Faculty - David Christian

David Christian, UVM Marsh Professor-at-Large

  • D.Phil. Oxford, 1974
Area of expertise

Universal history

Professor Christian teaches at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.  He is also affiliated with the Ewha Womans University Institute of World and Global History in South Korea, and is currently a fellow at the Library of Congress. He was trained as a historian of Russia and Central Asia at Oxford University and has published several books on those regions, including: Bread and Salt: A Social and Economic History of Food and Drink in Russia (Cambridge University Press, 1985); Living Water: Vodka and Russian Society on the Eve of Emancipation (Oxford University Press, 1990), and A History of Russia, Central Asia and Mongolia (Volume I of Blackwell’s series, Inner Eurasia from Prehistory to the Mongol Empire, 1998).  While David will undoubtedly be happy to discuss Russian history with anyone who cares to engage him, he is primarily here because of his path-breaking work on universal or “big” history. 

Professor Christian’s interest in universal history emerged from his world history classes at Macquarie University.  The result, after many years of broad multi-disciplinary reading and integrative thought, was Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History (University of California Press, 2004). William McNeill had this to say about the book:

Maps of Time unites natural history and human history in a single, grand, and intelligible narrative.  This is a great achievement, analogous to the way in which Isaac Newton in the seventeenth century united the heavens and the earth under uniform laws of motion; it is even more closely comparable to Darwin’s nineteenth century achievement of uniting the human species and other forms of life within a single evolutionary process . . . [It] is a historical and intellectual masterpiece: clear, coherent, erudite, elegant, adventurous, and concise.”

Another admirer, apparently, is Bill Gates. A week after his visit to UVM, David is flying to Seattle to meet with Gates, who is interested in developing and funding the production of an on-line course in Big History, which he would then like to see placed on high school curricula across the United States.

Christian was appointed as a Marsh professor in 2009. His 9/26/09-10/03/09 visit to the campus was coordinated by Frank Zelko, Assistant Professor of History, University of Vermont, History Department, Wheeler House, Room 210, 133 S. Prospect Street, Burlington, VT 05405, (802) 656-8517 (Phone), (802) 656-8794 (Fax). For all Marsh professors' schedules, please consult the Oracle Calendar under the agenda name of "Professors, Marsh." For additional information on the program, visit UVM James Marsh Professors-at-Large Program.

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