Big History for Undergraduate students
MHIS115: An Introduction to Big History
Macquarie is the international home of big history, and this is its flagship unit. Taught by David Christian and Shawn Ross in 2015, this unit surveys history on the biggest possible scale. MHIS115 surveys history on the biggest possible scale, beginning with the origins of the Universe before progressing through a series of linked stories.
The unit covers the origins of the stars and planets; the earth and its inhabitants; human beings; various types of human societies; and global interactions to the present day. Students in the unit explore the changing interactions between people, and between people and the environment. In doing so the students are encouraged to think about the kinds of evidence available to historians, and the role that history can play in understanding the local and global communities that people belong to today. In the final week we ask what this large story may have to tell us about the future. Finally, the unit invites students to think about what they regard as the central themes of world histories and big history.
This unit is available in Session 1 and can be undertaken as part of a Bachelor program. No prior knowledge of science or history is required. To apply please refer to the Undergraduate page.
This unit is also offered through Open Universities Australia.
MHIS215: Problems in Big History
Offered for the first time in 2015 as a second year course, MHIS215: Problems in Big History explores some of the fundamental problems raised in the trans-disciplinary first year course, MHIS115: An Introduction to Big History, as they play out across multiple disciplines.
Is there a universal long-term trend towards rising complexity? Does the notion of Universal Darwinism work outside the biological realm? What new mechanisms of change can be observed with the appearance of our own species, Homo sapiens? What are the main similarities and differences in methods of studying the past as we move from the realms of physics to those of geology and biology, and eventually to human history?
Students in this unit will explore and apply trans-disciplinary concepts, such as increasing complexity or energy flows, across multiple disciplines from the sciences and the humanities. The unit will help students understand the ways in which different historically-oriented disciplines, from cosmology to geology, biology and human history, tackle the central challenge of reconstructing and evaluating a vanished past. By comparing and evaluating the forms of evidence used in a wide range of disciplines, students will come to understand the similarities and differences between such processes at very different temporal and spatial scales.
This unit is available in Session 2 and can be undertaken at Macquarie University as part of a Bachelor program. Completion of the unit MHIS115 is required.