The global history of science, technology and work, from classical antiquity to the present day

Module details

  • Offered to 3rd & 4th Years
  • Thursdays 16.00-18.00
  • Planned delivery: On campus (South Kensington)
  • Two-term module, worth 5 ECTS
  • Available to eligible students as part of I-Explore
  • Extra Credit, or Degree Credit where your department allows
Degree credit module options by departmentHow to enrol

This innovative module situates the histories of science, technology and industry within global history, from ancient times to the present day. The concepts of historical time, social and economic development, and even progress, will be examined throughout. Continuity, change and the diffusion of knowledge and practices are central themes.

We will cover a variety of activities, such as innovation, research, development, production, distribution, maintenance, and disposal. In so doing, we’ll draw on a diverse array of historical sources and research gathered around themes such as power, control, empire, (de)globalisation, autarchy, logistics, gender, organisation, and work. The module considers older social science thinkers such as Marx, Weber, and Foucault, as well as more recent commentators.

Please note: The information on this module description is indicative. The module may undergo minor modifications before the start of next academic year. 

Information blocks

HelicopterBy the end of this module you will be better able to:

  • Examine key concepts across the discipline of history, science and technology
  • Explore concepts using self-directed primary and secondary research
  • Integrate concepts studied, research, and feedback received
  • Communicate relevant academic concepts and findings in at least two formats


  • Historical continuity and differences in science and technology
  • Science in medieval China
  • Islamic and European science in the Middle Ages
  • European discovery and the role of scientific thinking in early colonialism. Indigenous science and technology
  • The industrial revolution in Europe
  • Population and history
  • Science, improvement and empire
  • Science, authority and the Enlightenment
  • Mass production and the 'American century'
  • Big science in the Cold War
  • Development in the Cold War
  • Counterculture and science studies
  • Globalisation
  • Tacit knowledge, organisational behaviour and memory decay
  • Futures, forecasting and decision-making
  • Public uses of history
  • Historical research challenges
This module is designed to develop your skills and confidence as an independent analyst and researcher. In terms of assessment, it builds in complexity from an essay chosen from a set list, to a presentation on a subject of your choice, to a final written project on that subject.
Most classes include discussion time, organised group discussions around both pre-set and in-class reading. In some classes we undertake paired/group activities such as source identification, research in secondary literature, and presentation of findings to peers and the module leader. Some summative assessed group work such as research, and essay and presentation planning, will be conducted in structured class time to ensure fairness and effectiveness.
In-person sessions will be augmented digitally as follows:
  • The module VLE will be used for making readings, slides and handouts available to you: everything is available from the start of the module
  • Documentaries will be made available to you, and videos are used in the class for you to watch and analyse historical documentaries and re-enactments
  • We record teaching sessions to enable you to revise in your own time, and to foster inclusive methods in case you cannot attend any given session
  • Deploy digital technology into learning and teaching, such as using Mentimeter for polling your responses to scenarios presented

This module uses a suitable VLE for submission of summative assessments, through which your feedback will be delivered. Feedback from your first essay, in term 1, will be designed to feed into your term 2 assessments. Given that your presentation and second essay form part of the same project, feedback on your presentation will aid you both in your presentation skills as well as developing your final written project.

Coursework: Essay - 1200-1500 words (30%)
Practical: Individual 5-minute presentation (15%)
Coursework: Essay - 1500-2000 words (55%)

  • Requirements: You are expected to attend all classes and undertake approximately 85 hours of independent study in total during the module. Independent study includes reading and preparation for classes, researching and writing coursework assignments and preparing for other assessments.
  • This module is designed as an undergraduate Level 6 module. For an explanation of levels, view the Imperial Horizons Level Descriptors page.‌‌
"Thanks for the brilliant course that you’ve taught us over these past few months! I’ve learned an awful lot and many of the topics covered have stayed in my head for weeks. I’d be happy to lend my voice towards recommending this option to other students!"
"An extremely interesting module, giving me a completely different, and much broader view of history than I had before."
"From these lectures, I have a renewed sense of academic interest and curiosity, trying to find both context and interesting angles in all walks of life, and will be sure to maintain an interest in history in the future. From talking to friends from the module after lectures and throughout the year I know that everyone enjoyed the module similarly."
"Michael has been one of my favourite lecturers at Imperial thus far! He is incredibly engaging and encourages everyone in the class to explore their personal interests in History. I have learned a lot and had a lot of fun in this module."
"Great module, far exceeded my expectations when coming in. Content is very thought provoking and creates ample room for further discussion and reading."
"Your class provided me with a fascinating perspective and analysis of history, one that I certainly had not considered before. It helped me piece together various events across the globe and form a more comprehensive and complete view of history. Prior to your module, my historical knowledge had been very compartmentalized."
"Brilliantly engaging lecturer - has made me appreciate and enjoy history so much more! Well-structured class and lots of interesting class discussion. Couldn't be any better!"
"Very well structured, with a lot of content covered in an engaging way. Can't overstate how much I've enjoyed this module, it's the reason I look forward to Thursdays. Thank you!"