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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : Postgraduate (History, Classics and Archaeology)

Postgraduate Course: The Scientific Revolution in Global Perspective (PGHC11444)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryModern Western science has a number of characteristics that distinguish it from other scientific cultures. It ascribes its tremendous success to sophisticated experiments and meticulous observation. These unique achievements, so the current narrative goes, were the product of the 'Scientific Revolution' of the 17th century. In this course we will examine this premise and consider its supporters and detractors before turning to the way western science was exported to other countries, with particular reference to China and South America. This comparative perspective will allow us to assess and evaluate a number of historiographical issues that have engaged historians of science in recent years.
Course description In the 1940s the influential Cambridge historian Herbert Butterfield argued that the Scientific Revolution "outshines everything since the rise of Christianity and reduces the Renaissance and Reformation to the rank of mere episodes, mere internal displacements within the system of medieval Christendom." A number of historians since have vigorously challenged this grand narrative, while a minority of historians have enthusiastically revived it in recent years. This course will review the main aspects of this historiographical debate before analyzing key aspects of the Scientific Revolution in early modern Europe, and then broaden out to consider examples of the history of science in global perspective, focusing mainly on the period 1450 to 1800. Some representative topics may include, depending on the year: early scientific institutions, art and science, Renaissance natural history, science and religion, non-western knowledge systems, science and race, and so on.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate, by way of coursework or oral contribution, command of the body of knowledge considered in the course
  2. Demonstrate, by way of coursework or oral contribution as required, an ability to read, analyse, and reflect critically upon relevant primary sources and related scholarship
  3. Demonstrate, by way of coursework or oral contribution as required, the ability to develop and sustain scholarly arguments by formulating appropriate questions and using the relevant supporting evidence
  4. Demonstrate the ability to address historical problems in depth by understanding the varieties of approaches to constructing and interpreting the past
  5. Demonstrate independence of mind and initiative; effective use of electronic and online resource and of computer programmes like PowerPoint; originality and creativity; intellectual integrity and maturity; an ability to complete the relevant assignments within a strict time limit
Reading List
BURNS, W. 2015. The Scientific Revolution in Global Perspective (Cambridge).
CANIZARES-ESGUERRA, J. 2006. Nature, Empire, and Nation: Explorations of the History of Science in the Iberian World (Stanford).
COHEN, H. F. 1994. The Scientific Revolution: A Historiographical Inquiry (Chicago).
DASTON, L., and K. Park. 2001. Wonders and the Order of Nature (New York). -- eds. 2006. The Cambridge History of Science, vol.3 Early Modern Cambridge).
DEAR, P.1995. Discipline and Experience. The Mathematical Way in the Scientific Revolution (Chicago). -- 2009. Revolutionizing the Sciences: European Knowledge and Its Ambitions, 1500-1700 (Basingstoke).
FEINGOLD, M. ed. 2003a. The New Science and Jesuit Science. Seventeenth-Century Perspectives (Dordrecht-Boston-London). --ed. 2003b. Jesuit Science and the Republic of Letters (Cambridge, Mass.-London).
HENRY, J. 2008. The Scientific Revolution and the Origins of Modern Science. 3rd edition. (Basingstoke).
HUFF, T. E. 2003. The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China and the West (Cambridge)
--2010. Intellectual Curiosity and the Scientific Revolution. A Global Perspective (Cambridge).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills By taking this course students will be able to:
- Process and critically assess information derived from historical research, utilising historiographical, theoretical and methodological knowledge and skills specific to the subject area of the student's research.
- Provide clear written and oral analyses based on historical information.
- Utilize central theoretical and cultural concepts.
- Identify historical continuities and contrasts.
- Construct and pursue a coherent historical argument based on the hypotheses which have been formulated and tested by reference to primary and secondary source material.
- Understand the role of causality in historical evolution.
- Locate an argument - whether verbal or written - within a broader intellectual context and evaluate its implications from that more general perspective.
- Formulate and implement a plan of research.
- Conceive and pursue to its conclusion a coherent argument founded on evidence provided by the sources at the student's disposal.
- Write clear, accurate, precise and concise prose.
- Analyse, assimilate and deploy critically a range of secondary literature relevant and essential to the student's individual research subject.
- Identify and deploy critically relevant primary historical sources.
- Locate a specific thesis within its broader historiography.
- Formulate hypotheses relating to the student's research subject and to test them by marshalling a range of primary and secondary evidence.
- Reflect critically on the processes and methods which the student utilises in both their research and their writing.
- Reflect critically on the role of the individual in achieving their own personal and intellectual ambitions and goals.
- Assimilate, process and communicate a wide range of information from a variety of sources.
- Undertake written and verbal textual analysis incorporating historical evidence.
- Formulate and implement a plan of verbal communication through tutorial participation.
- Undertake a sustained independent research project, and complete it within a strict time limit to the highest textual standards.
- Write clear, accurate, precise and concise prose in different formats.
- Understand different audiences for historical research.
- Use digital technology in the practice of historical research and writing.
- Use online digital technology in the representation of historical sources, with the ethical and intellectual challenges that such technology represents.
- Master practical skills in navigating and using book and journal based library resources.
- Master practical skills in accessing and handling original and archive historical sources, including material and visual sources.
- Master practical skills in making effective contributions to group based learning.
Course organiserDr Richard Oosterhoff
Tel: (0131 6)50 9110
Course secretaryMiss Marketa Vejskalova
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