Iron and Steel and Society (HIC2034)

15 credits

On the one hand, mundane and ubiquitous, and on the other, powerful and awe-inspiring, iron and its sibling alloy steel have been central to human culture and socio-economic development since their advent over three millennia ago. They have both driven and responded to social and political change whilst paradoxically remaining a material constant. The production of iron and steel is resource-hungry and requires substantial social investment. Making iron and steel are also technologically complex processes that require socially-embedded know-how that is often historically unrecorded. Western perceptions of the trajectory of technological development situates the Industrial Revolution as the point of ascendency against which technology is measured. On this module you will examine the archaeologies of iron and steel through time to challenge dominant western paradigms and consider a global view that frequently reveals Asia at its apex. Understanding the complex history of iron and steel informs the debate on current and future sustainability of extraction and consumption. No prior knowledge of metals technology and science is required.