Tutor: Chris Renwick
Module type: MA Option
Module Code: HIS00046M
As the recent debates about socio-biology and evolutionary psychology have shown, the question of how to relate evolutionary theories and society is hugely controversial. However, those debates are far from new. In fact, evolutionary theories have been discussed and evaluated not just for their scientific merits but also for their social implications since the early nineteenth century. This option examines those debates and in so doing puts current discussions into historical perspective.
Beginning with the early nineteenth-century association of evolutionary ideas with revolutionary manifestos and ending with the mid-twentieth-century debate about population control and welfare provision, "Evolution and Society, c.1800-c.1945" will consider key episodes in the discussion of evolution in Europe and North America during that period. While enabling students to thing a out how scientific ideas are shaped by their social and political contexts, studying these episodes will also give students the opportunity to consider the often under appreciated ways that scientific ideas have shaped political and social discussions. In so doing, students will be introduced to a range of different approaches to the historical study of science, including those that utilise sociological and the philosophical tools. By the end of the course, students will have been given a thorough introduction to the history of debates about evolution and society and the different ways of approaching its study.
Possible seminar topics are as follows: