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Doing Deep Big History: Race, landscape and the civilisation of H J Fleure (1877-1969)

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JournalHistory of the human sciences
DateAccepted/In press - 1 May 2018
DatePublished (current) - 8 May 2019
Issue number1
Number of pages21
Pages (from-to)99-120
Original languageEnglish


This paper argues that current programmes in the human sciences which adopt a multi-disciplinary approach to history need to be wary of treating the knowledge of the natural sciences as itself independent of social influence. Such efforts to do ‘Big History, ‘Deep History’ or co/evolutionary history themselves have a past, and this paper suggests that potential practitioners could benefit from considering that historical context. To that end, it explores the career of Herbert John Fleure, a scholar whose career defied disciplinary classification, but who was concerned to understand how the human past and present could be understood as they combined in the physical and social context of their production, and what they implied for the possibility of a human future. It concludes by arguing that Fleure’s major lesson for modern researchers is his confrontation of the contingent nature and political consequences of his conclusions.

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