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Honoursmodule: Big History


Esther Quaedackers

Entry requirements 

Second and Third year bachelor students participating in an honours programme.

Recommended prior knowledge


Learning Objectives

At the end of the course you will be able to:

  • Construct an evidence-based overview of the history of the cosmos, Earth, life and human societies;
  • Reflect on some of the major driving forces behind that history;
  • Examine how the histories of the cosmos, Earth, life and human societies are intertwined and have influenced each other;
  • Examine how these histories have jointly affected important aspects of our current world;
  • And while doing so, use big history as a platform for creative, out-of-the-box, interdisciplinary thinking about societal challenges.


Would you like to know how everything around you has become the way it is today? How the histories of the cosmos, life, Earth and human societies have influenced each other and have jointly shaped important aspects of the world you live in now? And would you like to use that knowledge to develop a better understanding of the challenges our societies are currently facing? If you do, then the big history honours course is right for you.

In this course, seminars will guide you on a journey that covers all of history, from the Big Bang until today. State-of-the-art reading will explain what drove this history. In class and in online assignments you will be stimulated to reflect on the often-unexplored connections between the various astrophysical, geological, biological and cultural aspects that shaped our world. And in a final research assignment, you will be encouraged to apply this knowledge to an important societal challenge and think about this in a creative and interdisciplinary way. While doing so, you will also reflect on what big history might mean for your future.

Class contents

  • Seminars
  • Selfstudy


  • In-class participation
  • Online assignments
  • Research assignment

Min/max participants



Check Datanose (schedule may change)

Study material

  • Fred Spier (2015). Big History and the Future of Humanity (2nd edition). Wiley.
  • Online syllabus that includes a variety of videos and reading


Registration is possible for second year and higher students participating in an Honours programme from June 6, 2019 10.00 till June 11, 2019 23.00 through the online registration form that will appear on Honoursmodules IIS.

Placement will be at random. If there are still spots open after the application deadline, students will still be able to register.

For questions: please contact Honours-iis@uva.nl 

Honoursmodule: Big History
Vorm Honoursonderwijs
Studielast 6 EC,
Voertaal Engels
Start September