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Themes and Methods in Medical History (HI907) This module is currently being updated

Module Leader
Professor Mathew Thomson
Context of Module
Module Aims
Outline Syllabus
Illustrative Bibliography
Other Information
Context of Module

This is the core module for the MA in the History of Medicine. The module, taught in the Autumn term, may also be taken by students on the MA in History, the MA in Modern History, and other taught Master's students within or outside the History Department. Weekly seminars will meet in the CHM Hub, H4.49.

Module Aims

This module is designed to introduce students to both major developments in medical thought and practice AND the main methodological approaches and debates used within the field of the history of medicine. It covers the early modern period to the twenty-first century, and invites the students to think comparatively about medicine across space and time and includes sessions on Britain, Europe and global medicine and health. The module focuses on the evolution of ideas, language and technologies within medicine, the reception of these new approaches and lay responses to them, the structure of medical practice, and the scientific, social, and cultural context of medical intervention. Students are encouraged to situate medical practice in a broad historical and theoretical context, and to frame discussions in seminars through reading a series of seminal texts in the field. It also provides the opportunity to explore sources available to the historian of medicine (e.g. medical texts, practice and case records, diaries, public health reports and health propaganda, and visual sources: art, architecture, film and photography). The module is team-taught, drawing on the full range of expertise and approaches encompassed by the Centre for the History of Medicine.

Outline Syllabus

Weekly seminar attendance is compulsory. The webpages linked below offer a brief introduction to each topic, and questions to be addressed. You should consider these questions (and formulate your own) when you read the core reading in advance of the seminars and be prepared to offer your opinion. You are also required to attend the CHM seminars which also take place on Tuesday (4-6pm). For further details, see the CHM website.

Week 1: Tuesday 1 October - Introductory Session (Mathew Thomson)

Week 2: Tuesday 8 October - Mental Health (Mathew Thomson)

Week 3: Tuesday 15 October - Global Health: Malaria and Small Pox Eradication (Gareth Millward)

Week 4: Tuesday 22 October - Cultures and Practices of Childbirth and Reproduction (Rachel Bennett)

Week 5: Tuesday 29 October - Public Health in the Soviet Union (Claire Shaw)

Week 6: Reading Week (no seminar)

Week 7: Tuesday 12 November - Public Health/Private Practice (Roberta Bivins)

Week 8: Tuesday 19 November - Children in Medical and Psychological Intervention (Jenny Crane)

Week 9: Tuesday 26 November - Visual Advertising and Consumption (and the history of medicine) (Jane Hand)

Week 10: Tuesday 3 December - Professionalisation and Regulation (Elise Smith)


Core reading and further reading will be set for each session. Students are required to read the core reading and recommended to dip into (read one or two items) the further reading before each seminar. The further reading will also provide material for essays. The Centre for the History of Medicine Hub (H4.49) holds a small collection of key books, which you can borrow, and most of the reading will be available on line or scanned.

Illustrative Bibliography

Mark Adams (ed.), The Wellborn Science: Eugenics in Germany, France, Brazil and Russia (1990).

David Armstrong, The Political Anatomy of the Body: Medical Knowledge in Britain in the Twentieth Century (1993).

David Arnold, Colonizing the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic Disease in Nineteenth-Century India (1993).

Alison Bashford and Philippa Levine (eds), The Oxford Handbook of the History of Eugenics (2012).

Roger Cooter and John Pickstone (eds), Medicine in the Twentieth Century (2000).

Barbara Duden, The Woman Beneath the Skin: A Doctor's Patients in Eighteenth-Century Germany (1991).

Mary Fissell, Patients and the Poor in Eighteenth-Century Bristol (1991).

Michel Foucault, The Birth of the Clinic (1973).

D.M. Fox and C. Lawrence, Photographing Medicine (1988).

Marijke Gijswijt-Hofstra and Roy Porter (eds.), Cultures of Psychiatry and Mental Health Care in Post-war Britain and the Netherlands (1998).

Chris Hamlin, Public Health and Social Justice in the Age of Chadwick: Britain, 1800-1854 (1998).

Frank Huisman and John Harley Warner (eds), Locating Medical History: The Stories and Their Meanings (2004).

Mark Jackson (ed.), Oxford Handbook to the History of Medicine (2011).

Joan Lane, The Making of the English Patient (2000).

Anne McClintock, Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Context (1995).

Hilary Marland, Medicine and Society in Wakefield and Huddersfield, 1780-1870 (1987).

Margaret Pelling, The Common Lot: Sickness, Medical Occupations and the Urban Poor in Early Modern England (1998).

Dorothy Porter, Health, Civilization and State (London, 1999).

Roy Porter (ed.), Patients and Practitioners (1985).

Roy Porter, Bodies Politic: Disease, Death and the Doctors in Britain, 1650-1900 (2001).

D.J. Rothman et al. (eds), Medicine and Western Civilisation (1995).

Andrew Wear (ed.), Medicine in Society: Historical Essays (1992).

Adrian Wilson, The Making of Man-Midwifery: Childbirth in England, 1660-1770 (1995).


Students are assessed on the basis of one 6000-word essay, due at the end of the autumn term (week 10). This essay is normally based on one of the module’s weekly themes but can also build toward the dissertation topic. Students interested in writing on different topics should consult with the module convenor well before the essay deadline.

Other Information

Look out for notices about history of medicine activities in the Centre and further afield on the notice board outside Room 449. You will also be able to keep in touch with what’s happening in the Centre through our website:




Mathew Thomson (module convenor); Rachel Bennett; Roberta Bivins; Michael Bycroft; Gareth Millward; Claire Shaw; Elise Smith.

Term Autumn
Tutorial Day Tuesdays


13:00-15:00, H4.49 (CHM Hub)


Please note any changes to the above will be noted on the 'Syllabus' section in the main page. All sessions will meet in H4.49, unless otherwise noted.