Courses & Units

Big History XBR203


This unit introduces students to Big History, with a special focus on Tasmania.  Big History is an evolving interdisciplinary field that investigates human history within the historical time scales of geological and biological history. It does so to understand how powerful forces and factors at work on these large time-scales have shaped our responses to major environmental, economic and social changes.

The unit begins by considering the origins and development of the universe and our solar system. Students are introduced to fundamental concepts in cosmology and physics, and their relevance to human history.  Several weeks are then devoted to studying the geological history of the Earth and the emergence of life in its diverse forms, including our own species.

The intellectual focus of the unit then narrows. After exploring major features of human evolution and life in the Palaeolithic era, the unit surveys what have been commonalities in human experience over the past 60,000 years.  Here, special attention is paid to the deep history of Aboriginal life and culture in Tasmania.

Students will study our development of social institutions, cultural practices and technologies over these millennia in response to our needs to secure food and energy sources enabling our successful reproduction.As well as attending to important continuities in human experience, the unit draws on recent research in the sciences and humanities to provide students with fresh, critical perspectives on the most significant changes in human experience since the beginning of the Palaeolithic era. Particular attention is paid to phenomena such as: our relations with other species; our development of language and collective learning; the adoption of agriculture, the emergence of the first cities and states; the growth of networks of commerce and exchange; the exploitation of new sources of energy, industrialization and consumerism; and the challenges we face in a rapidly urbanizing world with risks posed by climate change, resource depletion and feeding a rapidly growing global population.


Unit name Big History
Unit code XBR203
Credit points 12.5
Faculty/School DVC Students & Education
Tasmanian Institute of Learning and Teaching (TILT)
Discipline History and Classics|Mathematics and Physics|Earth Sciences|Plant Science|Zoology

Professor Paul Turnbull and Professor John Dickey

Teaching staff

Professors Paul Turnbull, Professor John Dickey,Dr Martin Jutzler. Associate Professor Leon Barmuta, Professor David Bowman, Associate Professor Greg Jordan, Professor Steven Smith, Professor Rene Vaillancourt , Associate Professor Erik Wapstra

Available as student elective? Yes
Breadth Unit? Yes


This unit is currently unavailable.


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Band Field of Education
1 100799

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Participation in Online Discussions (20%); Short Answer Questions (20%);  Critical Bibliographical Exercise (30%) Research Report (30%)

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