A very long history of absolutely everything | May 2014

A very long history of absolutely everything

By HUGH ARNOLD
Published: 16th May 2014
Source: Australian Financial Review

BHI people - David Christian yellow-blueAs founder of the Big History Project, David Christian is a suitably international figure to head a movement that is being taken up by so many educational institutions worldwide. Professor Christian was born to British and American parents in New York and grew up in Africa as well as England; with degrees from Oxford he also has BHP partners and academic colleagues throughout the US in particular, and is once again a resident here in Australia.

While his early academic work focused on Russian, Soviet and Eastern European culture, Christian says he broadened his reading and research considerably more widely during the 1980s and ultimately forged an approach to history - Big History - that stretched its starting point right back to the Big Bang.

"I began teaching it back in 1989 at Macquarie University [Sydney] and I think for many years it was a sort of "boutique" university course; interesting, but given the conventions of ­specialisation, it wasn't likely to be widely copied - although a few courses did spring up elsewhere," he muses.

Then Bill Gates heard about his Big History. "I had recorded a series of 48 lectures on Big History for an American company, The Teaching Company. Bill Gates is a voracious reader and when he semi-retired as full-time CEO of Microsoft in 2006-07, he came across my lectures, worked his way through all of them, and then logged it, saying, 'I wish I'd done a course like this when I was at school.' "

Christian has previously described humankind's recent past "as only understandable in terms of the whole 14-billion-year span of time itself" and that Big History seeks to retell the "human story" in light of scientific advances. "In the way we tell it, and I don't think there's anything particularly idiosyncratic about it, there's a very interesting story to tell," he says, in advance of his appearance at Vivid Ideas Exchange on June 1.

Read the full article at the Australian Financial Review website.