Fred Spier is senior lecturer emeritus big history at the University of Amsterdam
, the Netherlands. He organized and taught
the annual 'Big History Course' at the University of Amsterdam
between 1994 and 2016; the annual 'Big History Lecture Series' at Eindhoven
University of Technology
between 2003 and 2013; and the 'Big History Course' at Amsterdam University College
between 2009 and
2018. He also team taught big history at several other educational institutions in the Netherlands, while he has given numerous lectures
about this subject in a great many countries.
Spier has performed research in a wide range of academic fields, including: the
genetic manipulation of plants in the 1970s; religion, politics, and ecology in Peru between 1982 and 1997; structuring and explaining
big history as of 1993; as well as a great many general and specific themes within big history mentioned in his list of
, while some of them are also mentioned on this website under Author's Blog
Spier's general paradigm for big history,
the subject of this website, is now increasingly adopted by other big historians, most notably in the secondary school program
Big History Project sponsored by Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates, and the related college textbook Big History: Between Nothing and
Everything (2014) by David Christian, Craig Benjamin, and Cynthia Stokes Brown.
Spier's trend-setting book The Structure of Big
History (1996) offered the first contours of his theoretical approach, while his ground-breaking article How Big History Works: Energy
Flows and the Rise and Demise of Complexity (2005), downloadable below, presented the first general outline of his underlying theoretical
explanation of big history, which appears valid for all scales of history.
As explained on this website, Spier's book Big History
and the Future of Humanity, Wiley-Blackwell (2010) offers an improved and much more detailed version of this argument, including an
entire research agenda for big history. A translation into Spanish was published in 2011; into Arabic in 2015; and into Chinese in
The improved and expanded Second Edition was published in April 2015. This edition incorporates the most recent academic
views while adding summaries of important themes in twenty-three text boxes, ranging from 'The Origin of Cosmic World Views'
to 'How Violent Have Humans Been?' Translations into Chinese and Korean are scheduled to be published in 2018.
To improve academic
big history teaching, Spier has been developing innovative courses and teaching tools using in-class emiprical observations for
students of many kinds. He is also designing short big history courses tailored to the needs of businesses and other organizations.
addition to further elaborating his general underlying theoretical approach to big history, Spier has been investigating a number
of big history themes, including: general theories of human history, of life, and of the biosphere, all within the context of the
general underlying theory of big history; the history of big history; the origins and development of morality; navigation and mapmaking,
and its consequences for human history; the nature of academic research across all disciplines; and a little big history of the city
of Speyer, Germany.
Over the past 25 years Spier has promoted big history in countries all around the world. Between 2011 and
2014 he was the Founding Vice President of the International Big History Association (IBHA), while he served as its President between
2014 and 2016. At the 2014 IBHA conference at Dominican University of California at San Rafael Spier delivered the final
keynote speech The Future of Big History
, while at the 2016 IBHA conference at the University of Amstrdam he performed the opening
keynote speech Unexpected Goldmines
Between 1982 and 1997 Spier performed historical and cultural anthropological
research on religion, politics and ecology in Andean Peru. This led to the publication of two books. His lavishly praised book Religious
Regimes in Peru
(1994) is a long-term study of religion, politics, and ecology in Peru viewed from a world-historical perspective,
while also focusing on the history of the Andean village of Zurite. His second book San Nicolás de Zurite
(1995) offers five anthropological
and historical case studies of the same theme. For his book Religious Regimes in Peru
Spier was awarded a 1993 Praemium Erasmianum
as an outstanding dissertation.
In 1996 Spier presented his findings in Cusco at the Universidad Nacional San Antonio
during several exciting academic meetings, including an official book presentation in the Salón de Grados
of the UNSAAC in the
very center of Cusco. This led to considerable recognition of his work in Peru at the regional and national levels. The US anthropologist
Eric Wolf used Religious Regimes in Peru
during the 1990s for his teaching at the Graduate School of the City University of New York.
In 1978 Spier received a M.Sc. in biochemistry with distinction at the University of Leiden, NL, with research experience
in plant genetic engineering and the synthesis of oligo-nucleotides. In 1987 Spier obtained an M.A. in cultural anthropology at the
Free University Amsterdam (cum laude -- the highest distinction in the Netherlands) and in 1992 a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology and
social history (cum laude) at the University of Amsterdam.
1996 The Structure of Big History:
From the Big Bang Until Today. Amsterdam, Amsterdam University Press.
1995 San Nicolás de Zurite: Religion and daily life
of a Peruvian Andean village in a changing world. Amsterdam, VU University Press.
1994 Religious Regimes in Peru: Religion
and state development in a long-term perspective and the effects in the Andean village of Zurite. Amsterdam, Amsterdam University
2010 - Present: Founding member and first vice president of the International Big History Association
(IBHA) and, between 2014 and 2016, its second president.
2001 - Present: Member of the editorial board of the journal Social Evolution
1998 : Chairing the World History Association Committee for Scholarship Reform, together with Dr. Maghan Keita,
Villanova University, Villanova, Pa.
1996 - 1999 : Member of the Executive Council of the World History Association.
, Opening keynote speech at the IBHA Conference at the University of Amsterdam, NL
(July 14, 2016)
'The Future of Big History'
, Final keynote speech at the IBHA Conference at Dominican University of
California at San Rafael (August 9, 2014)
Downloads and web links