Swimming upstream

Universal Darwinism and human history

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This essay discusses Universal Darwinism: the idea that Darwinian mechanisms can explain interesting evolutionary change in many different domains, in both the Humanities and the Natural Sciences. The idea should appeal to big historians because it links research into evolutionary change at many different scales. But the detailed workings of Universal Darwinism vary as it drives different vehicles, just as internal combustion engines differ in chain-saws, motor cycles and airplane engines. To extend Darwin's ideas beyond the biological realm, we must disentangle the biological version of the Darwinian mechanism from several other forms. I will focus particularly on Universal Darwinism as a form of learning, a way of accumulating information. This will make it easier to make the adjustments needed to explore Darwinian mechanisms in human history.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGlobalistics and globalization studies
Subtitle of host publicationbig history and global history
EditorsLeonid E. Grinin, Ilya V. Ilyin, Peter Hermann, Andrey V. Korotayev
Place of PublicationVolgograd
PublisherUchitel Publishing House
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9785705745791
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

First published in 2014 in 'Teaching and researching big history: exploring a new scholarly field'. Grinin, L., Baker, D., Quaedackers, E. & Korotayev, A. (eds.). Volgograd, Russia: Uchitel Publishing House, p. 19-40.


  • Universal Darwinism
  • collective learning
  • information
  • Big History

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