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Themes in the History of Science, Technology, Environment and Society (HI999)


Dr James Poskett


How can we understand the social and natural world in which we live? Concepts such as ‘nature’, ‘environment’, ‘the body’, ‘the economy’, or ‘society’ help us to classify and order the endless phenoma in the material and natural world that we encounter every day. Yet while such concepts are vital, and seem fixed, transhistorical and objective, they emerged at particular moments in history, their meanings changed, and they were often deployed for particular purposes.

This module investigates the rise, changing meanings and purposes of such ordering concepts and the practices which go with them. It also explores how such concepts and practices reflected the social, economic, and political contexts in which they emerged and flourished. Drawing on the extensive expertise of colleagues in the Department who work on the interrelation of society and culture with science, technology, medicine, environment, economics, and political economy, this module will introduce students to ongoing human practices of order and meaning-making, our struggles to makes sense of the human and natural world and the many moral, and the ethical dilemma that accompany them.


Week 1. Truth (Poskett)

Week 2. Nature (Bycroft)

Week 3. Human Nature (Peck)

Week 4. Society (Poskett)

Week 5. Economy (Bycroft)

Week 6. Reading Week

Week 7. Boundaries (Bivins) NB. This seminar will take place in the CHM Hub, Ramphal Building.

Week 8. Environment (Fletcher)

Week 9. Body (Shaw)

Week 10. Energy (Shafiee)

Reading List

See individual weeks or Talis Aspire for digital copies of essential readings.


6,000 word essay. Deadlines are available on the Postgraduate Submission Deadlines and Procedure page.

Term Spring
Day Mondays
Time 3-5pm
Room Seminar Tutor's Office, except Week 3 (in H0.19) and Week 7 (R2.15, Ramphal Building)