On Campus
2 x 1-hour lectures weekly
1 x 1-hour tutorials weekly
1 x 8.25-hour independent study weekly

Distance Online
2 x 1-hour online lectures weekly
1 x 1-hour online tutorials weekly
1 x 8.25-hour independent study weekly
Assignment(s), Journal, Project
Topic description

This topic is part of the suite of multidisciplinary Grand Challenges topics which focus on a range of complex issues facing the world. Throughout this topic, you will critically examine challenging societal contexts and make recommendations as to how to best tackle them.

War, famine, drought, disease, economic crises and natural disasters have disrupted and radically altered all societies including our own. They also seem set to continue to do so. By considering a number of case studies, from the ancient world to the present, this topic assesses the factors leading to population collapse, economic collapse and violent societal breakdown. It also explores the strategies used by different societies to address crises and examines how they have either adapted or succumbed to the changes they faced. In 5 modules (war, disease, economic collapse, environmental catastrophe and famine), Crisis and Catastrophe assesses previous societal successes and failures, as well as the uneven consequences of crises in different times and in different places. The topic equips students for the future as, by studying how societies have dealt with their biggest challenges in the past, students will gain the tools to assess which social and political strategies have historically succeeded and which have failed.

Educational aims

This topic aims to:

  • Gain a broader understanding of global challenges
  • Critically examine challenging societal contexts and make recommendations as to how to tackle them
  • Investigate the history of responses to global crises
  • Examine how global crises have affected human society
  • Offer past exemplars to encourage strategic and systematic approaches to future crises
  • Foster historical modes of thinking when approaching social rupture and change
Expected learning outcomes
On completion of this topic you will be expected to be able to:

  1. Critically analyse challenging contexts
  2. Develop and recommend solutions to tackle specific challenges
  3. Evaluate critically the complexities and contours of the human experience over time
  4. Assess the differing nature of human relations at different points in world history
  5. Examine the relationship between the state, society and individuals across time
  6. Predict which social strategies will enable social survival and which will hasten societal decline
  7. Determine strategies for preparing for and adapting to rapid and radical change and provide advice to decision makers