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Module

HCA1002 : Big History: From the Big Bang to Climate change

  • Offered for Year: 2021/22
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Christina Mobley
  • Lecturer: Dr Scott Ashley
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semesters
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0

Aims

The aims of this module are to introduce students to the concept of ‘Big History’, an innovative and growing field of looking at the past in the broadest terms, usually figured as being from the Big Bang to the present (with some speculation as to the near-future). This concept breaks down the disciplinary divisions between arts, humanities and sciences to create a structure of foundational knowledge, telling an interconnected story of the universe, Solar System, Earth, life and humanity at the largest scales. Although invented in its Anglophone variety by a historian, David Christian, Big History explicitly looks to a variety of scientific disciplines concerned with change over time, such as astronomy, geology, and biology, alongside the more familiar Humanities and Social Science techniques of history and archaeology. By the end of the module, students will have been introduced to a broad-based ‘tool-kit’ of methods and techniques by which to interrogate both the human and non-human past. They will also have a better understanding of where the histories they will study during the rest of their time at university, as well as their own lives and times, fit into the grand narratives of the Universe, the planet, and the human species.

The module aims are:
• To introduce students to the key themes of Big History and to encourage them to examine that theme from a variety of different perspectives.
• To encourage students to think about the past comparatively and to draw parallels, connections and contrasts between different types of evidence and different approaches to the past in its broadest scope.
• To provide an opportunity to acquire a sound general knowledge of the subject, reading widely and critically in the primary and secondary literature associated with it and to develop the capacity for independent study.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module may include the following large themes:

The Big Bang and the origin of the Universe
The birth of stars, galaxies, and planets
The formation and early history of Earth
Life and the Biosphere
The evolution of humans
Early H. sapiens
Farming and the first global civilizations
Industry, Complexity and its Discontents
The Great Acceleration
The Anthropocene Future

Key module reading: David Christian, Origin Story: A Big History of Everything (Penguin Books, 2019).

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion661:0066:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture161:0016:00Introductions to key content of the module
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading661:0066:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching91:009:00Seminars connected to key themes of the module
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops31:003:00Writing and assessment workshops
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork15:005:00Local day fieldtrips. Subject to replacement if the public health siutation changes
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study351:0035:00N/A
Total200:00
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures impart core knowledge and an outline of knowledge that students are expected to acquire and they stimulate development of listening and note-taking skills.

Seminars encourage independent study and promote improvements in oral communication, problem-solving skills and adaptability.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M20Defining the Concepts: 500 words
Essay2A30Defining the Thesis: 1000 words
Case study2A50Final Arguement: 1500 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Work submitted during the delivery of the module forms a means of determining student progress.
Submitted work tests intended knowledge and skills outcomes, develops key skills in research, reading and writing.

All Erasmus students at Newcastle University are expected to do the same assessment as students registered for a degree.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle.This will take the form of an alternative assessment, as outlined in the formats below:

Modules assessed by Coursework and Exam -
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be one essay in addition to the other coursework assessment (the length of the essay should be adjusted in order to comply with the assessment tariff); to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Exam only -
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be two 2,000 word written exercises; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Coursework only -
All semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be expected to complete the standard assessment for the module; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending the whole academic year or semester 2 are required to complete the standard assessment as set out in the MOF under all circumstances.

Reading Lists

Timetable