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Unit information: The Age of the Anthropocene in 2018/19

Please note: It is possible that the information shown for future academic years may change due to developments in the relevant academic field. Optional unit availability varies depending on both staffing and student choice.

Unit name The Age of the Anthropocene
Unit code HUMS20005
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Dudley
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Humanities
Faculty Faculty of Arts


We’ve killed off the dodo, released unprecedented levels of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and raised sea levels: welcome to the Anthropocene, the geological age in which humankind has permanently left a mark on the planet.

This School unit puts students at the forefront of environmental history scholarship to explore how the notion of the Anthropocene has gained traction as a definition of time that recognises the unprecedented Earth-altering impact of the human species. Students will engage with debates among scientists and humanities scholars over the concept, while also exploring how it has captured popular and scholarly imagination.

This unit is, at its heart, deeply historical: understanding change through time, and interactions between nature and culture. But it is the history of an idea that is still being formed – and as such, there is a wealth of source materials, forums for debate and questions for students to engage with. As a School unit, this will use a broad range of resources, including digital tools, literary texts and audio-visual materials, and utilize ground-breaking museum exhibitions and online learning resources provided by the Deutsches Museum (Munich) and Smithsonian (Washington D.C.).

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will be able:

1) to demonstrate a broad understanding of the Anthropocene era;

2) to analyse historical and cultural trends in the field;

3) to collect and analyse a broad range of sources/data in order to form and illustrate arguments;

4) to identify a particular academic interpretation, evaluate it critically, and form an individual viewpoint.

Teaching details

1 x 2 hour interactive lecture per week

Assessment Details

One 3000 word essay (50%); one 2-hour exam (50%). Both will assess ILOs 1-4.

Reading and References

Peter Coates, ‘Creatures Enshrined: Wild Animals as Bearers of Heritage’, Past and Present (2015)

Stephen Daniels & Georgina Endfield, ‘Narratives of Climate Change: Introduction’, Journal of Historical Geography 35 (2009)

Simon Lewis and Mark Maslin, ‘Defining the Anthropocene’, Nature 519 (2015)

Jamie Lorimer, Wildlife in the Anthropocene: Conservation after Nature (2015)

Steffen, Grinevald, Crutzen, McNeill, ‘The Anthropocene: Conceptual and Historical Perspectives’, The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 369 (2011)

Waters et al., ‘The Anthropocene is Functionally and Stratigraphically Different from the Holocene’, Science 351: 6269 (2016)