MA History / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Risk: Science, Society and Culture

Course unit fact file
Unit code HSTM60672
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course considers how ideas, understandings, and practices around risk have become essential to modern science, technology and medicine, and thus human life. It begins by considering how mathematical and statistical thinking were employed in economics, and how quantified understandings of risk have been deployed by experts to explain, guide and interpret human fates in the natural and social world. Drawing on history and sociology of STM and science and technology studies, we begin in the late eighteenth century and continue up to the present day.


This unit aims to 

  • introduce students to the history of ideas about, understandings of, and practices regarding risk, especially as they have been conditioned by science, technology and medicine.
  • develop understanding of how and why past experts have assessed risks and how everyday people have conceptualised risk and scientific thinking about it in their own lives
  • encourage students to consider both expert conceptions of risk and lay experiences of risk in broader historical, sociological and anthropological contexts
  • promote appreciation of how science, technology and medicine have interacted to produce risk thinking as a feature of modern life
  • develop students’ skills in analysing and discussing primary and secondary literature relating to the history of risk in science, technology and medicine
  • enhance students’ research and essay-writing skills, and provide suitable grounding for dissertation research into history of science, technology and medicine; science and health communication; history; sociology; and health sciences.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 100%

Feedback methods

Lecturers will offer feedback on drafts, at a level consistent with being able to offer an equal degree of support to all students in the group. Essays will be submitted, and feedback delivered, electronically, typically via Turnitin GradeMark. Following the return of feedback, assessors will also be available for one-to-one discussion meetings with students.

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 150

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Elizabeth Toon Unit coordinator

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