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Module Details

Module description

‘Medicine, Identity, and Technology in Modern History’ is designed to complement the first-year History core course, The Making of the Modern World, 1750-2000, and to introduce students to the histories of technology and medicine, and to science and technology studies. It will familiarize students with historical, anthropological, sociological, and ethical approaches to medicine and technology (particularly in the 20th century), and add interdisciplinary skills to students’ repertoire for research, thinking, and writing across all modules that they will take.

This year, we will explore the impact of often-controversial medical, scientific and technological innovations on individual, familial/community and national identities: in other words, on all the ways in which we know who we are – and through which we identify others. We will look at a range of case studies including:


  • Reproductive technologies (from adoption to the Pill to IVF and its successors);
  • Diagnostic technologies from the ultrasound to genetic screening;
  • Imperial medicine and technosciences of race;
  • Biotechnologies of identification (from fingerprint databases to genomics)
  • Organ and tissue transplantation;
  • ‘Big Science’ in the form of the Space Race


Using the evidence offered by these examples, we will ask if any or all of them have changed the ways in which people think of themselves, their families, and the cultures and nations in which they live. By the end of the year, students will be able to describe and assess the roles of medicine and technologies in transforming notions of identity at the individual, familial and national levels, from the 19th century to the present.


Statement of Aims and Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module the student should be able to:

  1. Describe the history of

    Reproductive technologies;

    Biometric technologies of identification;

    Biological understandings of race;

    Interactions between technoscience, medicine and national identity;

    Organ and tissue transplantation;

    The Space Race.

  2. Describe the relationship between such technologies and changes in understandings of ‘identity’ over time and at the individual, familial and national levels.
  3. Use a variety of scholarly approaches to assess medicine, science and technology.
  4. Engage with and analyse media representations of medicine, science, and technology.
  5. Reflect on themselves as consumers of medicine and technologies, produced in and shaped by particular social and educational circumstances, and to discuss their counterparts in the past in similar terms.

Teaching and Learning:

This module is taught by weekly lectures and seminars (1x1 hours each), and by individual tutorials to discuss essays.


  • First year (and Part-time Level One) students are assessed on the basis of two short (2000 word) essays and one long (4500) word essay.
  • Second year (and Part-time Honours-level) students may choose between a 3-hour, three question exam paper OR a 2-hour, two question paper plus a 4500 word essay.
  • All students will keep either an online media journal via the Module Forum OR participate in the module on SecondLife, keep reflective journal of their experiences and experiments in the setting, and participate in a panel presentation of those experiences at the end of Term 2.
  • Second Year (and Part-time Honours) students will also write two unassessed 2000 word essays, with the option of substituting a mock exam for one nonassessed essay.