Big History


mw. ir. E. Quadeackers

dr. F. Spier 

Learning goals

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

  • Construct an overview of big history;
  • Critically examine what the observations and interpretations are the overview is based on;
  • Summarize the major mechanisms underlying big history;
  • Relate big history to smaller subjects, including aspects of the world around us;
  • 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 now? The big history course provides you with an answer, by offering an integrated overview of all known history, from the Big Bang up until the development of societies today. In 16 masterclasses a variety of experts, ranging from astrophysicists to social scientists, will take you on a journey that explains how the most elementary particles, stars, planets, life and human societies around the world have developed. Masterclasses will be supported by an online course that will allow you to study at your own pace. If you take the 12 credit version of the course, there will be additional seminars that will allow you to deepen your understanding of big history. Your big history journey will end with a projection of what the future might bring and with a reflection on how your own field of expertise fits into the big picture.

Teaching format:

- Lectures

- Seminars ( in the 12 credit version of the course which only is accessible for students)


You can find the timetables of the 12 credit and 6 credit on Datanose.

Course materials

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


See here.   

Number of participants

- A maximum of 50 students will be able to participate in the 12 credit version of the course.

- Another 100 students in the 6 credit version.


  • Mid term and final exam
  • Seminar participation
  • Research assignment

Entry requirement:

Students who would like to participate in the 12 credit version of the course will need to send a brief motivation letter to Esther Quaedackers 


UvA students must register through SIS. The registration period starts 14 June 2018 until one week prior to the start of the course. The required study guide numbers are 5512BGH12Y for the 12 credit course and 5512B...... for the 6 credit course.

Students from other institutions can enrol for the 12 or the 6 credit course through the registration form. 

Contractstudents or other interested parties can only enrol for the 6 credit course through the registration form.  until two weeks prior to the start of the course.

Short-term, open uva courses
12 ECTS,
Language of instruction
Starts in

Published by  Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies