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Unit information: Information in the Age of Discovery (Level H Special Subject) in 2015/16

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Unit name Information in the Age of Discovery (Level H Special Subject)
Unit code HIST30036
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Noah Millstone
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

Early modern Europe was transformed by information. Using new devices, natural philosophers explored the sky, the human body, and the earth itself; travelers and missionaries studied remote cultures; and publishers used the new technology of print to produce scholarly monographs, lying pamphlets, and partisan newspapers. This unit introduces students to the emerging field of information history. We ask: how was knowledge produced and circulated? How did early moderns understand what they read? What was the relationship between power, social status, and the production of knowledge? Students will develop research techniques and gain experience in dealing with a variety of early modern sources – business records, reading notes, newspapers – that are fundamental for understanding what early modern people knew and how they saw the world. Important themes include the print revolution, literacy and reading, the circulation of scientific and political information, popular print and newspapers, and the emergence of a Republic of Letters.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have developed: (1) a broad understanding of the means by which information was produced, disseminated and understood in early modern Europe, as well as the ways in which this changed over time; (2) the ability to analyse and generalise about the impact of changes to information generation / transmission; (3) the ability to select pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate more general issues and arguments; (4) the ability to derive benefit from, and contribute effectively to, small group discussion; (5) the ability to identify a particular academic interpretation, evaluate it critically, and form an individual viewpoint.

Teaching Information

Weekly 2-hour seminar

Assessment Information

One summative coursework essay of 3500 words (50%) and one unseen examination of two hours comprising 2 questions out of 8 (50%). Both elements will assess ILOs 1-3, and 5.

Reading and References

A.M Blair, Too Much to Know (2010) B. Dooley, The Social History of Skepticism (1999) E.L. Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change (1980) A. Johns, The Nature of the Book (1998) J. Raymond, The Invention of the Newspaper (2005) S. Shapin, A Social History of Truth (1994)