Undergraduate Course: The Rise and Fall of the Human Empire? The History of the Anthropocene (HIST10469)
|School||School of History, Classics and Archaeology
||College||College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||We live in the epoch of the Anthropocene, a new geological age in which humans have fundamentally altered our planet and are the dominant geological force. This is an era characterised by the profound impact that humans have had on the planet's ecosystem and climate. This course explores this complex history over the past 500 years.
Since the formation of the Earth 4.5 billion years ago, no era has witnessed so much environmental change as the past five hundred years, merely a moment in the history of our planet. Industrialisation, capitalism, and the insatiable need for more and more 'things' has unleashed uncontrollable destructive forces. This course focuses on a number of key developments to consider two related questions. First, how have humans altered the Earth's systems - climate, atmosphere, ecosystems, oceans and landscape? Second, what are the implications of these changes for human society and the relationship between humans and the other species that inhabit this planet? The coverage begins in the late fifteenth century with the Columbian Exchange of diseases, crops, ideas, animals, and people between the Old World and the New World in 1492. It then investigates a number of critical issues relating to land use and the production of food, the exploitative relationships between humans and other species and the impact of industrial capitalism, urbanisation and the use of fossil fuels as the main source of energy. The final section of the course focuses on the post-1945 world,exploring consumer capitalism, the development of the environmental movement in the 1960s and 1970s, and concludes with an assessment of the current climate crisis.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
||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 Secretary to ensure that a place is available (Tel: 504030).
Information for Visiting Students
|Pre-requisites||Visiting 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. Applicants should note that, as with other popular courses, meeting the minimum does NOT guarantee admission.
** as numbers are limited, visiting students should contact the Visiting Student Office directly for admission to this course **
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2022/23, Available to all students (SV1)
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Seminar/Tutorial Hours 22,
Summative Assessment Hours 2,
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Additional Information (Learning and Teaching)
Weekly participation in an Autonomous Learning Group is required.
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
3,000 word essay (40%)
ALG presentation (20%)
Two hour exam (40%)
||Students will receive feedback on their coursework, and will have the opportunity to discuss that feedback further with the Course Organiser during their published office hours for this course or by appointment.
||Hours & Minutes
|Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)||2:00|
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- Demonstrate, by way of coursework,an ability to provide clear written and oral analyses based on historical argumentation;
- Critically evaluate, by way of coursework, the key analytical and conceptual issues in the history of the Anthropocene;
- Undertake a significant piece of written coursework focusing on a specialist topic;
- Write in clear, accurate and precise prose in coursework essay and weekly discussion forums;
- Demonstrate the ability to work collaboratively as part of group to prepare and deliver a class presentation.
Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, The Shock of the Anthropocene: The Earth,History and Us (London, 2016).
Rachel Carson, Silent Spring(new ed., London, 2000).
Dipesh Chakrabarty, 'The Climate of History: Four Theses', Critical Inquiry,35, no. 2 (2009), 197-222.
Deborah R. Coen, 'Big Is a Thing of the Past: Climate Change and Methodology in the History of Ideas', Journal of the History of Ideas, 77, no. 2 (2016), 305-21.
Erle C. Ellis, Anthropocene: A Very Short introduction (Oxford, 2018).
Elizabeth Hennessy, On the Backs of Tortoises: Darwin, the Galapagos, and the Fate of an Evolutionary Eden (New Haven CT, 2019).
Marianne Krogh (ed.), Connectedness: An Incomplete Encyclopaedia of the Anthropocene (Copenhagen, 2020).
Simon L. Lewis and Mark A. Maslin, The Human Planet: How we Created the Anthropocene (London, 2018).
Jason W. Lewis, Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism (Oakland CA, 2016).
John R. McNeill and Peter Engelke, The Great Acceleration: An Environmental History of the Anthropocene since 1945 (Cambridge MA, 2016).
Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins(Princeton NJ, 2017).
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
||Skills in research and analysis;
Oral communication skills (through seminar participation and group oral presentation);
Written communication skills through writing the 4,000 word essay and weekly discussion posts.
|Course organiser||Prof Enda Delaney
Tel: (0131 6)50 3755
|Course secretary||Mrs Ksenia Gorlatova
Tel: (0131 6)50 8349