Is Big History a Movement Culture?

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William Katerberg


This essay analyzes Big History as a movement, one that has been evolving from individuals and small groups of people working independently to a scholarly community and a set of institutions no longer dependent on founding individuals. The essay uses theoretical models to do so, notably movement cultures in politics and Thomas Kuhn’s idea of paradigm shifts in science. It compares Big History to movement building in the early modern era, notably the “Republic of Letters” (i.e., Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution) and religious revivals. Finally, it compares Big History to related genres that explore the past on a large scale. The essay’s goals are both empirical and reflexive, to help practitioners of Big History understand what their field is and, in doing so, consider what it should be.

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