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School of History

HST5412 – How Do You Know? From the Culture of Facts to Post-Truth Society (16th-21st Centuries)

Module code: HST5412

Credits: 15
Semester: SEM 2

Module Convenor: Dr Andrew Mendelsohn

Fake news?  Information overload?  Tried and tested?  Trust in numbers?  ‘Evidence-based’?  This module explores the centuries-long, controversy-rich story of how societies have come to produce and rely on facts (test results, statistics, images) and, at the same time, produce and rely on doubt and criticism (in the media, scientific research, politics).  We will look behind the myth of a universal scientific method to uncover the wide variety of ways of knowing – from testing to testimony, observing and describing, visualising and modeling, quantifying and data-mining, old and new.  Ranging far beyond science, these arose out of commerce, news, law, accounting, travel, government, the practical and fine arts, information overload (paper or electronic), scholarly methods, and even everyday household life. Objectivity, evidence, proof: seemingly universal, these, too, have a long history that is still unfolding today.  Finally, the module explores how today’s ideals and initiatives of ‘citizen science’ and ‘public engagement’ were yesterday’s realities.

Assessment: Seminar Participation [10%], Essay 1 (1,500 words) [40%] and Essay 2 (2,000 words) [50%]
Level: 5