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Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2021/2022

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2021-22. The current handbook year is 2022-23

Department: History

HIST46330: The Nature of History: Approaches to Environmental History

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2021/22


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To explore comparative, transnational, and interdisciplinary approaches to historical topics.
  • To develop concepts and methodologies that are applicable across different eras and region.
  • To aid students in developing critical knowledge for engaging historical research and formulating independent analysis.


  • Environmental history is one of the fastest-growing subfields of the historical profession. The field’s objectives—to use the historian’s methods to examine intersections of humans and the ecosphere—can be partly traced to the environmental awakening of the past half-century. Rising interest in the mutually constitutive relationship between humans and the environment has spurred new approaches to historical research. The objective of this module is to provide a thorough introduction to environmental history from a global perspective. It will examine the development of environmental history and explore some key debates within the field. As a team-taught course, individual seminars will be taught be a variety of regional specialists working on a wide range of historical periods and topics. They will each introduce key themes in environmental history that build upon their own research.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • An understanding of environmental history as a historical subfield and methodological approach across temporal and regional scopes.
  • A critical knowledge of the primary sources, research questions, and methodologies that inform environmental historiography.
Subject-specific Skills:
    Key Skills:

      Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

      • Seminars will focus on a set of readings assigned tutor on their particular region, period, and specialism in environmental history. Seminars and group discussion provide students with a forum in which to assess and comment critically on the findings of others, defend their conclusions in a reasoned setting, and advance their knowledge of environmental reading.
      • Students will develop presentation skills, providing detailed presentations of materials in seminars. They will also research a particular area of local environmental history and present their findings in the field.
      • Structured reading requires students to focus on set materials integral to the knowledge and understanding of the module. It specifically enables the acquisition of detailed knowledge and skills which will be discussed in other areas of the teaching and learning experience.
      • Assessment is by means of a 5,000-word essay which requires the acquisition and application of advanced knowledge and understanding of environmental history. Essays require a sustained and coherent argument in defence of a hypothesis, and must be presented in a clearly written and structured form, and with appropriate apparatus.

      Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

      Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
      Seminars 20 Weekly in term 2 hours 20
      Preparation and Reading 280

      Summative Assessment

      Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
      Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
      Essay 5000 words 100%

      Formative Assessment:

      <enter text as appropriate for the module>

      Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University