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Introductory Session: Trends and 'Turns' in the History of Medicine (Roberta Bivins)

Over the past few decades, historians of medicine have regularly taken stock of the field through the medium of the edited volume. They have mapped trends in the field ranging from the introduction of new topics and geographies to the adoption of new theoretical tools and methodological approaches. As with history more generally, the history of medicine has experienced a dizzying number of 'turns', corkscrewing the field from its early focus on 'great men' and 'progress' through to contemporary concerns with material culture, practice, and inclusivity.

So this week, to get us started and to develop a shared foundation for the year ahead, we will begin with a trawl through some of the most high-profile edited collections mapping the state of the art in 'the history of medicine'. We'll start with one of the earliest volumes to cover 'the history of medicine' as it became a scholarly field, Fielding Garrison's An Introduction to the History of Medicine, and move ahead to the most recent collection, Mark Jackson's History of Diseases from 2019. Please sample each of the volumes listed below (ALL available online, and all but Garrison as ebooks via Warwick Library and/or physical copies in the CHM Library in room F3.45). Have a look at their introductions and the chapter in each that is most closely related to your own research interests.

  • Fielding Garrison, An Introduction to the History of Medicine (1913 and subsequent editions) (accessible online here: [search by author's name and select this volume])
  • William Bynum and Roy Porter (eds), Companion Encyclopedia of the History of Medicine, Vols 1 & 2 (London: Routledge, 1993)
  • Roger Cooter and John Pickstone (eds), Companion to Medicine in the Twentieth Century (Amsterdam: Harwood, 2000)
  • Frank Huisman and John Harley Warner (eds), Locating Medical History: The Stories and their Meanings (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 2004)
  • Mark Jackson (ed), Oxford Handbook of the History of Medicine (Oxford: OUP, 2011)
  • Mark Jackson (ed), The Routledge History of Diseases (Routledge: Basingstoke, 2019).

Come to seminar ready to answer the following questions:

  • What do these volumes have in common?
  • What are their important differences?
  • Why did their editors find it timely to produce them? Does it matter who their editors are? Or who their expert authors are?
  • What are the differences in 'your' chapter/chapters across the texts?
  • What might we learn from surveying these 'state of the field' texts and their changes over time?

For more discussion points, and a great introduction to the sheer range of topics that now fall under the remit of 'the history of medicine', you could also peruse the on-line (or paper) tables of contents of the following journals: Social History of Medicine, Bulletin of the History of Medicine and Medical History. When did these journals begin? How have they changed? How do they differ from one another? And most importantly, do they reflect the themes and questions that made YOU decide to study the history of medicine at MA level?