Big History now in bookstores

Big History now in bookstores

Big History now in bookstores


Tracy Sullivan chats with Project Coordinator Kathryn Ford about working on the new Dorling Kindersley (DK) Big History book as a Big History Institute consultant.

Can you tell us about the process from idea to publication, and how DK worked with the Big History Institute to develop this book?  

Due to increasing popularity DK identified Big History as an important field of study to be represented in their catalogue. DK have a reputation for publishing high quality texts in presentation and content, based on a commitment to reflecting accurate and current scholarship. As the global hub for Big History teaching, outreach and research, DK approached the Big History Institute to consult on the development of this landmark Big History text in 2015.

The process of developing this book involved working closely with DK editors to review content ensuring the integrity of Big History as an interdisciplinary field of study was maintained. And scoping the approach taken to key Big History concepts such as Collective Learning and Threshold of Increasing Complexity.

Personally, working with the editors at DK on this text was an exciting and enjoyable experience. Sometimes you can fall into the trap of thinking that you know the Big History story. It's nice to be reminded that what makes this narrative so exciting and engaging is there is always something new to learn, a new way to look at things and a place to dive deeper. This text reflects these three experiences in a visually stunning, accessible and innovative way.

Big History is one big tome! What's unique about this book and who should read it?

This book is for everyone and anyone. It combines the detail and rigour of a reference text with the narrative of an unfolding story. It is for a school student to a classroom teacher. From the coffee table to the reference library. Part of its uniqueness is its broad appeal. There are many scholarly texts and online resources on Big History.

Until now there has not been an extensive volume incorporating the Big History narrative with the supporting factual and conceptual detail in a format designed specifically for the general public. This book weaves together scholarship, compelling narrative and breathtaking design creating an experience of Big History that is relevant for us all.

How do you think this book can be used as an educational resource in homes and classrooms all over the world?

The greatest intellectual achievement of Big History also poses its greatest educational challenge - its interdisciplinary foundation. Big History draws from a vast array of disciplines to connect knowledge, develop critical thinking and not only see, but appreciate the biggest of pictures.

One of the first questions teachers and students ask when embarking on their adventures in Big History is, "How am I going to engage with so much content and not be overwhelmed?" Teachers are concerned they won't be experts in every discipline covered in Big History, and students are concerned they will drown in the amount of content they have to learn. It is true that there are online courses housing this content in an accessible way and it is also true that 'Google' is a wonderful way to access a vast array of information. However 'Google' does not present this information in the context of the Big History narrative, and not all students and teachers have ready access to computers to access online materials.

This book is tailor made to support teachers and students in the classroom and at home. It is an accessible reference text to underpin their learning experience of Big History. Accurate knowledge is the cornerstone of any learning experience. Big History provides a knowledge safety net to support teachers and students in their exciting Big History explorations.

This hardcover book is full of beautiful double-page spreads covering the past, present and future. Tell us about your favourite page. 

I actually have two favourite double-page spreads. The first is the 'Entering the Anthropocene' big ideas spread. As one of the culminating pages of the book I think this spread gives a wonderfully clear definition of the concept. It also frames the idea of the Anthropocene within the Big History concept of collective learning, an ability unique to homo-sapiens. Our capacity for collective learning is our greatest strength as a species but it comes with consequences and responsibilities. This double-page spread encapsulates the consequences of the last 200,000 years of human existence, and signals the responsibility we have moving forward for the planet that gives us life, and each other. The Anthropocene is where we are up to in the Big History story, and this spread acts as a reminder of where we are now, and lets us ponder where to from here.

My other favourite spread is the 'Birth of Creativity' timeline. This spread is a wonderful visual representation of what remarkable species we homo-sapiens are. It shows the journey from the appearance of homo-sapiens 200,000 years ago to our ability to work with leather and engage in burial practices within 100,000 years. Then, to domesticating animals, and on the verge of agricultural technology 90,000 years later. Taken on a universal timescale of 13.9 billion years, this is truly remarkable.

When contemplating the Anthropocene there is a tendency to feel that the challenge for humans to move beyond this phase in our history is too great, that there is little hope for the future of our species. However when we appreciate the immense power we have for creativity and adapting to changing environmental circumstances, the case for hope in the future of our species is much stronger.

Big History: Our Incredible Journey, from Big Bang to Now is available in bookstores now such as Harry Hartog in Macquarie Centre (pictured) and online.

Back to the top of this page