is senior lecturer big history emeritus at the University of Amsterdam
, the Netherlands. One of the pioneers
of big history worldwide, and together with sociologist Johan Goudsblom among the first in Europe, 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?' A translation into Chinese was published in 2019, while a version in Korean is in preparation.
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.
In 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.
For this book Spier was awarded a 1993 Praemium Erasmianum Study Prize
as an outstanding dissertation.
His second book San Nicolás
de Zurite (1995) offers five detalied anthropological and historical case studies of the same theme.
In 1996 Spier presented
his findings in Cusco at the Universidad Nacional San Antonio Abad
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.
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 & History.
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
2019 Big History and the Future of Humanity, Second Edition (Chinese). Beijing, CITIC Press.
Big History and the Future of Humanity (Chinese). Shanghai, Truth & Wisdom Press.
1996 The Structure of Big History: From the Big Bang Until Today
Amsterdam, Amsterdam University Press. Free download here
1995 San Nicolás de Zurite: Religion and daily life of a Peruvian
Andean village in a changing world
. Amsterdam, VU University Press. Free download here
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
Press. Free download here
, Opening keynote speech at the IBHA Conference at the University of Amsterdam, NL (July 14, 2016)
Future of Big History'
, Final keynote speech at the IBHA Conference at Dominican University of California at San Rafael
(August 9, 2014)
The Future of Humanity
, interview by Charles Chandler
(from: The Age of Organizational Effectiveness) on November 30, 2020.
Downloads and web links