The Author

Fred Spier 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 publications, while some of them are also mentioned on this website under Author's Blog. For more information, please visit my personal web site.
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 2017.
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.
In April of 2022, his most recent book How the Biosphere Works: Fresh Views Discovered While Growing Peppers will be published by the CRC Press. This book builds on Big History and the Future of Humanity, Second Edition, while adding novel theoretical principles that make the biosphere's history and current functioning far better understandable.
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.
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.
Earlier Research
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.
University Education
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 Association.

2022  How the Biosphere Works: Fresh Views Discovered While Growing Peppers. Boca Raton, Fl., The CRC Press.
2019  Big History and the Future of Humanity, Second Edition (Chinese). Beijing, CITIC Press.
2017  Big History and the Future of Humanity (Chinese). Shanghai, Truth & Wisdom Press.
2015  Big History and the Future of Humanity, Second Edition. Malden, MA, Oxford, UK, Wiley-Blackwell.
2015  Big History and the Future of Humanity (Arabic), translated by: Izzat Amer. Cairo, National Center for Translation and Enlightenment.
2011  El lugar del hombre en el cosmos: La Gran Historia y  el futuro de la humanidad. Barcelona, Spain, Editorial Critica.
2010  Big History and the Future of Humanity. Malden, MA, Oxford, UK, Wiley-Blackwell.
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.
An underlying explanatory scheme for all of big history based on complexity, energy, and entropy. Presentation through Zoom for the Energy and Society Group based in San Francisco, Ca., October 3, 2021.
William H. McNeill y su libro Plagas y pueblos: Una perspectiva personal. Contribución por Zoom en el XVIII Simposio Internacional Procesos Civilizadores, Nov. 17-20, 2020, Bogotá, Colombia: la primera presentacion del panel central de apertura Epidemias y larga duración: Alrededor de Plagas y Pueblos de William McNeill.
'Big History: The biggest possible overview' ASTRON, Dwingeloo, the Netherlands (November 5, 2018), starting at 24 min. 22 sec., part of the 'Cogito in Space' project by Daniela de Paulis.
'La cosmografía española: ¿tierra fertil para la gran historia?' Salas, Asturias, España, Fundación Valdés-Salas (18 de septiembre 2017)
'Unexpected Goldmines', 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)
'Big History and the Future of Humanity', Keynote speech opening the new academic year at Dominican University of California at San Rafael (August 27, 2012)
'How Big History Works', Presentation at the GF2045 conference, Moscow, Russian Federation (Feb. 17, 2012)
'Big History and the Future of Humanity', Presentation at Villanova University, PA, USA (Sept 15, 2011)
Presentación oficial de mis libros 'Religious Regimes in Peru' y 'San Nicolás de Zurite', Salón de Grados, Paraninfo Universitario UNSAAC, Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Perú (9 de agosto 1996)
Podcast Interview by Nathan Moore for the New Books Network about my book How the Biosphere Works: Fresh Views Discovered While Growing Peppers, Sept. 22, 2022.
The Organization of the Biosphere, about my new book  How the Biosphere Works, Episode 132 of The Age of Organizational Effectiveness podcast series by Charles Chandler PhD, July 2022
The Future of Humanity, interview by Charles Chandler PhD, The Age of Organizational Effectiveness podcast series, November 30, 2020.
Downloads and web links
Fred Spier's publications (Pdf).
Online article: Thresholds of Increasing Complexity in Big History: A critical review Journal of Big History 5, 1 2022 (48-58)
Online article: On the social impact of the Apollo 8 Earthrise photo, or the lack of it? Journal of Big History 3, 3 2019 (157-189)
Online interview: ¿De la Big History a la Gran Historia? Conversaciones con Fred Spier - From Big History to la Gran Historia? A Conversation with Fred Spier por/by Carlos Daniel Pérez y/and César Augusto Duque Sánchez.  Journal of Big History, Vol. 3, 1 (135-158)
Online article: On the pursuit of academic research across all the disciplines. Journal of Big History 1, 1 2017 (20-39)
Book chapter:The Elusive Apollo 8 Earthrise Photo (2012, pdf)
Article: Big History Research (2011, pdf)
Online article: Complexity in Big History (2011), presented on invitation at the Santa Fe Institute Conference History, Big History, Metahistory at the Moana Surfrider Hotel, Oahu, Hawaii (2008). A book version was published by SFI in 2017.
Online article: Big History: The Emergence of an Interdisciplinary Science? (2009)
Article: How Big History Works (2005, pdf)
Online article: The Small History of the Amsterdam Big History course (2005)
Conference paper: Norbert Elias's Theory of Civilizing Processes Again Under Discussion: An exploration of the sociology of regimes (1994)
Praise for: Defining the Pacific (2002)
Praise for: The Structure of Big History (1996)
Book: The Structure of Big History (Ebook version, pdf)
Praise for: San Nicolás de Zurite (1995)
Book:  San Nicolás de Zurite (Ebook version, pdf)
Praise for: Religious Regimes in Peru (1994)
Book:  Religious Regimes in Peru (Ebook version, pdf)
International Big History Association
Un. of Amsterdam big history
Cosmic Evolution
Big History Project
Book: Teaching Big History
Bill Bryson: Short History of Nearly Everything
Other useful stuff on the web
Other big history
How to use the book
Course models
Learning goals and objectives
Teaching tools
Assignments (little big histories)
Answers to FAQs by students
Questions by students and teachers that go beyond the book
Examination models
Teaching big history