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

Undergraduate Course: The Order of Nature: Politics of Knowledge from Medieval to Enlightenment Europe (HIST10443)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits40 ECTS Credits20
SummaryThe way we order the natural world has always shaped our culture, beliefs, politics, and indeed economic choices. Between c. 1200 and 1750, Europe fostered many of the institutions and practices that still shape our assumptions about the order of nature: universities, with their communities of scholarship and debate; regimes of mass media; telescopes for stars and microscopes for microbes; scientific academies; and archives for collecting global data. This course will allow students to gain a critical understanding of these developments through a range of primary sources, including some housed in Edinburgh¿s own libraries and museums.
Course description This course will consider major shifts in understanding the order of nature c. 1200-1700. Medieval schools and universities found an order in nature, envisioning an elaborate hierarchy reaching from minerals and worms to the heights of heaven. Throughout the period, scholars and doubters debated this world picture, adding to it and undermining its foundations, until it grew into an entirely different order of nature in the 'New Sciences' of the seventeenth century. Intellectuals of various kinds competed for validity, authority, and prestige; and their thinking had far-reaching social, cultural, and economic effects. This course will explore how understandings of natural order shifted over the period, such as: problems of reconciling human reason and divine revelation; attitudes towards ancient texts and modern material experience; and Europe's relation to knowledge systems elsewhere in the world. Seminars alternate between broad themes and detailed cases, and the assigned essays help students to develop a deeper mastery of both.

Content note: The study of history inevitably involves the study of difficult topics that we encourage students to approach in a respectful, scholarly, and sensitive manner.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations 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: 50 4030).
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  0
Course Start Full Year
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 400 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 44, Summative Assessment Hours 3, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 8, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 345 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Coursework:
Two 1,500 word review essays (10% each)
4,000 word essay (35%)
5,000 word essay (45%)
Feedback 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.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. consider large-scale historical narratives in the history of knowledge;
  2. have a detailed and critical command of a body of scholarship on the history of knowledge in this period;
  3. define and research original historical problems and to work independently;
  4. collaborate, mutually evaluate, and share critical perspectives.
Reading List
A. Bevilacqua, The Republic of Arabic Letters: Islam and the European Enlightenment (2018).

L. Daston and K. Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750 (1998); eadem, eds., The Cambridge History of Science: Early Modern Science (2006).

P. Dear, Revolutionizing the Sciences: European Knowledge and Its Ambitions, 1500-1700, 2nd ed. (2009).

W. Eamon, Science and the Secrets of Nature: Books of Secrets in Medieval and Early Modern Culture (1994).

P. Findlen, Possessing Nature: Museums, Collecting and Scientific Culture in Early Modern Italy (1994).

P. Hazard, The European Mind 1680-1715, trans. J. L. May (1964).

W. Kusukawa, Picturing the Book of Nature: Image, Text, and Argument in Sixteenth-Century Human Anatomy and Medical Botany (2012).

D. Lindberg, The Beginnings of Western Science: The European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context, 600 BC to AD 1450, 2nd ed. (2008).

P. O. Long, Artisan/Practitioners and the Rise of the New Sciences, 1400-1600 (2011).

W. Poole, The World Makers: Scientists of the Restoration and the Search for the Origins of the Earth (2010).

L. M. Principe, The Secrets of Alchemy (2012).

E. R. Truitt, Medieval Robots: Mechanism, Magic, Nature, and Art (2015).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills This course will help students develop a range of transferable skills, including:

- the ability to manage one's time effectively, work to deadlines, and perform effectively under pressure;
- the ability to gather, sift, organise and evaluate large quantities of evidence;
- the ability to marshal argument in both written and oral form;
- the ability to work independently and as part of a group.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Richard Oosterhoff
Tel: (0131 6)50 9110
Course secretaryMiss Katherine Perry
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