Global Opportunities

HIS3349 : Health and disease in the Anthropocene: Intersections of human and environmental health post 1800 (Inactive)

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


Human health has always been interlinked with that of the environment and as the Anthropocene (our current geological age) progresses, this is becoming an increasingly urgent matter for public health policy. This module will look at key ways in which humans have adapted their environment in the past, in relation to their own concerns regarding health and disease. Through a series of key case studies over time and place such as an investigation of attempts to control air pollution in the late nineteenth century, the mid-twentieth century and today, students will gain an understanding of the historical and cultural contexts of such debates and the interrelationships between human and environmental health. They will also gain an understanding of how people in the past conceived the relationship between different environments and health and how that has changed over time. Although focused on Britain, the module will consider transnational and global contexts in relation to the use of forests for the treatment of Tuberculosis in Germany and Australia as well as the development of strategies to deal with malaria in India, the US and East Africa.

This module aims:
• To introduce students to historical research and to guide them in the analysis of primary documents and texts.
• To provide an opportunity to acquire a sound general knowledge of the subject, reading widely and critically in the primary and secondary literature associated with it and to develop the capacity for independent study.
• To enable students to develop an understanding of the interconnections between concepts of human health and disease and environmental health over the past two centuries.

Outline Of Syllabus

The following are some of the central topics typically included in seminars and non-synchronous materials::

• The miasmatic city - the nineteenth century urban landscape as conceived as a sink of disease and the connections between water purity and human health through an examination of cholera and the work of John Snow.

• The countryside as a therapeutic landscape – the placement of hospitals asylums, sanatoria, convalescent homes and open-air schools away from the polluted city.

• The seaside and coastal areas for health – from nineteenth-century sea-bathing to late twentieth century concerns over coastal purity and human health.

• The magic mountain – the use of mountains for health cures including tuberculosis and hay-fever, as well as the creation of colonial hill stations in India.

• The forest – The role of forests and trees in the cure of tuberculosis in Germany, the UK and Australia as well as an examination of ‘forest bathing’ as current concept.

• Lungs of the city – urban parks as public health infrastructure from Victoria Park in London in the 1840s to present day arguments concerning public parks as healthy, bio-diverse spaces.

• The city as a garden – changes in urban planning for environmental and human health. Benjamin Ward Richardson’s Hygeia and the Garden City movement then and now.

• Draining the swamps – environmental and malarial intersections in late nineteenth century North America and twentieth century East Africa.

• Smoke gets in your lungs – from the movement for smoke abatement in the nineteenth century, through the great smog in London in the 1950s to current air pollution concerns in relation to reduced life expectancy and health.

• Climate change and the Anthropocene – considering how human and environmental health have been affected by human activity and how past actions are having present and future impact.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion651:0065:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading501:0050:00N/A
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities112:0022:00Structured learning activities linked to primary sources etc. Asynchronous online.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching112:0022:00Synchronous PiP where possible seminars (timetabled)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops31:003:00Synchronous PiP workshops (where possible) developing communication skills (timetabled)
Guided Independent StudyProject work301:0030:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesScheduled on-line contact time81:008:00Online drop in sessions for preparation and advice on assessments (timetabled)
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Discussion of the key debates in the shifting understanding of human and environmental health will take place in online synchronous seminar blocks. Alongside these sessions, there will be asynchronous materials and structured learning to engage students in developing their approaches to primary source analysis and to develop their skills in critical thinking and close reading of texts. There will also be workshops to develop communication skills to allow students to produce a creative piece (short podcast, blog, poster etc) which aims to encourage a public audience to place current debates around climate change, air pollution, malaria etc in their historic context. This will develop their public communication tools - digital and other techniques - as well as an awareness of contemporary environmental and health debates. To encourage both creativity and to make the project work accessible to all students, they will be able to choose from visual, written and sound recordings for the project element.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Report2M30Individual 1500 word report relating to process of the creative project and their research findings, incl footnotes but excl biblio
Design/Creative proj2M20Solo project designing a podcast, blog or poster which communicates complex ideas to the public
Essay2A502,000 word essay including footnotes but excluding the bibliography and appendices.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The essay tests knowledge outcomes and develops skills in research, reading and writing.

The creative project component fosters engaged and personalised learning, as well as developing communication skills, and the associated report also tests understanding of the subject and reflective learning.

Work submitted during the delivery of the module forms a means of determining student progress.

Reading Lists