HIS2160 – Innovation and technological change from antiquity to our times

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

The history of human societies and the history of technology are closely linked. This course presents an overview of the history of technology, and the analytical challenges that it presents. Although humans have used tools and technologies from the earliest phases of human evolution, our own society uniquely rests on rapid and sustained innovation and technological change. Major issues in our world are related to the path of technological history. A central theme of the course is the importance of understanding technologies in terms of the economic and social contexts within which they are developed and utilised. Technologies are not simply artefacts, but are artefacts that evolve within frameworks of economic incentives and social conflict. Technology has social impacts over time, but it is also shaped by the social world. This course explores the overall process of technological development since Classical Antiquity (500 B.C.-500 A.C.), through the Medieval period, the Renaissance and the modern period. We examine technological development through discussions of the history of industrialisation, case studies of the development of specific technologies, and discussions of key themes in the history of innovation and technological change (such as technology and imperialism, gender, resistance and patent systems). The course takes developments in Europe as its starting point, but includes where possible the history of innovation and technological change in many other parts of the world.

Learning outcome

It is expected that you attend all seminars, read the obligatory literature, and participate actively in seminar discussions and other activities. Having completed the course the expectation is that you will:

  • have a reasonably good overview of innovation and technological change in the long term.
  • have good comprehension of central issues and debates in historical studies of innovation and technological change.
  • have a deeper understanding of specific innovations and technological changes and the contexts within which they occured.
  • be able to use the key concepts that historians employ when studying innovation and technological change.


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.


Recommended previous knowledge

30 study points from either HF- or SV-faculty.

A good ability to read and understand English is required for this course.


The course will be taught in the form of two hour seminars (24 hours in total).

During the course the students will write a course paper (en kvalifiseringsoppgave). A passing grade on the course paper is required to be allowed to the final exam. The length of the paper should be approximately six pages (where one page is estimated to hold 2300 characters without spacing). More information about the course paper will be announced in class. It is expected that students attend all seminars, read the obligatory literature, and participate actively in seminar discussions and other activities.

Access to teaching

A student who has completed compulsory instruction and coursework and has had these approved, is not entitled to repeat that instruction and coursework. A student who has been admitted to a course, but who has not completed compulsory instruction and coursework or had these approved, is entitled to repeat that instruction and coursework, depending on available capacity.


3-days take-home examination: The students have three days to write an assignment. The length of the assignment should be 6-10 standard pages (2300 characters without spacing).The exam assignment will be published on the current semester page at 12:30 the first day of the exam. For time and date for the exam, see the semester page.

The exam is to be handed in in Canvas. The file must be submitted in .pdf-format and we stress that the student is responsible for making sure that the files are readable. If you need assistance in converting your file into .pdf, we recommend that you follow these instructions. The file must be named with your candidate number (not your name) and the course code (HIS2160).

In the process of uploading the file containing your exam, you will be asked to confirm that the work you are submitting is your own and that you are aware of the University of Oslo's policy concerning academic integrity and cheating. To qualify for uploading you must answer these questions affirmatively.

The examination of this course is integrated in the teaching of the course and it is therefore not possible to sit the examination other than by being admitted to the course.

Examination support material

No examination support material is allowed.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Facts about this course






This course is offered on an irregular basis


Teaching language