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Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine

Historiography of science, technology and medicine

HSTM60651 (15 credits)

Semester One

Classes: one three-hour session every week, Wednesday mornings, Weeks 7-12

Contact: Dr Simone Turchetti


The unit aims to

    introduce students to key methods and sources in the history of science, technology and medicine (HSTM) and science and technology studies (STS);
    • give students an understanding of changing historical, philosophical and sociological approaches to the understanding of HSTM and STS
    • enable students to analyse critically key methods and techniques used by researchers;
    • give students the skills and knowledge to produce critical writing of scholarly books and articles that reveal and assess approaches, methods and techniques


    On completion of this unit, successful students will be able to

    • describe and analyse the historiography of science, technology and medicine and their relationships with wider publics, and the main analytical approaches and methods used in HSTM, MH and SC
    • conduct independent research on primary and secondary sources critically and comparatively appraise source texts
    • identify and critically analyse a variety of different approaches and methods for research and argument
    • select and apply appropriate approaches and methods to particular research questions
    • appreciate the practical skills required in research, from question formulation to publication
    • clearly present an argument in essay form using appropriate source documentation
    • contribute to group discussion read, summarise and critically examine texts



    As this is a team-taught course drawing on staff research interests, the exact content will vary. However, it will generally include the following:

    • Introduction to HSTM historiography. Why does it matter?
    • “Internal” and “external” accounts
    • Idealism and materialism in HSTM
    • Sociology of scientific knowledge, ANT and social construction
    • Gender and sexuality in science, technology and medicine
    • Borders, geography of knowledge and transnational approaches
    • Controversies and their role in HSTM historiography
    • Interdisciplinary approaches: ethnography, anthropology, and linguistics
    • Politics of knowledge: self-reflexive appraisal of  HSTM historiography and its origins.


    • One historiographic critique of a short HSTM article, 800 words: 30%
    • One essay reviewing the literature or presenting an argument on a particular historiographic problem or approach, 1500 to 2000 words: 70%


    A comprehensive reading list is distributed at the beginning of the course. Useful introductory reading includes: Helge Kragh, An Introduction to the Historiography of Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987)

    • Ronald Doel and Thomas Soderqvist, eds, The Historiography of Contemporary Science, Technology and Medicine: Writing Recent Science (London: Routledge, 2006)
    • Jan Golinski, Making Natural Knowledge: Constructivism and the History of Science, 2nd ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005)
    • Ludmilla Jordanova, Sexual Visions: Images of Gender in Science and Medicine Between the Eighteenth and Twentieth Centuries (New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1989)
    • James A Secord, “Knowledge in transit”, Isis 95 (2004): 654-672


    The seminar discussion format of the course gives all students regular opportunities to discuss their ideas with teaching staff. Staff are also available to discuss essay proposals, seminar performance, and general course performance by appointment, on a one-to-one basis. All coursework is double-marked, and essay scripts are returned to the students with both sets of markers’ comments.


    This is a team-taught course, and will feature contributions from all the active lecturing staff at CHSTM, plus guests. Full details will be provided on arrival.