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The Aims of Big History


Turnbull, P, The Aims of Big History, History Compass, 13, (7) pp. 349-358. ISSN 1478-0542 (2015) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

DOI: doi:10.1111/hic3.12242


Big History studies the history of humankind within the historical time scales of geological and biological history. It does so to understand how powerful forces and factors at work on these large time-scales have shaped our history. It focuses particularly on how societies throughout theworld have responded tomajor environmental, economic and social changes. David Christian and other practitioners of Big History hold that although we have become less constrained since the end of the Palaeolithic era by our biology, our life-ways, forms of social organization and culture have continued to be inf luenced by our biology and by the play of large-scale and long-term natural forces, notably our planetís weather and ecological systems. In this article, I discuss Big Historyís particular focus on our development of social complexity and technological innovations in response to our energy needs. I also consider Big Historyís emphasis on our evolution of symbolic communication, drawing attention to the disinclination of practitioners of Big History to adopt rigorously Darwinian interpretations of our cultural and social evolution. The article concludes by way of brief comments on David Christianís championing of Big History as a return to universal history and some personal brief observations on teaching Big History.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:History, Heritage and Archaeology
Research Group:Historical studies
Research Field:Historical studies not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Culture and Society
Objective Group:Understanding past societies
Objective Field:Understanding past societies not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Turnbull, P (Professor Paul Turnbull)
ID Code:103403
Year Published:2015
Deposited By:School of Humanities
Deposited On:2015-10-08
Last Modified:2018-03-08

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