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SX1007: FEARSOME ENGINES (2015-2016)

Last modified: 25 Mar 2016 11:33

Course Overview

The course aims to help the student understand how technological changes of the past have influenced subsequent social development and how social attitudes of the past have provided drivers and inhibitors of technological advance. The student will then be able to apply their understanding of these interactions to the analysis of modern society so as to identify and address threats and opportunities presented by technological change.

A variety of “fearsome engines” are studied, from technological and social standpoints and provide the student with examples of the process of technological development. The course is continuously assessed.

Course Details

Study Type Undergraduate Level 1
Session First Sub Session Credit Points 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits)
Campus None. Sustained Study No
  • Professor Howard Chandler

Qualification Prerequisites


What courses & programmes must have been taken before this course?

  • Any Undergraduate Programme (Studied)
  • Either Programme Level 1 or Programme Level 2

What other courses must be taken with this course?


What courses cannot be taken with this course?

Are there a limited number of places available?


Course Description

The course would consist of six topics (a list of possible topics is shown below) delivered over 12 weeks.
  • The historical development of materials and their use.
  • Siege engines.
  • Mills (wind and water)
  • Steam engines
  • Spinning and weaving
  • Agricultural engines
  • Printing and communications
  • Musical and dramatic (eg music boxes, fairground engines, kirby wires etc)
  • Internal combustion engines
  • Ships
  • Arms and Armour
The above list covers a very broad choice. For example, siege engines could cover defence as well as attack, including: catapults; trebuchets; battering rams; cannons; fortifications; population and resource management. Similarly musical and dramatic engines could cover wind organs; fairground music; gamelan; staging devices; magic shows; lighting and film technology. It is anticipated that the lecturers would choose the topic of greatest personal interest and deliver an in depth study over two weeks.
The subject matter would cover engineering (how the engine works) and historical (social and political impact of the invention or activity). It is anticipated that each topic would be delivered by an engineer and a historian or social scientist or similar. The materials topic will run as the first topic delivered each time the course runs. All the other topics will be designed to be independent, while avoiding duplication. This will ensure adequate flexibility as the topics can then be delivered in any order to suit the workload of the contributors. A “library” of topics (with associated contributors) will be developed. Each semester the topics to be delivered will be selected taking account of availability and workload of the contributors.
Course Outline
Outline of Materials topic:
Historical development, processing and properties of traditional materials, such as: timber; fabrics; stone; ceramics; and metals.
General outline of all the other topics:
The mechanics of the engine (ie. how it works) its technological strengths and weaknesses.
The historical development of the engine.
The historical, social and political context of the period and its influence on the development of the engine.
How the historical, social and political context of the period changed and the influence that the engine had on that change.

Further Information & Notes

This course is only available to students registered in Programme Years 1 and 2. Attendance at sixth century courses is compulsory. Students who do not attend all classes (including lectures) for a sixth century course, without exceptional cause, will not pass the engagement component of the course and will therefore fail the course.

Contact Teaching Time

Information on contact teaching time is available from the course guide.

Teaching Breakdown

More Information about Week Numbers

Details, including assessments, may be subject to change until 31 August 2023 for 1st half-session courses and 22 December 2023 for 2nd half-session courses.

Summative Assessments

In-session assessment of workshop/practical activity and student engagement with the material, including their engagement with the student assessments. The student must pass this element to pass the course. (10%)

2 briefing documents or similar written work. Each student will review, rank and comment on a selection of the submissions. These submissions will be "seeded" with tutor prepared material and, in due course, appropriate student work from earlier years. The student ranking will guide the tutors with regard to final grading. Anonymity and confidentiality will be protected. (50%)
2 Posters; the second will be based on their first briefing document (this poster to be prepared after recieving feedback for the first briefing document and the first poster). The students will evaluate all the posters and provide feedback to their fellows via a managed electronic system. (40%)
Students who fail assessment element 1 MAY be offered a viva at the discretion of the course coordinator. Failure to adequately attend and engage in the work of the course will result in failure of the course.
An extended essay applying the skills acquired during the course to a topic allocated by one of the tutors (100%).

Formative Assessment

An online Q&A form will be supplied for each topic with approximately 10 questions. The student will be able to use this to evaluate what they have "taken away" from each topic and use this to improve their listening, note taking and report reading skills. It will not be marked. WebCT will be used for this.

The feedback from the first poster and briefing document will help the student improve their performance for the second round of assessments. Peer assessment of the first poster will help improve subsequent performance.


Peer assessment will be provided via non-graded comments presented (anonymously and confidentially to the receiving student) electronically. The source of all comments will be available to the course co-ordinator via the WebCT system and any inappropriate remarks will be dealt with severely. Students will be trained in the use of this system.
Tutor feedback will be provided in writing, and verbally during the workshop/practical sessions, in the usual manner.

Course Learning Outcomes


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