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Macquarie University

Big History: Connecting Knowledge

Macquarie University via Coursera


We currently face unprecedented challenges on a global scale. These problems do not neatly fall into disciplines. They are complicated, complex, and connected. Join us on this epic journey of 13.8 billion years starting at the Big Bang and travelling through time all the way to the future. Discover the connections in our world, the power of collective learning, how our universe and our world has evolved from incredible simplicity to ever-increasing complexity. Experience our modern scientific origin story through Big History and discover the important links between past, current, and future events. You will find two different types of lectures. ‘Zooming In’ lectures from multiple specialists enable you to understand key concepts through the lens of different disciplines, whilst David Christian's ‘Big History Framework’ lectures provide the connective overview for a journey through eight thresholds of Big History.


  • Big History, Critical Thinking, & Transdisciplinarity
    • Welcome to Big History! This is where we use the power of a transdisciplinary perspective to explore broad trends in the grand narrative of 13.8 billion years. In this module you'll learn how Big History works, explore critical-thinking, how we know what we know, and learn about the first "3 Thresholds of Increasing Complexity", milestones around which Big History is organized, starting at the beginning of the Universe, space, time, and everything in existence.
  • The Universe, Stars, and Planets
    • Our journey across space and time has begun. In this module, in a timeline that covers billions of years, we'll explore the origins of the universe, new stars & elements, and the solar system. You'll have the opportunity to examine cosmology, astronomy, physics, chemistry, and geology.
  • The Evolutionary Epic
    • Travel through the evolutionary epic from the origin of life c.3.8 billion years ago, the evolution of complex forms after c.550 million years ago, to the evolution of some very odd primates - humans. Zoom in and explore evolutionary biology, geology, palaeontology, and anthropology.
  • Human History
    • After billions of years of cosmic evolution, our own rather peculiar species has emerged to cultivate even greater heights of increasing complexity. In this module, we will explore the long trend of human development from the origin of our species c.200,000 years ago to the eve of the Industrial Revolution. You will explore archaeology, paleography, and ancient, medieval, and early modern history.
  • Modernity
    • We have now arrived at one of the most dynamically changing periods ever seen in human history - our own times. This module will explore how the agrarian era that had lasted for 10,000 years transitioned to the modern era with its explosion of production and complexity. We will explore modern history, political science, and economics.
  • The Future
    • We've looked far into the deep past, now is the time to take what we've learned and look ahead. In this module we will explore the near and distant future, what challenges we face this century, how we study the future on the scale of billions of years, and where complexity may go from here. The section incorporates climatology, cosmology, physics, and foresight.

Taught by

David Baker


4.4 rating, based on 13 Class Central reviews

4.8 rating at Coursera based on 1691 ratings

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  • Rebecca Judd completed this course, spending 3 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.

    Superb course. It's given me a much better perspective on the universe and our own history. It also asks some questions about what's in store for the universe, and us, which got me thinking about the future. The videos generally don't feel too long....
  • Profile image for Anna D
    Anna D

    Anna D is taking this course right now, spending 3 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    I find this to be excellent in many aspects. First of all, Big History itself is fascinating. It is the story of our universe and humanity itself, explained in a simple way which people of all fields can understand. I like the fact that it's supported...
  • Magnus Melin

    Magnus Melin is taking this course right now, spending 3 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.

    Very thought provoking. Since it deals with our origins to now.

    The videos are very short, which I like. With more information in Glossary and follow-ups. That´s how I like it, because of this can you also choose difficulty level and time commitment.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I found this course to be greatly interesting. I personally feel Big History should be taught in all schools throughout the world. It is our common history and will help to encourage collective efforts in humanity to further protect our planet.

    The course lectures are derived from a wide variety of disciplines. Highly recommend to all, not just to those interested in history or science.
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    Danielle And Angel Nieves
    I am trying to take advantage of the Free Certificate off the Extended list. I have followed the steps and tried several times with "Big History" and "Social Psychology" and it will not show the banner at the top for the Option to take the course for free. At checkout it shows the $50 fee still. PLEASE HELP!
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