BA History and Sociology

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Science and the Modern World (20 Credits)

Course unit fact file
Unit code HSTM10721
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


What is science? And why does science have such authority in our society and culture? You don't have to be Einstein to find an answer!

Through a variety of case studies showing scientists at work, this unit analyses their ambitions, successes and the controversies that their research created.

A variety of resources, from scientists' writings to literature and film, will be used to introduce humanities and science students to different ways of understanding science in the past and the present.

The unit explores how science confronts politics, religion and culture more generally by using studies from a variety of disciplines including history, sociology of knowledge, politics, media and communication studies, and religion.





This unit explores the place of science in human affairs using examples from past and present. It uses non-specialist vocabulary to help us understand why we trust scientists and where that reliance comes from historically. It also invites you to reflect critically on the methods scientific experts use and the influence they exercise in the modern world.


Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit you will be able to:

  • Describe the range and complexity of the modern sciences in the context of their historical development
  • Describe the role of the sciences in modern culture
  • Analyse different ways of thinking about the sciences within contemporary society, including the views of non-scientific audiences and issues around authority and trust
  • Defend well-argued contributions to interdisciplinary group debates
  • Prepare a well-argued and evidence-based written report

In addition, for 20 credits:

  • Research and write a literature-based review, integrating scientific, historical and social viewpoints





Teaching and learning methods


Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 25%
Report 25%
Project output (not diss/n) 50%

Feedback methods

Students are encouraged to ask questions at any time during lectures and seminars. Teaching staff answers queries in the class and also by email or during office hours (contact details in the course handbook or at lectures). All submitted coursework will be returned with annotations and comments explaining the rationale for the marks given.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 11
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 178

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Robert Naylor Unit coordinator

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