The Routledge Companion to Big History  book cover
1st Edition

The Routledge Companion to Big History

ISBN 9781138905818
Published August 19, 2019 by Routledge
506 Pages

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Book Description

The Routledge Companion to Big History guides readers though the variety of themes and concepts that structure contemporary scholarship in the field of big history.

The volume is divided into five parts, each representing current and evolving areas of interest to the community, including big history’s relationship to science, social science, the humanities, and the future, as well as teaching big history and ‘little big histories’. Considering an ever-expanding range of theoretical, pedagogical and research topics, the book addresses such questions as what is the relationship between big history and scientific research, how are big historians working with philosophers and religious thinkers to help construct ‘meaning’, how are leading theoreticians making sense of big history and its relationship to other creation narratives and paradigms, what is ‘little big history’, and how does big history impact on thinking about the future? The book highlights the place of big history in historiographical traditions and the ways in which it can be used in education and public discourse across disciplines and at all levels.

A timely collection with contributions from leading proponents in the field, it is the ideal guide for those wanting to engage with the theories and concepts behind big history.

Table of Contents

Introductory chapters

Introduction to The Routledge Companion to Big History

Craig Benjamin, Esther Quaedackers and David Baker

1 What is big history?

David Christian


Big history and science

2 Big history and the study of time: the underlying

temporalities of big history

Barry Wood

3 Big history and astronomy – space is big: the Fermi

paradox: its relevance to big history and the human race

Jonathan Markley

4 Big history and macro-evolution: evolutionary principles

and mechanisms at biological and social phases of the

big history

Leonid E. Grinin, Andrey Korotayev and Alexander Markov


Big history, social science and the humanities

5 Big history and anthropology: our place in the

multiverse: anthropology, civilization and big history

Barry H. Rodrigue

6 Big history and archaeology: archaeology is big history

Brian Fagan

7 Big history and philosophy: philosophical foundations

of big history: why big history makes sense

Armando Menéndez Viso

8 Big history and political science: science, the deep past,

and the political

Lowell Gustafson

9 Big history and historiography: deep tides and swirling

foam: the influence of macro-historical trends on micro-historical


David Baker

10 Big history and critical theory: science, history and why

theory matters

David Blanks

11 Big history, morality and religion

Cynthia Stokes Brown


Little big histories

12 A case for little big histories

Esther Quaedackers

13 The little big history of the Nalón River, Asturias, Spain

Olga García-Moreno, Diego Álvarez-Laó, Miguel Arbizu,

Eduardo Dopico, Eva García-Vázquez, Joaquín García Sansegundo,

Montserrat Jiménez-Sánchez, Laura Miralles, Ícaro Obeso,

Ángel Rodríguez-Rey, Marco de la Rasilla Vives,

Luis Vicente Sánchez Fernández, Luis Rodríguez Terente,

Luigi Toffolatti and Pablo Turrero

14 Sketch of a little big history of Private E.E. Benjamin

and the Great War

Craig Benjamin


Teaching big history

15 The Big History Project in Australia

Tracy Sullivan

16 Big history teaching in Korea

Seohyung Kim

17 Crossing thresholds: using big history to meet challenges

in teaching and learning in the United States

Robert B. Bain


Big history and the future

18 Big history and the future of technology

Leonid E. Grinin and Anton L. Grinin

19 Big history and the Singularity

Akop P. Nazaretyan

20 Underground metro systems: a durable geological proxy

of rapid urban population growth and energy consumption

during the Anthropocene

Mark Williams, Matt Edgeworth, Jan Zalasiewicz,

Colin N. Waters, Will Steffen, Alexander P. Wolfe,

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Craig Benjamin is a Professor of History at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, USA, where he researches and teaches big history and ancient Eurasian history. Recent books include Big History: Between Nothing and Everything (co-authored with David Christian and Cynthia Stokes Brown, 2014); and Empires of Ancient Eurasia. The First Silk Roads Era 100 BCE – 250 CE (2018).

Esther Quaedackers is a Lecturer in Big History at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where she has been developing, coordinating, and teaching big history courses for over a decade. She is the inventor of the ‘little big history’ approach, which is a research and teaching method in which small subjects are connected to aspects of big history in order to generate creative new ideas about how these subjects came to be the way they are.

David Baker is Lecturer of Big History at Macquarie University, Australia, and is the first scholar worldwide to achieve a PhD in that field. He is co-designer of Big History School (three K–12 curricula), Big History: Connecting Knowledge on Coursera, and contributor to the Big History Project. He was scriptwriter for two seasons of Crash Course: Big History with over 12 million views on Youtube. He has produced numerous research articles, chapters, and edited volumes, including works in the Journal of World History and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Big history is the most innovative and intellectually daring kind of historical scholarship on offer. It is the historical genre that can be used to appraise the biggest challenges that we face as a species, such as our burgeoning numbers, our relationships with other species, and the way we have so far engaged with the natural environment. This volume showcases the remarkable potential of the field. It is especially useful because it brings together Big History’s leading figures, as well as important fellow travellers in the social and natural sciences. And all of them bring to this volume their ‘best game’.

Nick Doumanis, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Big History is a rapidly evolving research and teaching field that seeks to unite natural and human history into a single compelling narrative. To capture the current state of this scholarship, the editors of The Routledge Companion to Big History have assembled and thematically organized twenty-one chapters, each authored by a leading proponent. For the reader interested in, or simply curious about, big history, this volume is the perfect entrée.

Kevin Jon Fernlund, University of Missouri – St. Louis, USA