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Science, Progress and History Essay Competition

Science, Progress and History Essay Competition

2013 Science, Progress and History Essay Competition_miniThe Science, Progress and History Essay Competition invites essay submissions from students and recent graduates on any subject relevant to the main themes of the project.


While essay submissions are welcome on any of the project’s main themes, applicants may want to consider choosing their essay topics from one of the broad questions listed below:

#1: History

  • How have conceptions of historical purpose or directionality influenced the emerging historical sciences (geology, evolutionary biology, cosmology)? These might include religious ideas (providential and eschatological), philosophical ideas (Hegelianism) sociological conceptions (Comte, Marx), or economics (Hayek).
  • In what sense was natural history a historical discipline, and what significance can be attached to its eclipse by biology?

#2: Biology

  • Are there patterns, or evidence of directionality in evolutionary history?
  • Do the biological sciences, and evolutionary biology in particular, have ‘laws’ or allow for predictability in any strict sense?
  • What relationship, if any, is there been contingent or random processes, and the appearance of order, regularity, or directionality?

#3: General and Bridging Issues

  • If historical conceptions of directionality and order in history did in fact influence the development of the historical sciences, can the vestiges of these influences still be discerned?
  • Does the popularization or communication of the sciences to a general public require that they be given some kind of narrative structure – e.g. ‘big history’,  ‘the epic of evolution’? Does this structure distort these sciences or might it be an essential ingredient?
  • Is ‘counterfactual history’ a useful explanatory tool in both spheres (history and the historical sciences)?
  • Are there similarities between the ways in which contingency and order are understood in these two spheres?
  • Has teleological explanation found its way back into biology and history?


The University of Queensland, Australia


There will be three prizes of $5,000, three prizes of $2,000, and three prizes of $1,000 awarded in Australian dollars.


6 January, 2014


  • All current undergraduate and graduate students are welcome to apply for the essay.
  • Recent graduates (having received their degree on or after 1 January 2011) are also encouraged to apply.
  • There are no restrictions in regard to discipline, nationality, or age.
  • Essays should be in English and double-spaced throughout.
  • Essays should include an abstract of 200–300 words.
  • Essays should be 7,000 words in length (+/- 1,000 words) including notes and references.
  • Use either Harvard or Chicago style referencing.
  • Include a cover page which should include the applicant’s name, address, and full contact details along with a brief biographical statement inclusive of details about the applicant’s eligibility.
  • The prize essay winners will be announced within three months of the deadline.
  • All submissions are final and only one submission per person is permitted.
  • An international panel of judges will select the competition winners. The decisions of the judges will be final.


Submissions and any inquiries should be directed via email to Dr Ian Hesketh at


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