dhr. dr. F. (Fred) Spier

  • Faculteit der Natuurwetenschappen, Wiskunde en Informatica
  • POSTBUS  94224
    1090 GE  Amsterdam
    Kamernummer: C2.121
  • F.Spier@uva.nl
    T:  0205255183
    T:  0205255190

Dr. Fred Spier

Fred Spier is Senior Lecturer in Big History at the University of Amsterdam. He has organized and taught the annual 'Big History Course' at the University of Amsterdam since 1994; the annual 'Big History Lecture Series' at Eindhoven University of Technology since 2003; and the 'Big Questions in History Course' at Amsterdam University College since 2009.


Spier has performed research in a wide range of fields, varying from the genetic manipulation of plants to tracing the origin of the pursuit of happiness. Over the past twenty years he has been  developing a general paradigm for big history. His trend-setting book of 1996 The Structure of Big History offers the first contours of this approach, while his article How Big History Works: Energy Flows and the Rise and Demise of Complexity (2005) presents the first general outline.


His book Big History and the Future of Humanity, Wiley-Blackwell (2010) --which has received worldwide acclaim-- offers an improved and more detailed version of this argument. The paperback version was released in January 2011. A translation in Spanish was published in 2011, while translations into Chinese and Arabic are currently in production. Spier is now finalizing the second edition, planned to be published in 2015, incorporating new exciting academic views while adding short explanations of important themes.


To improve big history teaching while adapting it to the rapidly changing social circumstances, Spier is developing fresh big history course models and teaching tools. He is also researching several big history themes, most notably the history of big history and the emergence of morality in big history.


In addition to promoting big history in many different arenas, Spier currently serves as the founding Vice President of the International Big History Association (IBHA). He was Program Chair of the IBHA inaugural conference held in August 2012 at Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids / Allendale, and is now serving as member of the Program Committee for the August 2014 IBHA conference at Dominican University of California at San Rafael, where he is scheduled to deliver the final keynote speech titled "The Future of Big History."


University Education
In 1978 Spier received a M.Sc. in biochemistry with distinction at the University of Leiden, NL, with research experience in plant genetic engineering and the synthesis of oligonucleotides. In 1987 Spier obtained an M.A. in cultural anthropology at the Free University Amsterdam (cum laude -- the highest distinction in the Netherlands) and in 1992 a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology and social history (cum laude) at the University of Amsterdam.


Earlier Research
As part of these studies Spier executed a ten-year research project on religion, politics and ecology in Andean Peru. This led to the publication of two books. His highly-praised book Religious Regimes in Peru (1994) is a long-term study of religion and politics in Peru viewed from a world-historical perspective, while his second book San Nicolás de Zurite (1995) offers detailed anthropological and historical case studies of the same theme. For his book Religious Regimes in Peru Spier was awarded a 1993 Praemium Erasmianum Study Prize as an outstanding dissertation. In 1996 Spier presented his findings in Cusco at the Universidad Nacional San Antonio Abad during several exciting academic meetings. This led to considerable recognition of his work in Peru at the regional and national levels.


Spier, Fred. (2011). El lugar del hombre en el cosmos: La Gran Historia y  el futuro de la humanidad . Barcelona, Spain, Editorial Critica.
Grinin, Leonid E., Carneiro, Robert L., Korotayev, Andrey V. & Spier, Fred (eds.) (2011). Evolution: Cosmic, Biological,and Social. Volgograd, 'Uchitel' Publishing House.
Spier, Fred. (2010).  Big History and the Future of Humanity. Oxford, UK, Wiley-Blackwell.
Blank, Paul W. and Spier, Fred. (eds.) (2002).  Defining the Pacific: Opportunities and constraints . London, Ashgate.
Spier, Fred. (1996).  The Structure of Big History: From the Big Bang until Today . Amsterdam, Amsterdam University Press.
Spier, Fred. (1995).  San Nicolás de Zurite: Religion and daily life of a Peruvian Andean village in a changing world . Amsterdam, VU University Press.
Spier, Fred. (1994).  Religious Regimes in Peru: Religion and state development in a long-term perspective and the effects in the Andean village of Zurite . Amsterdam, Amsterdam University Press.


2010 -  : Vice President of the International Big History Association
2001 -  : Member of the editorial board of the journal Social Evolution & History
1998  : Chairing the World History Association Committee for Scholarship Reform, together with Dr. Maghan Keita, Villanova University, Villanova, Pa.
1996 - 1999 : Member of the Executive Council of the World History Association .


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