Cholera to Climate Change: Environment and Society in Modern Britain - HI5101

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Spring
View Timetable
5 30 (15)







This course is all about putting History 'in its place', in other words, examining the history of modern Britain through the analytical lens of environmental history and exploring the ways humans have used, adapted, and imagined various environments over time. Taking 1850 as its starting point, it looks at major transformations in British life – the social and ecological problems of the Victorian city; changing attitudes towards nature preservation; empire and ecological imperialism; war, chemicals and modernity; environmental revolutions and radical protest - to chart the ways in which successive generations interacted in meaningful ways with the spaces and other species around them. This is a story both of material changes and of cultural values – our interactions with and our imaginations of the modern world. Accordingly, themes of urbanisation, politics and environmental change; health, medicine and wellbeing; national identity, gender and cultural life will be explored through a series of case studies that take in such topics as 'Miasma and Manure: Public health in 19th century London' and 'Ban the Bomb: the Cold War, nuclear technology and popular protest.' The principal geographical focus is Britain, but the module also embraces a necessarily global outlook in covering such themes as international wildlife conservation; the world of nature on film; and debates about ecological crisis and global climate change.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

This module will be taught through one 1-hour lecture and one 2-hour seminar each week, with the exception of Enhancement Week and one week that will be dedicated to coursework feedback.

Method of assessment

This module will be assessed by:

- Essay (3,000 words) - 30%
- Blog Paper (2,000 words) - 20%
- Blog Oral Presentation (1,500 words) - 20%
- Take-home Exercise (1,500 words) - 20%
- Presentation (15-minutes) - 10%

Indicative reading

- P. Coates, D. Moon, and Warde, eds, Local Places, Global Processes: Histories of Environmental Change in Britain and Beyond (Oxford: Windgather Press, 2016)
- A. Isenberg ed. The Oxford Handbook of Environmental History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014)
- Carolyn Merchant, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1990)
- Harriet Ritvo, The Dawn of Green: Manchester, Thirlmere, and Modern Environmentalism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009)
- John Sheail, An Environmental History of Twentieth Century Britain (London: Palgrave, 2002)
- Meredith Veldman, Fantasy, The Bomb and the Greening of Britain (Cambridge: CUP, 1994)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes of this module are that, on completion of this module, students will be able to:

- Critically evaluate the value of environmental history as an area of study as well as communicating a sense of how it has developed as a discipline.
- Demonstrate a critical awareness of the complicated relationships between humans and the rest of natural world over time, as well the importance of concepts such as agency, anthropogenic change and the social construction of nature.
- Successfully deploy a wide range of disciplinary skills in order to assess, contextualise and critically reflect on the complex entanglements between environment and society in modern Britain.
- Effectively communicate to both specialist and non-specialist audiences the ways in which environmental history offers a useful analytical lens to understanding the history of modern Britain.

The intended generic learning outcomes of this module are that, on completion of this module, students will be able to:

- Critically assess and analyse primary and secondary sources.
- Demonstrate an ability to communicate complex narratives and arguments in written form.
- Use verbal communication skills to articulate their ideas in a lucid and informed manner.
- Work effectively in independent study and as part of a team.
- Deploy knowledge using information technology and other digital resources.
- Demonstrate reflective and analytical skills through the interpretation of a wide-range of different source materials.

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