Lessons from History

A look at historical global phenomena and disasters to see what lessons can be taken forward to help better prepare the world to tackle global challenges

How to enrol

Course details

Available to 3rd & 4th Years
Thursdays 16.00-18.00 
20 weeks (autumn and spring terms)

This course offers you the opportunity to learn about significant global events such as natural disasters, conflicts and humanitarian crises from a historical, cultural and scientific perspective.

Organised as a team-based learning programme, you will study set materials and draw key learning points from each historical case study. You will then work in teams to apply this learning to the modern world, specifically thinking about policies for future disaster mitigation and managing global challenges.

Information blocks

Learning objectives

On successful completion of the course you will have:

  • a systematic knowledge and critical understanding of each historical event covered
  • synthesised a set of key learning points from each historical event and its legacy
  • applied these to current approaches to managing global challenges, suggesting areas where improvements could be made
  • identified areas for further self-directed study and developed considered insights using inputs from a range of sources and disciplines to construct a critical review of our attempts to manage the world in which we live
  • engaged with the ethical, social, economic and political aspects of each event analysed 
  • planned, monitored and evaluated your own learning, and developed methods of accountability within your team

Indicative core content

This course requires examination of a number of key historical events that can inform our thinking about risk and disaster management, and reflect the complexity of our interactions with the world. You will be required to apply key insights derived from each event to current strategy and policy, and identify areas for improvement. Each of the following events will be considered, along with their legacy: Nuclear sign

  • Chernobyl (nuclear safety)
  • Aral Sea Regression (ecosystem destruction)
  • Challenger Disaster (technological and political disaster)
  • South East Asia Tsunami (large scale, multinational natural disaster)
  • Haiti Earthquake (natural disaster with problematic disaster response)
  • Great Chinese Famine (food security)
  • Sudan Conflict (war and fragile states)
  • Eyjafjallajökull Eruption (risk management)
  • L.A. Riots (civil unrest)
  • B.S.E. Crisis

Assessment

  • Team based learning assignments - tests of comprehension of core material (20%)
  • Application exercises – short answer questions applying key learning points to contemporary issues and strategy (40%)
  • Essay – integrating learning from several of the events covered to create a plan for future disaster management (40%)

Key information

  • 6 ECTS points awarded on successful completion of the course.
  • Available to take for credit towards your degree where your department allows. See . Courses are also available for extra-credit.
  • You must be prepared to attend all classes and and undertake approximately 2-3 hours of private study or reading each week in addition to the assessment.
  • This module is designed as an undergraduate Level 6 course. See Imperial Horizons level descriptors [pdf]
"This course is so far the best course I have ever attended at Imperial. It is an intelectually stimulating, fun and well structured course. I definitely recommend this course for anyone who is looking forward to broaden their horizons!"
"I found the content of this module was both varied enough to keep things interesting, but also linked which allowed us to build on previous knowledge. Feedback was provided very promptly and was always specific and thorough."
"I am very happy that I have chosen to do a horizons course. The information is varied and discussions in class are very stimulating and encourage me to look into them further. The course provides a very nice contrast to other technical modules in my degree."
"It's lovely to have a module where the students are trusted to decide how best to structure the course. Working in teams this way has been a new and valuable experience. I love being able to research (and be marked on) what grabs my interest in a topic each cycle. Great course!"