An Ecological History of Humanity

Subject 800-175 (2008)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2008. Search for this in the current handbook

Credit Points: 12.500
Level: Undergraduate
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2008:

Semester 1, - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period not applicable
Assessment Period End not applicable
Last date to Self-Enrol not applicable
Census Date not applicable
Last date to Withdraw without fail not applicable

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: Two 1-hour lectures and a 1-hour tutorial per week
Total Time Commitment: Not available
Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: 136-175 The Ecological History of Humankind
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support:


Professor Janet McCalman & others
Subject Overview: An Ecological History of Humanity or ‘How we got to where we are”, journeys through 150,000 years of human experience: climate change, the great migrations, health and disease, famine and plenty, war and peace, scientific and technological advance—to conclude in our own times. This story concentrates on the deep history of human societies and their needs for food, shelter and reproduction, and of our quests for love, meaning and power. It explores key transitions: the emergence of farming and complex societies; the rise and fall of empires; calamities such as the Black Death and the micro and macro-biological conquests of the Americas and Australia; El Niño holocausts and the long cycles of global cooling and warming; the fossil fuel revolution and the urbanization of the world. Taught by a geographer, a zoologist, a microbiologist and an historian, it is an interdisciplinary exploration of our complex relationships with the environment past and present, with other organisms, and with each other.
Assessment: Three tutorial contributions of research notes of 500 words each, 30%, (due in weeks 3, 5 and 7); an individual research ‘output’ with choice of form: research essay, detailed web page or poster, totalling 1500 words, 30%, (due in week 11); communication and knowledge transfer , 10% (throughout semester); and a 2 hour exam, 30% (during the examination period).
Prescribed Texts:

David Christian, Maps of Time: an Introduction to Big History (Uni of California Press) and available online as an e-book

A workbook, online reading and interactive website will be prepared by the teaching staff.

Recommended Texts:

JR McNeill, (2001) Something New Under the Sun, Penguin Books.

Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

  • Bachelor of Arts
  • Bachelor of Biomedicine
  • Bachelor of Commerce
  • Bachelor of Environments
  • Bachelor of Music
  • Bachelor of Science
  • Bachelor of Engineering

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:
  • in precis, abstract extraction and analytic note-taking
  • in structuring knowledge
  • in interdisciplinary group work
  • in knowledge transfer via. posters. webpages and essays, and in conference presentation
development of ‘literacies’ in a range of disciplines across the physical and social sciences
Notes: Students enrolled in the BSc (pre-2008 degree only), or a combined BSc course (except for the BA/BSc) will receive science credit for the completion of this subject.

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