The module addresses the issue of how to understand the complexity of the social-ecological systems that underpin our needs for food, water and sustainable ecosystem functions – at local to global scales. The module focuses on how interactions between past climate, ecological processes, and human activities can give us a perspective from which to observe complex dynamics, like tipping points, system collapses and early warning signals of critical transitions. The module introduces a number of complexity concepts like feedback loops, critical transitions and networks in simple, non-mathematical ways. There is a focus on regional-scale reconstructions of ecological and climatic processes, derived from natural archives, documentary and instrumental data, with supporting evidence on past human activity and governance from historical records. The module demonstrates the use of palaeo records and other archives beyond the 'history of the environment' in order to engage with resilience theory, to test complexity concepts, to develop modelling tools and to help design strategies (such as through setting safe and just operating spaces) for the sustainable management of ecological services, ecosystems and landscapes.