Big history may in fact be one very long “one damn thing after another,”* but even if we experience time as a continuum, dividing its expanse makes our discipline more “manageable” for psychological, teaching, research, discourse, and other reasons. Big history related books, like David Christian, Cynthia Stokes Brown, and Craig Benjamin’s 2014 textbook, Big History: Between Nothing and Everything, and several papers also often divide the time continuum into periods, but unlike other disciplines such as geology, we have no broadly agreed upon conventions for doing so. Big history pioneer, Fred Spier, in a recent JBH paper, “Thresholds of Big History – A Critical Review” (Vol 5, No. 1), criticized Christian’s “thresholds” schema for periodization and seemed skeptical of the very idea of periodization. As noted above, we believe that periodization is a worthwhile project to be undertaken, preferably by an ad hoc IBHA “working group.” We then suggest a general framework for how big history might be divided into time periods, and then anticipate some of the major challenges to developing any coherent periodization schema. So that we can better illustrate some of these challenges, we will end by taking deeper analyses of three possible big history “events” that might be used for demarcating one time period from another.
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