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Regular version of the site

Science and Society in Early Modern and Modern Europe

Academic Year
Instruction in English
ECTS credits
Course type:
Elective course
1 year, 3, 4 module


Course Syllabus


The purpose of the course is to familiarise students with the main problems in the development of natural philosophy and natural sciences in the early modern and modern times and to examine entangled histories of scientific knowledge, technology, economics and social structures in different historical periods. We will consider how the European expansion to other regions of the world, which began in the 16th century, not only stimulated the accumulation of new scientific data but also led to the emergence of new research practices and institutions of scientific research. We will analyse what the history of science and technology can provide for a better understanding of contemporary problems such as food security, climate change, depletion of natural resources, and the transition to new sources of energy.
Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • The course aims to familiarise students with the advancement of natural sciences in the early modern and modern periods (from the Scientific Revolution to the early 20th century) in a broader context of social, economic and technological changes, and to hone their critical and argumentative skills in analysing contemporary problems in the relations between science and society.
Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • Students will develop a basic understanding of the main stages in the advancement of natural sciences in the 16th-19th centuries as connected to major social, economic and technological transformations
  • Students will develop a general understanding of the ways in which historians of science approach their subject – their concepts and research methods
  • Students will improve their skills in examining various modes of interaction between science and society
  • Students will improve their skills of reading, academic debates and academic writing in English
Course Contents

Course Contents

  • "The scientific revolution" and "the great divergence" between Europe and Asia
  • Early modern science and the European expansion in the 16th-18th centuries: astronomy and navigation
  • Botany and European overseas empires of the early modern period
  • Anatomy and medicine in early modern Europe and beyond
  • Scientific societies and academies of sciences in early modern Europe. Science in the Enlightenment
  • Recapitulation: science in Europe and beyond in the early modern period
  • The industrial revolution and 19th century science
  • Making science in the 19th century: scientific personae and the sites of scientific research
  • Life and earth sciences in the 19th century: heredity, evolution and the fate of the human race
  • Epidemics, mortality and medicine in the 19th century
  • Writing history of early modern and modern science
  • Recapitulation: Science in Europe in the 19th century and beyond
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • non-blocking In-class participation
    Students will answer the questions raised by the discussion leade(r) or the lecturer. The questions have to be based on the readings assigned for each seminar, they need to be focused not only on the factual but also on the conceptual content of the texts. It will be a bonus if students could connect their answers to the points raised during the lectures or to the discussions held at other seminars.
  • non-blocking Discussion leadership
    Once during the course all students have to act as the discussion leader for a particular seminar. The discussion leader reads the same assigned readings for a seminar, prepares a list of questions for the discussion, leads the discussion at the seminar by encouraging other students to formulate their thoughts and assisting them in expressing themselves. He or she may need to correct the students or provide an answer if no one volunteers. In the end, the discussion leader summarises the main points addressed during the discussion.
  • non-blocking Team project
    Students split into small groups (3-4 persons) of their own choice. They choose a particular case in the history of science in the 17th-19th centuries (a life-history of a scientist, or a history of an institution, or a piece of research focused on a specific problem), examine it on the basis of all available sources of information and prepare a presentation for the whole class. The lecturer must approve the case for examination and analysis.
  • non-blocking A book review
    critical review of a book on history of science from the list, 1500-2000 words, submitted by email 2 weeks in advance before the end of the 4th module (the exact date to be appointed after consultation with students). The essay should provide a coherent outline of the major points of the book and its structure; it should also contain the student’s critical perspective on the book – the student should evaluate the clarity and persuasiveness of the argument, examine the author’s research methodology and sources, as well as indicate the points that seemed to be particularly original, innovative, impressive or were especially confusing or disappointing.
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • 2022/2023 4th module
    0.3 * A book review + 0.2 * Team project + 0.2 * Discussion leadership + 0.1 * In-class participation


Recommended Core Bibliography

  • A shorter history of science, Dampier, W. C., 2014
  • Dear, P. (2006). The Intelligibility of Nature : How Science Makes Sense of the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=260098
  • History of Science, Boas, M., 1958
  • Lightman, B. V. (2016). A Companion to the History of Science. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=1163670
  • McClellan, J. E., & Dorn, H. (2006). Science and Technology in World History : An Introduction (Vol. 2nd ed). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=215912
  • The Cambridge history of science. Vol.3: Early modern science, , 2008
  • The Cambridge history of science. Vol.5: The modern physical and mathematical sciences, , 2003

Recommended Additional Bibliography

  • Brian W. Ogilvie. (2006). The Science of Describing : Natural History in Renaissance Europe. University of Chicago Press.
  • Bynum, W. F. (2008). The History of Medicine: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: OUP Oxford. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=363643
  • Jonathan Simon, & Bernadette Bensaude-vincent. (2012). Chemistry: The Impure Science (2nd Edition): Vol. 2nd ed. Imperial College Press.
  • Robert Westman. (2011). The Copernican Question : Prognostication, Skepticism, and Celestial Order. University of California Press.
  • Shanahan, T. (2004). The Evolution of Darwinism : Selection, Adaptation and Progress in Evolutionary Biology. Cambridge University Press.
  • Shapin, S. (2008). The Scientific Life : A Moral History of a Late Modern Vocation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=285089
  • Ursula Klein, & Wolfgang Lefèvre. (2007). Materials in Eighteenth-Century Science : A Historical Ontology. The MIT Press.