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HCA1002 : Big History: From the Big Bang to Climate Change (Inactive)

  • Inactive for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Scott Ashley
  • Lecturer: Dr Christina Mobley
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


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

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture161:0016:00Introductions to key content of the module
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion661:0066:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading661:0066:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching101:0010:00Seminars connected to key themes of the module
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops51:005:00Writing and assessment workshops
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork12:002:00Museum trip
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study351:0035:00N/A
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 and workshops encourage independent study and promote improvements in oral communication, problem-solving skills and adaptability.

Field trips are designed to provide the students to experience spaces and places, including those they would be unlikely to have visited independently. These trips, thus allow students to learn in and from a different environment compared to the lecture theatre or the seminar room. The field trips allow students to use relevant observational techniques, to gain insights that can only be gained from spatial experience or the “archive of the feet” and to collect information to inform their studies. Moreover, the visits will enable students to relate the knowledge gained from lectures and independent reading to observations and experiences of the outside world.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise1M40Defining the Thesis: 1000 words
Case study1A60Final Argument: 1500 words
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Written exercise1MDefining the Concept: 500 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.
Formative work gives students a means of practising reading, writing and research skills in preparation for the summative assessments.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. Where an exam is present, an alternative form of assessment will be set and where coursework is present, an alternative deadline will be set. Details of the alternative assessment will be provided by the module leader.

Reading Lists