The Cultures of the Sciences from the Renaissance to the French Revolution (HIC2317)

StaffDr Richard Noakes - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module explores the ways in which a welter of new ideas, practices and institutions were actively put together as aspects of a radical new way of understanding humans, nature and the cosmos.  The religious, economic, political and social changes of the period are explored as both the causes and effects of scientific developments.  The module will provide you with the ability to critique the common assumption that the sciences were the inevitable outcomes of the human quest to understand and control the environment, and to better understand the places of sciences in other types of history.


The module will also give you solid grasp of the historiography of the sciences and how different historical perspectives can be understood.  You will acquire a detailed understanding of key episodes in the early  history of the sciences and the broader religious, political, scientific, and economic contexts that they shaped and which shaped them.  The critical approach to primary sources assessed in the essay will dovetail with the Level 2 independent study modules and provide excellent preparation for the Level 3 dissertation.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the key themes in the sciences and technology in the West since the sixteenth century, together with a deeper knowledge of themes to be selected by students for essay and seminar work
  • 2. Demonstrate in oral and written contributions the key developments in the history of science and technology, and link them to broader historical contexts
  • 3. Explain how the changing historiography of the sciences and technology

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Analyse and reflect critically and contextually upon historical texts relating to a specific historical period or theme
  • 5. Collate data from a range of sources, both primary and secondary
  • 6. With limited guidance, deploy historical terminology in a comprehensible manner
  • 7. With limited guidance, handle different approaches to history in areas of controversy
  • 8. Work with primary sources under direction from the module tutor

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 9. Show evidence of ability to read and use texts and source materials critically and empathetically
  • 10. Present material for group discussion and have respect for others reasoned views
  • 11. With limited guidance, gather and deploy material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument

Syllabus plan

Historiography of science and technology; the Scientific Revolution?; exploration, trade and new worlds; humanism, books and the occult arts; universities and traditional learning; court society, patronage and the philosophers; war, gender and nature; ideologies and instruments; natural philosophy and popular culture; European imperialism and natural history; technologies and tools of Western dominance; the industrial revolution and Newton; the French Revolution and chemistry; the second scientific revolution and emergence of modern science; conclusions.

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
Lectures11Provide a spine through which all students can be brought to a similar level of knowledge and through which ideas and controversies can be transmitted.
Seminars11The seminars will focus on particular aspects of the subject-matter, with a view to offering a fuller understanding than can be delivered through the lectures, allowing the students to develop their skills and knowledge more fully. Students will be expected to prepare adequately for seminars in advance by reading and evaluating and to discuss the issues raised in the seminar itself.
Guided Independent Study60Individual 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.
Guided Independent Study33Reading for lectures. It is expected that you will spend three hours preparing for each lecture by reading. Materials to be supplied on ELE.
Guided Independent Study33Reading for seminars. It is expected that you will spend three hours preparing for each seminar by reading. Materials to be supplied on ELE.
Guided Independent Study2Group work for presenting one of the weekly formative presentations. The distribution of this effort should be agreed by groups members.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay plan500 words1-9,11 Written and verbal comments
Group presentation5 mins per student plus Q&A1-11Written and verbal comments

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
Essay1002,500 words 1-9, 11Mark, written comments and verbal feedback on formal submission

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay (2,500 words)1-9, 11Reassessment Period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading


Bowler, P. and Morus, I. (2005). Making Modern Science.  Chicago: Chicago University Press

Brooke, J. (1991), Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Daston, L. and Park, K. (ed.), (2006). The Cambridge History of Science.  Volume 3.  Early Modern Science.  Cambridge University Press

Dear, P. (2011). Revolutionising the Sciences: European Knowledge and its Ambitions, 1500-1700.  Basingstoke: Palgrave

Dixon, T.  (2008). Science and Religion: A Very Short Introduction.  Oxford: Oxford University Press

Ede, A. and Cormack, L. (2004). A History of Science in Society.  Peterborough: Broadview Press

Fara, P. (2009). Science: A Four Thousand Year History.  Oxford: Oxford University Press

Harrison, P. (2015). The Territories of Science and Religion. Chicago: Chicago University Press


Henry, J. (2008). The Scientific Revolution and the Origins of Modern Science.  Basingstoke: Palgrave

Jacob, M. (1997).  Scientific Culture and the Making of the Industrial West.  New York: Oxford University Press

Lightman (ed.), B. (2016). A Companion to the History of Science.  Oxford: Blackwell

Outram, D. (1997). The Enlightenment.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Porter, R. (2003). The Cambridge History of Science.  Volume 4.  The Eighteenth Century.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Principe, L. (2011), The Scientific Revolution: A Very Short Introduction.  Oxford: Oxford University Press

Shapin, S. (1996). The Scientific Revolution.  Chicago: Chicago University Press

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

ELE – College to provide hyperlink to appropriate pages


Web based and electronic resources:


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Key words search

Science; history; religion; magic; trade; imperialism; Renaissance; industry