A History of Nature

Subject HPSC20002 (2016)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2016.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 2 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2016:

January, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 06-Jan-2016 to 20-Jan-2016
Assessment Period End 22-Feb-2016
Last date to Self-Enrol 08-Jan-2016
Census Date 15-Jan-2016
Last date to Withdraw without fail 05-Feb-2016

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 30 hours -1 x 2 hour lecture each day and 1 x 1 hour tutorial each day over the two week teaching period.
Total Time Commitment:

170 hours

Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/disability


Dr Gerhard Wiesenfeldt


Email: gerhardw@unimelb.edu.au

Subject Overview:

This subject discusses central topics in human understandings about their environment in the Western world, particularly over the last 500 years. As Europeans began to venture out of their continent in the 15th century, they discovered new environments that challenged their received wisdom about themselves and their relationship to nature. Modern Science with the inherent idea of a mastery over nature is an outcome of this process. We will trace how in this history different interpretations of 'nature' have shaped science and have been shaped by science in return, including topics such as taxonomy, gardening, theories of life, and the rise of environmentalism. This subject should be of interest to students who would like to learn more about the origins of the environmental sciences, the dominance of scientific understandings of nature, and our ongoing attempts to live within a changing environment.

Learning Outcomes:

Students who successfully complete this subject will:

  • demonstrate knowledge of changes in the understanding of nature that have occurred in the western world over the last 500 years;
  • demonstrate knowledge of the explanations given by historians for these understandings;
  • demonstrate understanding for the complex cultural and social developments that have contributed in this process;
  • develop an understanding of key scientific and philosophical concepts;
  • develop an evidence-based opinion on the sustainability of our relationship with nature;
  • conduct independent research including the appropriate use of primary and secondary sources in mounting an historical argument;
  • develop effective communication and presentation skills (written and oral), and the ability to collaborate constructively within the classroom;
  • demonstrate ethical integrity in written work and classroom activities
  • Two take home tests equivalent to 1600 words, the first due after day 5 of classes the second due after day 10 (40%)
  • A document analysis of 1000 words, due January 25th 2016 (25%)
  • A research essay 1400 words, due February 5th 2016 (35%)

Hurdle requirement:

  • Students must attend a minimum of 75% of tutorials in order to pass this subject.
  • All pieces of written work must be submitted in order to pass this subject.

Note: Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 10% per day. After five working days late assessment will not be marked. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked.
Regular participation in tutorials is required.

Prescribed Texts:

Subject readings will be available online and from the bookshop.

Recommended Texts:

Donald Worster, Nature's economy: a history of ecological ideas. 2nd ed. Cambridge University Press, 1994

Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Links to further information: http://shaps.unimelb.edu.au/history-philosophy-science
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Environmental Studies
Graduate Certificate in Arts - History and Philosophy of Science
Graduate Diploma in Arts - History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science
Related Breadth Track(s): Understanding Nature

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