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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’, ‘race’, ‘the body’, ‘the economy’, or ‘society’ help us to classify and order the endless phenomena 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. Slavery (Poskett)

Week 2. Nature (Bycroft)

Week 3. Human Nature (Stein)

Week 4. Race (Poskett)

Week 5. Economy (Bycroft)

Week 6. Reading Week

Week 7. Utopias (Neima)

Week 8. Industry (Berg)

Week 9. Body (Shaw)

Week 10. Energy (Shafiee) [NB. Seminar online on MS Teams.]

Reading List

See individual weeks and Talis Aspire.


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

Essays should follow a similar format to that of your Themes core module. For the title, please either select a seminar question, adapt a seminar question, or develop your own title. This should be done in consultation with the relevant seminar tutor. You may also wish to consult the module convenor regarding your choice of title.

Term Spring
Day Mondays
Time 2–4pm
Room H0.44 [except week 10 which is online via MS Teams]