HIS-20091 - Natural Cultures: Humans and their Environments since 1700
Coordinator: Benjamin Anderson Tel: +44 1782 7 33611
Lecture Time: See Timetable...
Level: Level 5
Credits: 15
Study Hours: 150
School Office: 01782 733147

Programme/Approved Electives for 2024/25


Available as a Free Standing Elective






Barred Combinations


Description for 2024/25

The scale and pace of human-generated environmental change, which has occurred in the wake of global industrialization, is historically unprecedented. This module will explore the social and cultural changes that led to this revolution in the relationship of humans to their environments, and how modern environmentalism emerged through cultural responses to it. We will explore the contentious meaning of such terms as 'the environment', 'nature' and 'wilderness', the tension between social and natural histories, and the role/s of science, technology, colonialism, imperialism and ideology in reshaping the concepts of the environment. The module will focus on an analysis of the political, religious and scientific beliefs that have shaped society's relationship with nature, and how such relationships have been challenged by competing visions of progress, modernity and a sustainable future in the light of on-going environmental change. Principally, this module will provide an intellectual and political history of attitudes to the environment from the eighteenth century to the present.

To introduce students to the developing field of environmental history through the study of humanity's relationship with nature in the modern era.
To explore how past societies have interacted with their environment, both natural and man-made, and how this interaction has informed and been informed by cultural, social and political developments over the last two hundred years.
To explore the roots of diverse attitudes to nature, from resource exploitation to modern environmentalism, by examining environmental change within a cultural and social context.
To consider the controversies surrounding the use of ideas such as 'nature'; 'wilderness'; or 'sustainability', and their impact on how the material world has been understood in the modern era.

Intended Learning Outcomes

display increased appreciation of the relationship between history, ideology and the systematic study of the natural world: 1,2
analyse the links between historical debates and present social and political concerns: 1,2
evaluate the tension between social and natural histories, and the role of religion, science, imperialism, nationalism, modernity or ideology in shaping these tensions: 1,2
show an awareness of how the study of the past can increase our understanding of contemporary issues and concerns: 1,2

Study hours

12 hours lectures, 12 hours seminars, 12 hours online contact. 50 hours of seminar preparation, 20 hours presentation preparation, 44 hours commentary preparation.

School Rules


Description of Module Assessment

1: Commentary weighted 80%
Commentary on others' presentations
Students are required to submit two commentaries of 1000 words each, with each regarding the debates raised in a presentation from their peers.

2: Group Presentation weighted 20%
Students will conduct a 10 - 15 minute presentation on one of the seminar topics for the module. They will submit slides (equivalent to 500 words each) and will receive an individual mark.