Big History: Seeing Human History as a Turning Point in the History of the Biosphere


Friday, 16 March, 2018 -
15:00 to 16:00


Mathews Theatre D, Mathews Building


School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences

The UNSW Evolution & Ecology Research Centre is committed to the project that E.O. Wilson famously described as “Consilience”: researching the problems that straddle multiple disciplines. Big History is also committed to Consilience, to moving beyond the limiting idea that the history discipline is self-contained and isolated from the sciences. Prof David Christian will argue that today, in the Anthropocene Epoch it is vital to understand how human history is embedded within, and emerges from the history of the biosphere. Only by looking across many different disciplines this can we fully appreciate the significance of the current moment in planetary history, the moment when a Biosphere may be turning into a Noösphere, a planet that is under management. Understanding this is vital if we are to provide some guidance for a younger generation which will face the colossal global challenges of the next fifty years.


David Christian was originally a historian of Russia and the Soviet Union, but since 1989 he has taught courses about the past on the largest possible scale. "Big History" surveys the history of the entire universe so it provides a way of embedding human history within the histories of the planet and the universe as a whole. Big History is inherently inter-disciplinary. He has published on both Russian history and big history. In the next few months his new history of Russia and Inner Eurasia will be published by Wiley/Blackwell in the USA, and a new history of the Universe, entitled "Origin Story" will be published by Penguin, UK. David Christian's 2011 TED talk, "A History of the World in 18 minutes", which launched the Big History Project, has been seen by more than 8 million viewers."