The World in Question: The Social, Cultural, Political & Environmental Legacies of the Enlightenment

The details
Philosophical, Historical and Interdisciplinary Studies (School of)
Colchester Campus
Full Year
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 05 October 2023
Friday 28 June 2024
08 September 2023


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This module provides an interdisciplinary examination of recent and contemporary issues arising from the Enlightenment and its 19th century offspring, industrialism and capitalism.

The module explores social, political and existential issues that took new shapes in the 20th and 21st centuries. The module covers three broad themes Empire, The Self, and Nature.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To introduce students to the social, cultural, and economic legacies of the Enlightenment.

  • To foster understanding about the continuities and discontinuities between historical and contemporary processes.

  • To provide students with varied insights into the politics of empire, changing conceptions of the self, and the ecological impacts of industrialism and capitalism.

  • To encourage students to engage in interdisciplinary thinking, drawing on approaches from different academic fields.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be expected to be able to:

  1. Gain a broad understanding of the social, cultural and environmental legacies of the Enlightenment industrialism and capitalism.

  2. Develop the capacity to summarise and critically engage with set texts.

  3. Be able to discuss and debate the module topics.

  4. Be able to construct arguments drawing on approaches and evidence presented in lectures readings and classes.

  5. Have an enhanced ability for reasoning and interrogating concepts and evidence presented in lectures, readings and classes.

Module information

The module starts by examining Empire and look at the connections between Enlightenment thought and European expansion, colonialism and cultural domination.

In The Self, we then move on to look at how new conceptions of the self were fashioned from sociological, psychoanalytic and economic ideas.

Finally, we consider the changing conceptions of Nature that have arisen from the imposition of capitalist and industrial ways of life on most of the planet. The emphasis is on both on the forces that have caused so much destruction of nature and attempts to maintain and reclaim connections with it.

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via:

  • One lecture per week.
  • One seminar per week.

Dr Jane Hindley (ISC) will give about half of the lectures, and these will be complemented by guest lectures by academics from Art History, ISC, LiFTs, Philosophy, and Psychoanalytic and Psychosocial Studies. 

Most of these lectures will be delivered live in person, but occasionally it may be necessary to deliver a lecture via zoom.

There is also a screening of the film Rabbit Proof Fence, which students are required to attend.


The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course.
The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students.
Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Assignment 1: 3000 word essay     50% 
Coursework   Assignment 2: 3000 word essay    50% 
Exam  Main exam: Remote, Open Book, 24hr during Summer (Main Period) 
Exam  Reassessment Main exam: Remote, Open Book, 24hr during September (Reassessment Period) 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
50% 50%


Coursework Exam
50% 50%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Jane Hindley, email: janeh@essex.ac.uk.
A range of staff from across the university will contribute to the module.
PHAIS General Office - 6.130; isugadmin@essex.ac.uk.



External examiner

No external examiner information available for this module.
Available via Moodle
Of 44 hours, 39 (88.6%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
5 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


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