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Honoursmodule: Big History

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* course also open for first year students


Esther Quaedackers

Entry requirements 

First, 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 overview of big history;
  • Describe the major processes underlying big history;
  • Critically examine what the observations and interpretations are our ideas about these processes are based on;
  • Relate big history to smaller subjects, including processes that are important in our current world;
  • Use big history as a platform for creative, out-of-the-box thinking.


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 world around you, including the challenges our societies are currently facing? If you do, then the big history honours course is right for you.
In this course, online seminars will guide you on a journey that covers all of history, from the Big Bang until today. During these seminars, you will also reflect on the often-unexplored connections between the various astrophysical, geological, biological and cultural aspects that shaped our world. Seminars will be based on podcasts that have been designed and recorded especially for this course and on state-of-the-art reading that explains what drove big history. Seminars will be followed by online ‘little big history’ assignments that encourage you to apply the knowledge you gained during the course to a process that is important in our current world 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
  • Work independently on project/thesis
  • Guidance/feedback moments


  • Seminar preparation (25%)
  • Seminar participation (25%)
  • Little big history assignments (50%)

Min/max participants



The schedule will be available on Datanose .

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 students participating in an Honours programme via an online registration form which will be made available on December 1, 10 am till December 5, 11 pm on this website. 

Placement will be at random and within two weeks students will hear whether they are placed for a course. 

There is NO guarantee for placement if you register after December 5, so make sure you register on time! 

For questions about registration please email to: Honours-iis@uva.nl 


The IIS strives to reflect current societal issues and challenges in the educational offer and attempts to integrate the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's) in this course. For more information about these goals, please visit the SDG's website.

Facts & Figures
Mode Honours programme
Credits 6 ECTS,
Language of instruction English
Starts in February, September