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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : History

Undergraduate Course: A Cultural History of the Environment: From Natural Hazards to Natural Disasters, ca 1500-1750 (HIST10411)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course investigates how pre-modern societies understood natural hazards and coped with natural disasters. The first two seminars will lay the foundations for the course by exploring of the way in which nature and the earth were understood in classical antiquity and the Renaissance. The course will then move on to examine the ways in which natural disasters shaped Europe's political, social, religious and intellectual history through more focused discussion around specific geophysical events and the analysis of a series key case studies.
Course description A growing body of historical scholarship on natural disasters and climate change has done much in recent years to highlight the key role played by the environment in shaping society and culture across the globe. How natural disasters shaped the social, political, religious and cultural fabric of different countries, however, remains an object of debate. The emerging field of 'disaster studies' has produced interesting work, but this young field of research remains rather fragmented and uneven. Much remains to be done to integrate these studies within mainstream history and put them in dialogue with other historical disciplines, particularly the history of science, and religious, intellectual, and cultural history. The aim of this course is to place this emerging body of scholarship in dialogue with other historical fields through the reading of key secondary sources. The course will cover the period ca. 1500-1750. This was a time of significant cultural and political change, but also a time of great seismic activity and climate change. Over the course of 11 weeks, the course will guide students through an in-depth investigation of how nature and the environment shaped the history of Europe in the early modern period.

The first two weeks will lay the foundations for the rest of the course by exploring the intellectual background that informed early modern ideas of nature, natural hazard, and natural disaster. The rest of the course will address how various hazards have affected societies through a series of case studies. The course will explore a number of these natural hazards, including: floods, heatwaves, and droughts; earthquakes and tsunamis; volcanic eruptions and landslides. These will be explored from the perspective of religious history, the history of ideas, social history, and the history of science and medicine. Students will be invited to explore how each of these sub-disciplines can enrich our historical understanding of the complex relationship between man and nature across time and space. Students will be required to critically evaluate the methodologies and approaches of a variety of historians working within different historiographical traditions. Throughout the course, they will be encouraged to examine and analyse different 'disaster cultures' and, whenever possible, identify specific historical reasons that may inform present-day approaches to natural disasters. Particular attention will also be paid to the circulation of information about natural disasters through different kinds of media (written, visual, material). This will allow students to appreciate a variety of approaches to constructing and interpreting the past.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Students MUST NOT also be taking Cultures of Disaster: History and the Environment, ca. 1400-1750 (HIST10400)
Other requirements A pass or passes in 40 credits of first level historical courses or equivalent and a pass or passes in 40 credits of second level historical courses or equivalent.

Before enrolling students on this course, Personal Tutors are asked to contact the History Honours Admission Administrator to ensure that a place is available (Tel: 503780).
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 3 History courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2017/18, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  25
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 90 %, Practical Exam 10 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 1 essay of 1500 words (30%)
1 essay of 3000 words (60%)
class participation (10%)
Feedback Students will receive written feedback on their coursework and will be encouraged to discuss that feedback further with the Course Organiser during their published office hours for this course, or by appointment. Students will also be encouraged to meet the Course Organiser during the semester to discuss their participation mark.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate, by way of coursework and participation as required, a command of a substantial body of historical knowledge
  2. demonstrate, by way of coursework and participation as required, the ability to develop and sustain historical arguments in a variety of literary forms, formulating appropriate questions and utilizing evidence
  3. demonstrate, by way of coursework and participation as required, an understanding of the varieties of approaches to understanding, constructing, and interpreting the past; and where relevant, knowledge of concepts and theories derived from the humanities and the social sciences.
  4. demonstrate, by way of coursework and participation as required, the ability to address historical problems in depth, involving the use of a small amount of contemporary sources and advanced secondary literature
  5. demonstrate, by way of coursework and participation as required, clarity, fluency, and coherence in written and oral expression
Reading List
BEHRINGER, Wolfang. 2010. A Cultural History of Climate (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press).
COCCO, Sean. 2013. Watching Vesuvius. A History of Science and Culture in Early Modern Italy (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press).
DASTON, Lorraine, and Katharine Park. 2001. Wonders and the Order of Nature (New York: Zone Books).
JANKU, Andrea, Gerrit Jasper Schenk, and Franz Mauelshagen, eds. 2012. Historical Disasters in Context. Science, Religion and Politics (New York and London: Routledge).
KEMPE, Michael, and Christian Rohr, eds. 2003. Coping with the Unexpected. Natural Disasters and their Perception, Special Issue of Environment and History 9.2.
LEVENE, Mark, Rob Johnson, and Penny Roberts, eds. 2010. History at the End of the World? History, Climate Change and the Possibility of Closure (Penrith: HEB Humanities-Ebooks).
MARTIN, Craig. 2011. Renaissance Meteorology. Pomponazzi to Descartes (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP).
NEVOLA, Fabrizio. 2015. 'Urban Responses to Disaster in Renaissance Italy: Images and Rituals,' in Marco Folin and Monica Preti, eds., Wounded Cities: The Representation of Urban Disasters in European Art (14th-20th Centuries) (Leiden: Brill), 60-74.
PARKER, Geoffrey. 2013. Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century (New Haven and London: Yale UP)
PETTA, Massimo. 2010. 'Wild Nature and 'religious' readings of events: natural disasters in Milanese printed reports (16th-17th Century),' in Bo-Jan Borstner et al., eds., Historicizing Religion: Critical Approaches to Contemporary Concerns (Pisa: Plus-Pisa University Press, 2010, 199-231.
SCHENK, Gerrit Jasper and Jens Ivo Engels, eds. (2007). Historical Disaster Research: Concepts, Methods and Case Studies, Special Issue of Historical Social Research 32.3.
WALKER, Charles. 2009, Shaky Colonialism: The 1647 Earthquake-Tsunami in Lima, Peru, and Its Long Aftermath (North Carolina: Duke University Press).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills By taking this course students will develop:
an ability to draw valid conclusions about the past;
an ability to identify, define and analyse historical problems;
an ability to select and apply a variety of critical approaches to problems informed by uneven evidence;
an ability to exercise critical judgement in creating new understanding;
an ability to extract key elements from complex information;
readiness and capacity to ask key questions and exercise rational enquiry;
an ability to search for, evaluate and use information to develop knowledge and understanding;
recognition of the importance of reflecting on one's learning experiences and being aware of one's own particular learning style
openness to new ideas, methods and ways of thinking;
an ability to identify processes and strategies for learning;
independence as a learner, with readiness to take responsibility for one's own learning, and commitment to continuous reflection, self-evaluation and self-improvement;
an ability to make decisions on the basis of rigorous and independent thought;
an ability to test, modify and strengthen one's own views through collaboration and debate;
intellectual curiosity;
an ability to make effective use of oral, written and visual means convey understanding of historical issues and one's interpretation of them;
an ability to marshal argument lucidly and coherently;
an ability to collaborate and to relate to others;
readiness to seek and value open feedback to inform genuine self-awareness;
an ability to articulate one's skills as identified through self-reflection;
a command of bibliographical and library research skills, as well as a range of skills in reading and textual analysis;
an ability to produce coherent and well presented text, sometimes of considerable length;
an ability to produce text to meet standard presentational specifications as laid out in a style sheet;
an ability to make effective presentations, perhaps using audio visual support.
Keywordscultural history,history of ideas,history of science,social history,art history,history of medicine
Course organiserDr David Rosenthal
Tel: (0131 6)50 9110
Course secretaryMiss Lorna Berridge
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