dhr. dr. F. (Fred) Spier


  • Faculteit der Natuurwetenschappen, Wiskunde en Informatica
    IIS
  • 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 History Course' at Amsterdam University College since 2009. As of August 2014 Spier is president of the International Big History Association (IBHA).

 

Spier has performed research in a wide range of academic fields: the genetic manipulation of plants in the 1970s; religion, politics, and ecology in Peru in the 1980s and early 1990s; and structuring and explaining big history from 1993 until today.

 

Over the past twenty years Spier has been  developed a general paradigm for big history. This model is now increasingly adopted by other big history scholars, most notably in the college textbook Big History: Between Nothing and Everything (2014) by David Christian, Cynthia Brown and Craig Benjamin and the secondary school program Big History Project sponsored by Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates.

 

Spier's trend-setting book he Structure of Big History (1996) offered the first contours of this approach, while his ground-breaking article How Big History Works: Energy Flows and the Rise and Demise of Complexity (2005), downloadable below, presented the first general outline of his explanation of big history, which is valid for all scales of history.

 

Spier's book Big History and the Future of Humanity, Wiley-Blackwell (2010) offers an improved and much more detailed version of this argument, including an entire research agenda for big history. This book has received worldwide acclaim. The paperback version was released in January 2011. It is now also in use as a textbook for university big history courses around the world. A translation in Spanish was published in 2011, while translations into Chinese and Arabic are currently in production.

 

The improved and expanded Second Edition is planned for publication in April 2015. This edition incorporates the latest academic views while adding discussions of important themes in 23 text boxes, ranging from the 'Origin of Cosmic World Views' to 'How Violent Have Humans Been?'

 

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 as well as short big history training courses for businesses and other organizations. He is also further defining a big history research agenda.

 

In addition to elaborating his general approach to big history, Spier is now investigating a number of big history themes, including the history of big history; the origins of morality; early navigation and mapping the world and the skies; and a little big history of Speyer, Germany.

 

Over the past 20 years Spier has promoted big history in countries all around the world. He currently serves as President of the International Big History Association (IBHA).

 

Spier was Program Chair of the IBHA inaugural conference held in August 2012 at Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids / Allendale, and a member of the Program Committee for the August 2014 IBHA conference at Dominican University of California at San Rafael, where he delivered the final keynote speech '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.

 

Books
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.

 

Memberships
2010 -  : Founding Vice President of the International Big History Association and, as of August 2014, its second President.
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.

 

Web sites

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