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2008/09 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HPSC2302 Technological Change in History

20 creditsClass Size: 100

In light of the effect of COVID-19 and lockdown restrictions on students' learning experiences, the School of PRHS have made the decision to modify assessment in Semester 2 modules in the 2020-21 academic year. Changes may involve reducing the number of assessment points (e.g. assessing one essay rather than two) or reducing word counts where it is possible to do so whilst protecting the integrity of the module's Learning Outcomes. Information on any changes to assessment is available to enrolled students in the Minerva module area, and can also be sought from the module leader or the PRHS SES team.

Module manager: Dr Richard Gunn

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2008/09

Pre-requisite qualifications

20 credits of Level 1 HPSC modules or equivalent

This module is mutually exclusive with

HPSC2500Technological Change in History

Module replaces

HPSC2500 Technological Change in History

This module is approved as an Elective

Module summary

What factors influence the technologies we have? Is it simply a matter of choosing the best for a particular need? Historians of technology would almost universally answer no to both of these questions. The purpose of the module is to introduce students to a variety of approaches used by historians of technology. To demonstrate how affective the different approaches can be we examine several case studies drawn from the following areas: communications technologies; computing and information technologies; biomedical technologies; electrical technologies. In order to understand fully why technology changes in the way it does we examine the wider social, political and cultural situations in which technologies develop. Artefacts such as automobiles, operating theatres, power stations or mobile phones, for example, are not simply invented or manufactured solely with technical excellence in mind. They appear in what historians call a context. The course examines how these non-technical factors, from outright political manipulation to sales and marketing strategies, affect the final product. By the end of the module, students will be in a position to assess the merits or demerits of the various approaches used in the history of technology. They will then be able to examine specific case studies with a view to testing these approaches in practice.


By the end of the module students should be able to:

i) understand and deploy explanations of historical change in technology;
ii) show detailed knowledge of four historical case studies on technological change;
iii) critically evaluate historical writing on the case study topics.


General themes: continuity and discontinuity in technological change; evolutionary vs. political accounts of technological change; the comparative explanatory significance of inventors, workers, institutions and consumers - social shaping and constructionist accounts.

Four case studies drawn from the following areas:

i) Scientific instruments;
ii) Telegraph
iii) Telephone Telecommunications technologies
iv) Computer
v) Internet
vi) Lighting
vii) Medical technologies
viii) Military technologies

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours181.00
Total Contact hours19.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

3 hours reading per lecture: 33 hours;
6 hours reading per seminar: 48 hours;
Essay preparation: 30 hours;
Examination preparation: 30 hours;
Background reading: 56 hours.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

1 x 2,000 word essay due mid-way through the module & through seminar participation;
Essay returned with written feedback in week 9.

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay2,000 words50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)50.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Standard exam (closed essays, MCQs etc)2 hr 00 mins50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)50.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 07/04/2011


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