coefficient objects and classifies principal 6-bundles. Generally, we may speak of principal ∞-bundles in any (∞,1)-topos H\mathbf{H}: these are nothing but the homotopy fibers of the corresponding (“nonabelian”) cocycles, which are just morphisms XAX \to A in H\mathbf{H}.

Various other notions of cohomology are special cases of this. For instance group cohomology is nothing but the cohomology in H=\mathbf{H} = ∞Grpd on objects X=BGX = \mathbf{B}G that are deloopings of groups. What is called nonabelian group cohomology is nothing but the general case of this where there is no restriction on the coefficient object AA. Here we can once again replace Grpd\infty Grpd – which is the (,1)(\infty,1)-topos of \infty-stacks on the point – by a more general \infty-stack (,1)(\infty,1)-topos. For instance if we take the underlying site to be Diff, the category of smooth manifolds, then the objects of H=Sh (,1)(Diff)\mathbf{H} = Sh_{(\infty,1)}(Diff) are Lie ∞-groupoids. Their cohomology is generalized group cohomology that knows about smooth structure: smooth group cohomology . In this context for instance one can give cohomological interpretations of smooth realizations of the string 2-group or the fivebrane 6-group.

Conversely, given an unconstrained (unstable) (∞,1)-category H\mathbf{H} with its general notion of nonabelian cohomology, one can systematically find its stable or abelian content by considering objects that are components of spectrum objects in H\mathbf{H}. These form the stabilization of H\mathbf{H} to a stable (∞,1)-category.

In stable homotopy theory one further considers the cohomology of spectrum objects themselves, which is an example of the notion of cohomology being used in an (∞,1)-category which is not an (∞,1)-topos. Another example is the continuous cohomology of pro-spaces or more generally of pro-objects in an (∞,1)-topos, which is important in shape theory.

There are some slight variations on the theme that cohomology is all about connected components of hom-spaces in (∞,1)-categories: by looking at homotopy fibers of such (∞,1)-categorical hom-spaces instead, one finds twisted cohomology. It can also be seen as a special case of the general definition by looking at slice (∞,1)-categories. The most prominent example is twisted K-theory: in degree 0 this is the study of the homotopy fiber of the morphism of (,1)(\infty,1)-categorical hom-space Top(,PU(n))Top(, 2U(1))Top(-,\mathcal{B}PU(n)) \to Top(-,\mathcal{B}^2 U(1)) that sends a projective unitary principal bundle (hence its associated vector bundle) to the lifting gerbe for the lift of its structure group to the full unitary group.

Another example of twisted cohomology is differential cohomology: differential cohomology refinements of abelian generalized (Eilenberg-Steenrod) cohomology theories with coefficient objects a spectrum EE is the study of the homotopy fibers of the Chern character map ch:H(X,E)Ω dR (X)π (E)ch : \mathbf{H}(X,E) \to \Omega^\bullet_{dR}(X)\otimes \pi_\bullet(E) from EE-cohomology to deRham cohomology. This classifies (abelian versions of) connections on the underlying bundles, for instance Simons-Sullivan structured bundles (vector bundles with connection).

By generalizing the notion of Chern character to richer (,1)(\infty,1)-toposes, one obtains by the same token a notion of differential cohomology in an (∞,1)-topos encoding connections on general principal ∞-bundles and associated ∞-vector bundles.


Thousand and one definitions of notions of cohomology and its variants. From the nPOV, just a single concept: an ∞-categorical hom-space in an (∞,1)-topos.


We give now the very general definition of cohomology and describe very general properties of and very general constructions in cohomology theory.

General definition

Given an (∞,1)-category H\mathbf{H}, for any two objects XX, AA of H\mathbf{H} we have the (∞,1)-categorical hom-space H(X,A)\mathbf{H}(X,A) – an ∞-groupoid. For H=Ho HH = Ho_{\mathbf{H}} the homotopy category of H\mathbf{H}, its set of connected components is π 0H(X,A)=Ho H(X,A)\pi_0 \mathbf{H}(X,A) = Ho_{\mathbf{H}}(X,A).

  • The objects (c:XA)H(X,A) (c : X \to A) \in \mathbf{H}(X,A) are called cocycles on XX with coefficients in AA;

  • if AA is understood to be equipped with the structure *A{*} \to A of a pointed object, then the cocycle X*AX \to {*} \to A is the trivial cocycle c trivc_{triv};

  • the morphisms λ:c 1c 2\lambda : c_1 \to c_2 in H(X,A)\mathbf{H}(X,A) are the coboundaries. Two cocycles connected by a coboundary are cohomologous. (More specifically, a cocycle cohomologous to the trivial cocycle is called a coboundary.)

  • the equivalence classes [c]π 0H(X,A)[c] \in \pi_0 \mathbf{H}(X,A) of cohomologous are the cohomology classes;

  • the set of cohomology classes is the AA-cohomology set

    H(X,A)Ho H(X,A)=π 0H(X,A) H(X,A) \coloneqq Ho_{\mathbf{H}}(X,A) = \pi_0 \mathbf{H}(X,A)

    of XX.

  • for cH(X,A)c \in \mathbf{H}(X,A) a cocycle on XX and kH(A,B)k \in \mathbf{H}(A,B) a cocycle on AA, the class of the composite cocycle

    [k(c)][XcAkB]H(X,B) [k(c)] \coloneqq [X \stackrel{c}{\to} A \stackrel{k}{\to} B] \in H(X,B)

    is the characteristic class of cc with respect to kk.

Remark Notice that there is no notion of cochain in this general setup. What are called cochains are specifically components of certain specific models for H(X,A)\mathbf{H}(X,A). More on this in the section on abelian cohomology below.

Objects classified by cohomology

For g:XAg : X \to A a cocycle, one says that its homotopy fiber PXP \to X is the object classified by the cohomology class.

In an (∞,1)-topos, such an object usually has the interpretation of a principal ∞-bundle. Special cases of this are principal bundles, gerbes, principal 2-bundles, etc. If the domain object XX itself is a group object, then PXP \to X is a group extension. For that reason in abelian cohomology H(X,A)\mathbf{H}(X,A) is often denoted Ext(X,A)Ext(X,A) and a cocycle is then called an Ext.

Characteristic classes

For AHA \in \mathbf{H} some coefficient object and {c n:AE n}\{c_n : A \to E_n\} a collection of cocycles on the coefficient object with values in objects E nHE_n \in \mathbf{H} – typically chosen to be Eilenberg-MacLane objects – composition of morphism in H\mathbf{H} induces a map of cohomology ∞-groupoids

c n:H(X,A)H(X,E n) c_n : \mathbf{H}(X,A) \to \mathbf{H}(X,E_n)

and hence of cohomology classes

c n:H(X,A)H(X,E n) c_n : H(X,A) \to H(X,E_n)

that sends each AA-cocycle gg to its characteristic class c n(g)c_n(g). Typically, for PXP \to X, the principal ∞-bundle classified by gg, one speaks of the characteristic class c n(P)c_n(P) of this principal \infty-bundle.

Extra structure on cohomology

Extra stuff, structure, property on the coefficient object AA will induce corresponding stuff, structure or property on the cohomology sets H(X,A)H(X,A).


Integer grading

In the case that the coefficient object AA admits (n)(n \in \mathbb{N}) deloopings to objects B nA\mathbf{B}^n A one writes

H n(X,A)π 0H(X,B nA) H^n(X,A) \coloneqq \pi_0 \mathbf{H}(X, \mathbf{B}^n A)

and speaks of AA-cohomology in degree nn.

Similarly, looping defines negative degree cohomology:

H n(X,A)π 0H(X,Ω nA). H^{-n}(X,A) \coloneqq \pi_0 \mathbf{H}(X, \Omega^n A) \,.

Because loop space objects are defined by an (,1)(\infty,1)-pullback and the (∞,1)-categorical hom – as any hom-functor – preserves limits in its second argument, this is the same as

H n(X,A) π 0Ω nH(X,A) π nH(X,A).. \begin{aligned} H^{-n}(X,A) &\simeq \pi_0 \Omega^n \mathbf{H}(X, A) \\ & \simeq \pi_n \mathbf{H}(X,A) \,. \end{aligned} \,.

This means that all the non-positive degree cohomology identifies with the homotopy groups of the ∞-groupoid H(X,A)\mathbf{H}(X,A).

Exotic gradings

In many cases, the (∞,1)-category H\mathbf{H} is related to a symmetric monoidal (∞,1)-category S\mathbf{S} via a symmetric monoidal adjunction

Σ :HS:Ω \Sigma^\infty: \mathbf{H} \leftrightarrows \mathbf{S}: \Omega^\infty

which is usually some form of stabilization of H\mathbf{H}. Cohomology in H\mathbf{H} with coefficients in objects of the form Ω A\Omega^\infty A, or more generally cohomology in S\mathbf{S}, is then naturally graded by the Picard group Pic(S)Pic(\mathbf{S}) of S\mathbf{S}:

H (X,A)=π 0S(X,A),Pic(S). H^\star(X, A)=\pi_0\mathbf{S}(X,\star\otimes A), \quad \star\in Pic(\mathbf{S}).

The point of the Picard-grading is that it accounts for all possible suspension isomorphisms.

For example, there is always the (∞,1)-category S=Stab(H)\mathbf{S}=Stab(\mathbf{H}) of spectrum objects in H\mathbf{H}. The subgroup Pic(S)\mathbb{Z}\subset Pic(\mathbf{S}) consisting of the spheres S nΣ n(1)S^n \coloneqq \Sigma^n(1) gives the integer grading discussed above in the special case when the coefficient object is a spectrum object. This is discussed further below.

Examples where some subgroup of the Picard group larger than \mathbb{Z} is commonly used include:

  • H\mathbf{H} is the (∞,1)-category of GG-spaces for a compact Lie group GG and S\mathbf{S} is equivariant stable homotopy theory. In this context cohomology theories are usually graded by the real representation ring RO(G)RO(G) which is a subgroup of Pic(S)Pic(\mathbf{S}).

  • H=Grpd/X\mathbf{H}=\infty Grpd/X and S=[X,EMod]\mathbf{S}=[X,E Mod] for some E E_\infty-ring EE. The Picard-graded cohomology H (1,E)H^\star(1,E) is the same as the twisted EE-cohomology of XX.

  • H=Grpd\mathbf{H}=\infty Grpd and S\mathbf{S} is the K(n)K(n)-local stable homotopy category for some prime pp and some n1n\geq 1. In this case the Picard group contains, among other things, a copy of the p-adic integers p\mathbb{Z}_p.

  • H\mathbf{H} is the motivic homotopy category over a base scheme SS and S\mathbf{S} is the associated stable motivic homotopy category. The Picard group contains a copy of ×K 0(S)\mathbb{Z}\times K_0(S), and one usually considers bigraded cohomology theories via the subgroup ×\mathbb{Z}\times\mathbb{Z} (with a re-indexing). This recovers for example the bigrading in motivic cohomology.

Abelian and stable cohomology

Often the coefficient object AHA \in \mathbf{H} for cohomology is taken to be indefinitely deloopable – an \infty-loop space object – or, more generally, a component of a spectrum object in the stabilization Stab(H)Stab(\mathbf{H}) of the (∞,1)-topos H\mathbf{H} to a stable (∞,1)-category.

In terms of the stabilization adjunction

HΣ Ω Stab(H) \mathbf{H} \stackrel{\stackrel{\Omega^\infty}{\leftarrow}}{\underset{\Sigma^\infty}{\to}} Stab(\mathbf{H})

this means that AA is of the form

A=E nΩ Σ nE A = E_n \coloneqq \Omega^\infty \circ \Sigma^n E

for some spectrum object EE, and some integer nn (not necessarily a natural number).

One single such spectrum object this way yields a \mathbb{Z}-graded tower of cohomologies

H n(X,E)π 0H(X,Ω Σ nE) H^n(X, E) \coloneqq \pi_0 \mathbf{H}(X, \Omega^\infty \Sigma^n E)

which taken together, denoted H (X,E)H^\bullet(X,E) is called a cohomology theory. For the case that H=\mathbf{H} = Top this special case of cohomology is called generalized (Eilenberg-Steenrod) cohomology.

Cohomology groups and rings

If AA happens to be a group object in H\mathbf{H} then the cohomology set naturally inherits the structure of a group and then H(X;A)H(X;A) is called the AA-cohomology group of XX. If AA is at least an E 2E_2 object, then H(X;A)H(X;A) is abelian.

This is in particular necessarily the case if AA is a component of a spectrum object in abelian cohomology in the sense described above, i.e. of the form Ω Σ nA\Omega^\infty \Sigma^n A'.

If the corresponding spectrum object AA' in addition carries the structure of a ring — in which case it is a ring spectrum or E-∞ ring — then we speak of a multiplicative cohomology theory and the cohomology groups H (X,A)H^\bullet(X,A) form a graded ring, the cohomology ring of XX with coefficients in AA.


Twisted cohomology

What is called twisted cohomology is just the intrinsic cohomology of slice toposes. In particular if all possible twisting groups are allowed at once, and once considers twisted generalized cohomology theories then this is the intrinsic cohomology of tangent (∞,1)-toposes.

Differential cohomology

A special type of characteristic class is the Chern character. The twisted cohomology with respect to the Chern character is differential cohomology.

Equivariant cohomology

All flavors of GG-equivariant cohomology are obtained from the cohomology of the slice (∞,1)-topos H BG\mathbf{H}_{\mathbf{B}G} (which encapsulates ∞-actions)

representation theory and equivariant cohomology in terms of (∞,1)-topos theory/homotopy type theory (FSS 12 I, exmp. 4.4):

homotopy type theoryrepresentation theory
pointed connected context BG\mathbf{B}G∞-group GG
dependent type on BG\mathbf{B}GGG-∞-action/∞-representation
dependent sum along BG*\mathbf{B}G \to \astcoinvariants/homotopy quotient
context extension along BG*\mathbf{B}G \to \asttrivial representation
dependent product along BG*\mathbf{B}G \to \asthomotopy invariants/∞-group cohomology
dependent product of internal hom along BG*\mathbf{B}G \to \astequivariant cohomology
dependent sum along BGBH\mathbf{B}G \to \mathbf{B}Hinduced representation
context extension along BGBH\mathbf{B}G \to \mathbf{B}Hrestricted representation
dependent product along BGBH\mathbf{B}G \to \mathbf{B}Hcoinduced representation
spectrum object in context BG\mathbf{B}Gspectrum with G-action (naive G-spectrum)

under base change down to the base (∞,1)-topos H\mathbf{H}:

cohomology in the presence of ∞-group GG ∞-action:

Borel equivariant cohomologyAAAAAA\phantom{AAA}\leftarrow\phantom{AAA}general (Bredon) equivariant cohomologyAAAAAA\phantom{AAA}\rightarrow\phantom{AAA}non-equivariant cohomology with homotopy fixed point coefficients
AAH(X G,A)AA\phantom{AA}\mathbf{H}(X_G, A)\phantom{AA}trivial action on coefficients AAAA[X,A] GAA\phantom{AA}[X,A]^G\phantom{AA}trivial action on domain space XXAAH(X,A G)AA\phantom{AA}\mathbf{H}(X, A^G)\phantom{AA}

Relative cohomology

For the moment see


By abstract duality, cohomology is dual to homotopy (as an operation):

the cohomology of XX with coefficients in AA is the homotopy of AA with co-coefficients in XX.

Notably, when H\mathbf{H} is an (∞,1)-topos there is for each nn \in \mathbb{N} a sphere object? S nS^n in H\mathbf{H}.

For any AHA \in \mathbf{H} the set H(S n,A)H(S^n, A) is equivalently

  1. the AA-cohomology of S nS^n.

  2. the nnth homotopy group of AA.

One could argue that a more suitable term for cohomology is cohomotopy. Unfortunately, of course, this term is traditonally used only for a very special case of what it should mean generally…


Long list of examples

Classes of special cases of cohomologies with their own entries include

Chain cohomology

The probably most familiar kind of cohomology is that of a cochain complex dual to a chain complex.

Using the Dold-Kan correspondence chain complexes are understood as particular spectra, i.e. spectrum objects in the archetypical (∞,1)-topos ∞Grpd of ∞-groupoids. Positively graded chain complexes (the “connective” ones) are just ∞-groupoids with the structure of a strict abelian group object: as Kan complexes these are abelian simplicial groups.

This way, ordinary chain cohomology is seen to be a special case of general cohomology in H=\mathbf{H} = ∞Grpd. A more detailed discussion of how from this perspective the usual formulas for cochains and cocycles appear is at

Cohomology in TopTop

The archetypical example for nonabelian cohomology theory is the (∞,1)-topos H=H = Top, the (∞,1)-category of topological spaces. For XX and AA two topological spaces, the cohomology classes of XX with values in AA are the homotopy classes of continuous maps XAX \to A. For A=K(a,n)A = K(a,n) an Eilenberg-Mac Lane space with aa an abelian group this reproduces “ordinary cohomology” of spaces. For n>1n \gt 1 this special case happens to be actually abelian. For A=BGA = B G a classifying space of a topological group GG, this reproduces degree 1 nonabelian cohomology H 1(X,G)H^1(X,G). In general, for AA an nn-type, H(X,A)H(X,A) is topological degree-nn nonabelian cohomology.

  • The archetypical example for abelian cohomology theory is the stable (∞,1)-topos H=H = Spec, the stable (∞,1)-category of spectra. This is the case in the literature often addressed as generalized cohomology, since it generalizes the entities specified by the Eilenberg–Steenrod axioms. But really, the general concept of cohomology is more general than this “generalized cohomology”.

    • “ordinary” cohomology is cohomology with coefficients in the Eilenberg-MacLane spectrum

    • K-theory is cohomology with coefficients in the K-theory spectrum

    • elliptic cohomology is somehow subsumed by cohomology with coefficients in tmf.

some left-over material, to be merged…

Ordinary nonabelian cohomology in degree 1 of a ‘nice’ topological space XX with values in a discrete (and possibly nonabelian) group GG can be defined as the pointed set of homotopy classes of maps of topological spaces from XX into the classifying space BGB G. The content of nonabelian cohomology is the generalization of this statement to cohomology in higher degree. The content of general nonabelian differential cohomology is moreover the generalization of nonabelian cohomology to generalized spaces with extra structure, in particular with smooth structure.

Henceforth we will refer to * spaces * meaning perhaps some generalization or restriction, e.g. smooth spaces, and occasionally specify the nature of the generalization. For spaces XX,AA, we denote by (X,A)=Maps(X,A)\mathcal{H}(X,A) = \mathrm{Maps}(X,A) the (,0)(\infty,0)-category of maps from XX to AA. To emphasize the relation to cohomology, we name these maps as cocycles and refer to (X,A)=Maps(X,A)\mathcal{H}(X,A) = \mathrm{Maps}(X,A) as the cohomology of X with coefficients in A: the objects in Maps(X,A)\mathrm{Maps} (X,A) are the AA-valued cocycles on XX, the morphisms are homotopies (or coboundaries) between these and the higher morphisms are homotopies between homotopies, etc. The connected components in Map(X,A)\mathrm{Map}(X,A) are the cohomology classes, H(X,A)=π 0Map(X,A)H(X,A)=\pi_0 \mathrm{Map}(X,A). These are the sets of morphisms in the homotopy category HH of \mathcal{H}.

For instance for GG an ordinary abelian group and XX a nice topological space, the choice A=K(G,n)A = K(G,n) (an Eilenberg-Mac Lane space) yields the ordinary cohomology H n(X,G)=H(X,K(G,n))=π 0(X,A)H^n(X,G) = H(X,K(G,n)) = \pi_0\mathcal{H}(X,A).

If AA is pointed in that it is equipped with a morphism *pt AA{}_* \overset{\mathrm{pt}_A}\rightarrow A , then (X,A)\mathcal{H}(X,A) is naturally pointed with point X *pt AA,X \to {}_* \overset{\mathrm{pt}_A}\rightarrow A, the trivial AA-cocycle on XX. In particular, if AA is the delooping, A=BGA = \mathbf{B}G, of a group-like space GG in \mathcal{H} (an \infty-group or A A_\infty-space) and if g:XBGg : X \to \mathbf{B}G is a cocycle, then the homotopy fiber of gg, i.e. the homotopy pullback PXP \to X of the point of AA in

P * X g BG \array{ P & \rightarrow & {}_* \\ \downarrow & & \downarrow \\ X & \overset{g}\rightarrow & \mathbf{B}G }

is the GG-principal bundle classified by the cocycle gg.

(,1)(\infty,1)-Sheaf-cohomology / \infty-stack-cohomology

A Grothendieck–Rezk–Lurie (∞,1)-topos is an (∞,1)-category of (∞,1)-sheaves. Its objects are often called ∞-stacks or derived stacks.

Abelian sheaf cohomology

Several familiar “cohomology theories” are not so much genuine cohomology theories as rather computational techniques for computing certain cohomology classes in an (∞,1)-category by using 1-categorical tools of homotopy coherent category theory such as model categories, derived categories and the like.

  • Čech cohomology is the technique of computing H(X,A)H(X,A) by computing 1-categorical hom-sets C(X^,A)C(\hat X,A) on resolutions of the domain object XX.

  • The technique of computing abelian sheaf cohomology by computing the derived global section functor? is similarly a technique of computing H(X,A)H(X,A) in terms of 1-categorical hom-sets C(X,A^)C(X,\hat A) into resolutions of the coefficient object (namely injective resolutions).

Zoran: I am not happy with this assertion. First of all the notion of the derived functor is fundamental and it makes sense even in setups when the injective resolutions do not exist. Abelian sheaf cohomology IS a derived functor of the global sections functor, not a specific technique to computing it. On the other hand, the injective resolutions ARE a specific technique to compute the derived functor. It is also not clear in this entry if it is about sheaves on topological spaces or on sites or some more general setup.

Urs: I have posted a reply here. Let’s sort this out, improve the entry and remove this query box here.

Nonabelian sheaf cohomology with constant coefficients

For XX a topological space and AA an ∞-groupoid, the standard way to define the nonabelian cohomology of XX with coefficients in AA is to define it as the intrinsic cohomology as seen in ∞Grpd \simeq Top:

H(X,A)π 0Top(X,|A|)π 0Func(SingX,A), H(X,A) \coloneqq \pi_0 Top(X, |A|) \simeq \pi_0 \infty Func(Sing X, A) \,,

where |A||A| is the geometric realization of AA and SingXSing X the fundamental ∞-groupoid of XX.

But both XX and AA here naturally can be regarded, in several ways, as objects of (∞,1)-sheaf (∞,1)-toposes H=Sh (,1)(C)\mathbf{H} = Sh_{(\infty,1)}(C) over nontrivial (∞,1)-sites CC. The intrinsic cohomology of such H\mathbf{H} is a nonabelian sheaf cohomology. The following discusses two such choices for H\mathbf{H} such that the corresponding nonabelian sheaf cohomology coincides with H(X,A)H(X,A) (for paracompact XX).

Petit (,1)(\infty,1)-sheaf (,1)(\infty,1)-topos

For XX a topological space and Op(X)Op(X) its category of open subsets equipped with the canonical structure of an (∞,1)-site, let

HSh (,1)(X)Sh (,1)(Op(X)) \mathbf{H} \coloneqq Sh_{(\infty,1)}(X) \coloneqq Sh_{(\infty,1)}(Op(X))

be the (∞,1)-category of (∞,1)-sheaves on XX. The space XX itself is naturally identified with the terminal object X=*Sh (,1)(X)X = * \in Sh_{(\infty,1)}(X). This is the petit topos incarnation of XX.


(LConstΓ):Sh (,1)(X)ΓLConstGrpd (LConst \dashv \Gamma) : Sh_{(\infty,1)}(X) \stackrel{\overset{LConst}{\leftarrow}}{\underset{\Gamma}{\to}} \infty Grpd

be the global sections terminal geometric morphism.

Under the constant (∞,1)-sheaf functor LConstLConst an ∞-groupoid AGrpdA \in \infty Grpd is regarded as an object LConstASh (,1)(X)LConst A \in Sh_{(\infty,1)}(X).

There is therefore the intrinsic cohomology of the (,1)(\infty,1)-topos Sh (,1)(X)Sh_{(\infty,1)}(X) with coefficients in the constant (∞,1)-sheaf on AA

H(X,A)π 0Sh (,1)(X)(X,LConstA). H'(X,A) \coloneqq \pi_0 Sh_{(\infty,1)}(X)(X, LConst A) \,.

Notice that since XX is in fact the terminal object of Sh (,1)(X)Sh_{(\infty,1)}(X) and that Sh (,1)(X)(X,)Sh_{(\infty,1)}(X)(X,-) is in fact that global sections functor, this is equivalently

π 0ΓLConstA. \cdots \simeq \pi_0 \Gamma LConst A \,.

If XX is a paracompact space, then these two definitions of nonabelian cohomology of XX with constant coefficients AGrpdA \in \infty Grpd agree:

H(X,A)π 0Grpd(SingX,A)Sh (,1)(X)(X,LConstA). H(X,A) \coloneqq \pi_0 \infty Grpd(Sing X,A) \simeq Sh_{(\infty,1)}(X)(X,LConst A) \,.

This is HTT, theorem See also (∞,1)-category of (∞,1)-sheaves for more.

In terms of covering spaces

There is an equivalence between (,1)(\infty,1)-sheaves on XX and topological spaces over XX, as described in detail at (∞,1)-sheaves and over-spaces?.

Suppose that XX is a locally compact CW complex. In particular, this implies that it is “hereditarily m-cofibrant,” i.e. every open subset of XX has the homotopy type of a CW complex. That’s what you need in order to conclude that taking sheaves of sections of spaces over XX is well-behaved homotopically, since only m-cofibrant spaces are good for mapping out of homotopically.


it is proved that the “sheaf of sections” functor

Top/X[Op(X) op,sSet] Top/X \to [Op(X)^{op},sSet]

is the right adjoint in a right Quillen embedding?, i.e. a Quillen adjunction whose derived right adjoint is fully faithful. In other words, the homotopy theory of spaces over XX embeds in the homotopy theory of (,1)(\infty,1)-sheaves on XX.

One can also identify its image as consisting of the locally constant (∞,1)-sheaves. This is a homotopical version of the identification of covering spaces with locally constant sheaves.

Furthermore, if f:XYf\colon X\to Y is a map of such spaces, then the pullback functor f *:Top/YTop/Xf^*\colon Top/Y \to Top/X agrees with the inverse image functor f *f^* for (,1)(\infty,1)-sheaves. In particular, when YY is a point and AA a space, then the constant (,1)(\infty,1)-sheaf Const(A)Const(A) is identified with (the sheaf of sections of) the space X *A=X×AX^* A = X\times A over XX. Therefore, the nonabelian cohomology of XX with coefficients in Const(A)Const(A) is the same as the maps in Top/XTop/X from XX (the terminal object of Top/XTop/X) to X *AX^* A. Since the left adjoint of X *:TopTop/XX^*:Top \to Top/X just forgets the structure map to XX, this is the same as maps in TopTop from XX to AA.

Thereby we recover Lurie’s theorem, in the case when XX is a locally compact CW complex.

Gros (,1)(\infty,1)-sheaf (,1)(\infty,1)-topos

Another alternative is to regard the space XX as an object in the gros (∞,1)-sheaf topos Sh (,1)(CartSp)Sh_{(\infty,1)}(CartSp) over the site CartSp, as described at ∞-Lie groupoid. This has the special property that it is a locally ∞-connected (∞,1)-topos, which means that the terminal geometric morphism is an essential geometric morphism

(ΠLConstΓ):Sh (,1)(CartSp)ΓLConstΠGrpd, (\Pi \dashv LConst \dashv \Gamma) : Sh_{(\infty,1)}(CartSp) \stackrel{\overset{\Pi}{\to}}{\stackrel{\overset{LConst}{\leftarrow}}{\underset{\Gamma}{\to}}} \infty Grpd \,,

with the further left adjoint Π\Pi to LConstLConst being the intrinsic path ∞-groupoid functor. The intrinsic nonabelian cohomology in there also coincides with nonabelian cohomology in Top; even the full cocycle ∞-groupoids are equivalent:


For paracompact XX we have an equivalence of cocycle ∞-groupoids

Sh (,1)(CartSp)(X,LConstA)Top(X,|A|) Sh_{(\infty,1)}(CartSp)(X, LConst A) \simeq Top(X, |A|)

and hence in particular an isomorphism on cohomology

H(X,A)π 0Sh (,1)(CartSp)(X,LConstA) H(X,A) \simeq \pi_0 Sh_{(\infty,1)}(CartSp)(X, LConst A)

The key point is that for paracompact XX, the nerve theorem asserts that Π(X)\Pi(X) is weak homotopy equivalent to SingXSing X, the standard fundamental ∞-groupoid of XX. This is discussed in detail in the section geometric realization at path ∞-groupoid.

Using this, the statement follows by the (∞,1)-adjunction (ΠLConst)(\Pi \dashv LConst), that is discussed in detail at Unstructured homotopy ∞-groupoid.

Motivic cohomology

Motivic cohomology of a scheme XX can be described as the cohomology of the Zariski (∞,1)-topos of XX with coefficients in particular spectrum objects called motivic complexes.

Hochschild and cyclic cohomology

Hochschild cohomology

is the cohomology H(X,C)\mathbf{H}(\mathcal{L}X , C) of free loop space objects X\mathcal{L}X in a derived stack (∞,1)-topos H\mathbf{H} with coefficients in quasicoherent ∞-stacks of modules CC. There is a natural action of the circle S 1S^1 on the free loop space object X\mathcal{L}X and the corresponding S 1S^1-equivariant cohomology is cyclic cohomology.

Algebraic K-theory

K-theory in its general form of algebraic K-theory is a way of turning a stable (∞,1)-category (which may be the derived category induced by an abelian category or Quillen exact category) into a spectrum.

Accordingly, an ∞-stack with values in stable (,1)(\infty,1)-categories induces a spectrum valued \infty-stack after passing to its K-theory. Homming objects XX into these spectrum-valued \infty-stacks then produces the corresponding K-cohomology of XX.

This, too, goes back all the way to BrownAHT, where in the second part the homotopy categories of spectrum-valued \infty-stacks is considered.

Twisted generalized bivariant cohomology

twisted generalized cohomology theory is conjecturally ∞-categorical semantics of linear homotopy type theory:

linear homotopy type theorygeneralized cohomology theoryquantum theory
linear type(module-)spectrum
multiplicative conjunctionsmash product of spectracomposite system
dependent linear typemodule spectrum bundle
Frobenius reciprocitysix operation yoga in Wirthmüller context
dual type (linear negation)Spanier-Whitehead duality
invertible typetwistprequantum line bundle
dependent sumgeneralized homology spectrumspace of quantum states (“bra”)
dual of dependent sumgeneralized cohomology spectrumspace of quantum states (“ket”)
linear implicationbivariant cohomologyquantum operators
exponential modalityFock space
dependent sum over finite homotopy type (of twist)suspension spectrum (Thom spectrum)
dualizable dependent sum over finite homotopy typeAtiyah duality between Thom spectrum and suspension spectrum
(twisted) self-dual typePoincaré dualityinner product
dependent sum coinciding with dependent productambidexterity, semiadditivity
dependent sum coinciding with dependent product up to invertible typeWirthmüller isomorphism
( ff *)(\sum_f \dashv f^\ast)-counitpushforward in generalized homology
(twisted-)self-duality-induced dagger of this counit(twisted-)Umkehr map/fiber integration
linear polynomial functorcorrespondencespace of trajectories
linear polynomial functor with linear implicationintegral kernel (pure motive)prequantized Lagrangian correspondence/action functional
composite of this linear implication with daggered-counit followed by unitintegral transformmotivic/cohomological path integral
traceEuler characteristicpartition function

Tools for computing cohomology

Various notions called “cohomology” in the literature are not so much specific examples of cohomology theories (specific choices of ambient (∞,1)-toposes) as rather specific tools or algorithms for constructing H(X,A)\mathbf{H}(X,A).

Čech cohomology

For the moment see

ExtExt-functor and derived global-sections functor

Using a model category presentation for H\mathbf{H} one can compute H(X,A)\mathbf{H}(X,A) using the derived functor of the hom-functor: called the Ext functor.

Specifically for the model structure on simplicial sheaves and XX representable, one has by Yoneda lemma that Hom(X,A)A(X)Hom(X,A) \simeq A(X) which is often written as Γ(A,X)\simeq \Gamma(A,X) and called the global section functor Γ(A,)\Gamma(A,-) applied to XX. Accordingly its derived functor is another way to think of H(X,A)\mathbf{H}(X,A).

Monadic cohomology


Dependence on the ambient \infty-category

Above in the definition it says that cohomology is hom ∞-groupoids in some ambient (∞,1)-category. This is a very general definition. Often (and certainly historically) one is interested in more restrictive cases where certain properties of these hom \infty-groupoids are required. These in turn correspond to extra properties of the ambient (∞,1)-category.

Here we discuss which properties of the ambient (,1)(\infty,1)-category imply which properties of its internal notion of cohomology.

property of ambient (∞,1)-category\Rightarrowproperty of cohomology
(∞,1)-toposequivalent to principal ∞-bundles
stable (∞,1)-category\mathbb{Z}-graded

In (,1)(\infty,1)-toposes

The notion of cohomology is particularly interesting within an (∞,1)-topos, and several of the definitions above are directly motivated by this setting.

Apart from there being cocycles and coboundaries, in order to speak of cohomology we tend to require these to do something: namely to classify something.

Cocycles on some object XX do come with a notion of classification of certain structures over XX in a (,1)(\infty, 1)-topos, as described in detail at principal ∞-bundle. As discussed in the proof there, for that classification to work, however, one needs

in the ambient (∞,1)-category.

Pullbacks are needed in order to obtain the principal ∞-bundle classified by a cocycle (as its homotopy fiber), universal colimits and effective group objects are needed in order to show that every principal \infty-bundle does come from a cocycle this way.

But this list of properties is essentially that of the (∞,1)-Giraud axioms that characterize those (,1)(\infty,1)-categories that are (,1)(\infty,1)-toposes.

… needs to be expanded…

The relation between homology, cohomology and homotopy:

[S n,][S^n,-][,A][-,A]()A(-) \otimes A
category theorycovariant homcontravariant homtensor product
homological algebraExtExtTor
enriched category theoryendendcoend
homotopy theoryderived hom space Hom(S n,)\mathbb{R}Hom(S^n,-)cocycles Hom(,A)\mathbb{R}Hom(-,A)derived tensor product () 𝕃A(-) \otimes^{\mathbb{L}} A

The ingredients of homology and cohomology:

H n=Z n/B nH_n = Z_n/B_n(chain-)homology(cochain-)cohomologyH n=Z n/B nH^n = Z^n/B^n
C nC_nchaincochainC nC^n
Z nC nZ_n \subset C_ncyclecocycleZ nC nZ^n \subset C^n
B nC nB_n \subset C_nboundarycoboundaryB nC nB^n \subset C^n

See also


Early references on (co)homology

The original references on chain homology/cochain cohomology and ordinary cohomology in the form of cellular cohomology:

  • Andrei Kolmogoroff, Über die Dualität im Aufbau der kombinatorischen Topologie, Recueil Mathématique 1(43) (1936), 97–102. (mathnet)

A footnote on the first page reads as follows, giving attribution to Alexander 35a, 35b:

Die Resultate dieser Arbeit wurden für den Fall gewöhnlicher Komplexe vom Verfasser im Frühling und im Sommer 1934 erhalten und teilweise an der Internationalen Konferenz für Tensoranalysis (Moskau) im Mai 1934 vorgetragen. Die hier dargestellte allgemeinere Theorie bildete den Gegenstand eines Vortrages, den der Verfasser an der Internationalen Topologischen Konferenz (Moskau, September 1935) hielt; bei letzterer Gelegenheit erfuhr er, dass ein grosser Teil dieser Resultate im Falle von Komplexen indessen von Herrn Alexander erhalten worden ist. Vgl. die inzwischen erschienenen Noten von Herrn Alexander in den «Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.A.», 21, (1935), 509—512. Herr Alexander trug über seine Resultate ebenfalls an der Moskauer Topologischen Konferenz vor. Verallgemeinerungen für abgeschlossene Mengen und die Konstruktion eines Homologieringes für Komplexe und abgeschlossene Mengen, über welche der Verfasser ebenso an der Tensorkonferenz 1934 vorgetragen hat, werden in einer weiteren Publikation dargestellt. Diese weitere Begriffsbildungen sind übrigens ebenfalls von Herrn Alexander gefunden und teilweise in den erwähnten Noten publiziert.

The term “cohomology” was introduced by Hassler Whitney in

See also

The notion of singular cohomology is due to

The notion of monadic cohomology via canonical resolutions:

The general abstract perspective on cohomology (subsuming sheaf cohomology, hypercohomology, non-abelian cohomology and indications of Whitehead-generalized cohomology) was essentially established in:

For more on the pre-history of the notion of cohomology see

A bunch of survey information on types of cohomoloy theories is kept here:


The general abstract perspective on cohomology as highlighted in the text above was essentially established in:

but probably known in one form or other before that.

This article establishes that

are naturally special cases of one single concept: that of hom-sets

H(X,A)Ho SSh(X,A) H(X,A) \coloneqq Ho_{SSh}(X,A)

in the homotopy category of ∞-groupoid-valued sheaves.

The only fundamental new addition to this insight that is available now and was not available in 1973 is that

This is propositon in Jacob Lurie‘s Higher Topos Theory and builds on the fundamental work by K. Brown, Joyal and Jardine and others on the model structure on simplicial presheaves.

For a motivation of these definitions from the point of view of cohomology as a homotopy hom-set of \infty-stacks see for instance the introductory pages of

The general abstract picture of cohomology as connected components of mapping spaces in (∞,1)-toposes is the topic of section 7.2.2 of:

Notice that the discussion there is, as often in the literature, given from the perspective of a petit topos, i.e. where one thinks of the (∞,1)-topos 𝒳\mathcal{X} as that of ∞-stacks on a given space XX (instead of as a gros topos of all generalized spaces, as we do in the above entry). Accordingly then from that perspective one wants to study the cohomology of XX itself, which corresponds to the terminal object in the (,1)(\infty,1)-topos. Accordingly, the cohomology in that section 7.2.2 is defined for the terminal coefficient object and for an Eilenberg-MacLane object K(A,n)K(A,n):

H n(𝒳,A)π 0𝒳(*,K(A,n)) H^n(\mathcal{X},A) \coloneqq \pi_0\mathcal{X}({*}, K(A,n))


A comprehensive account of the full non-abelian case and its classification of GG-principal ∞-bundles, GG-∞-gerbes and the corresponding twisted cohomology is in

with generalization to equivariant cohomology in

and with discussion of the Chern-Dold character on cohomology understood in this generality:

Another reference with a discussion of cohomology in the general sense discussed above, using tools of model category theory for simplicial objects, is:

  • Brian Conrad, Cohomological descent (pdf)

Last revised on August 17, 2023 at 13:19:33. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.