Past Actions, Present Woes, Future Possibilities: History in the Anthropocene (HIC2330)

StaffDr Tim Cooper - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module offers students the opportunity to tackle the question of how history can usefully be deployed in a present-day context. It looks at the history of human engagement with climate change in numerous contexts. It asks students to think constructively and critically about the relationship between scientific knowledge and historical knowledge; how historians should engage with issues and debates that are dominated by scientific expertise; and how an understanding of the social origins of anthropogenic climate change can influence public debate? It also asks students to reflect critically on the learning practices and institutional assumptions of universities and to engage with their relevance as sites of critical engagement with social issues. In addition to this, the module is based upon a model of students project-working known as the Student as Producer. This model seeks to engage all participants in the active creation of ‘useful’ knowledge. Students will be set tasks that are intended to produce work that might be published or otherwise deployed to encourage critical public reflection on the issues discussed

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. demonstrate a capacity for critical engagement with the science, social science and history of climate change.
  • 2. demonstrate contextual understanding of a range of historical and social underpinnings of anthropogenic climate change.
  • 3. deploy competently the ideas of critical pedagogy and/or eco-pedagogy competently in reflecting upon your learning and the development of critical consciousness
  • 4. demonstrate some ability to make historically informed judgments regarding the most effective forms of social response to anthropogenic climate change.
  • 5. demonstrate the ability to formulate and carry through to completion an historically-informed, relevant joint research project that could engage critically with the public debate on the ¬Ďanthropocene¬í
  • 6. Demonstrate the capacity to make well-judged use of different formats for the dissemination of information, and to command some technical or aesthetic mastery of that form

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 7. read, and critically interrogate, primary source material both historical and contemporary.
  • 8. engage reflexively in historiographical debates and demonstrate some of their relevance to contemporary issues.
  • 9. demonstrate understanding of some aspects of critical pedagogy and its application to the teaching of history as a discipline.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 10. reflect critically upon, and engage with, contemporary social issues.
  • 11. critically apply historical knowledge to contemporary situations.
  • 12. work collaboratively and effectively in groups and to share knowledge and ideas
  • 13. to think creatively about problems and to demonstrate some ability to teach as well as to learn.

Syllabus plan

Themes and contents for this unit dealt with in term one may include:

The history of climate change science; the idea of the anthropocene as historical epoch; capitalism and the organization of nature; the making of oil economies; the economics of climate change; the national and international politics of climate change; technological fixes; the discourse of denial; religion and spirituality; climate change and the environmental movement.

Term two is dedicated to the Group Research Project, the content of which will be determined primarily by the groups themselves with the help of the module convenor. Space will also be provided for critical reflection on the learning process, and contribution by students to the syllabus.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Classes (term 1 only)11These take the form of tutor-led discussion of set readings. You are expected to undertake a set minimum of preparation before the class
Seminars (term 1 only)11Student-led seminar discussion based upon reading and student presentations
Classes (term 2 only)22These will be student-led project-working classes (some of them held in the computer rooms) in which your groups will collaborate on their group projects. Your tutor will be available for advice and assistance
Guided independent study33Reading for lectures. It is expected that you will spend a minimum of 3 hours preparing for each lecture by reading the materials supplied on ELE
Guided independent study33Reading for seminars. It is expected that you will spend three hours preparing for each seminar by reading the materials supplied on ELE.
Independent essay research33Individual essay. You should spend a significant amount of time on independent research reading, planning and writing your individual essay. This research will be expected to extend significantly into the further reading supplied on ELE
Group presentation preparation33You should spend a significant amount of time preparing material for the formative presentation. The distribution of this effort should be agreed by the groups
Group research project preparation124This project is a major undertaking, requiring a significant commitment of time and research effort. You should be prepared to split your time sensibly between planning the project, researching it, and preparing the final piece of written or other assessed work.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group Presentations (of Research Project)10 minutes 4,5,6,7,8,9,12,14Verbal

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Individual Essay502500 words1,2,3,7,8Written and verbal
Group Research Project50Equivalent to 2500 words of essay/wiki/blog from each contributor, or 15 minutes of verbal/cinematic/documentary presentation. Might take a multi-media format if relevant.1,2,4,5,11,12,14Written and verbal

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Individual EssayIndividual Essay1-3,7,8Referral/deferral period
Group Research ProjectIndividual Essay1,2,4,11,14Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading: D. Chivers, The No Nonsense Guide to Climate Change (2009) S. Weart, A History of Global Warming (various edns.) M. Hulme, Why We Disagree about Climate Change (2009)

ELE – College to provide hyperlink to appropriate pages

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

History, anthropocene, ecosystems, climate change