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Migration, Health and Ethnicity in Modern History (HI974)

Module Leaders

Professor Hilary Marland & Dr Roberta Bivins


Context of Module
Module Aims
Intended Learning Outcomes
Outline Syllabus
Illustrative Bibliography
Context of Module

The module may be taken by students on the MA in Modern History , the MA in the History of Medicine, the MA in Global History, the MA in History, or taught Masters students outside the History Department, with the instructors' approval.

This module explores the interconnectedness and dynamics between migration, health and ethnicity from the nineteenth through to the twentieth-first century. The modern period has seen continuous large-scale movements of populations, involving internal migrations within countries and migration across the globe, prompted by the search for better opportunities or political strife. In some cases, migrants brought with them the threat of diseases or an increased prevalence of specific medical conditions, while the stress of migration has been depicted as a factor in producing its own set of health problems, particularly when linked with economic and social deprivation. Migrant populations had significant impacts on health systems and institutions, and brought with them their own ideas about health, disease and medical practice. Doctors, nurses and midwives were also part of these large-scale migrations; and they too shaped health care in their adopted counties. Taking cases studies from many geographical settings, including Britain, Ireland, Australia, Africa and the United States, and focusing on specific areas such as mental health, maternity care and disease case studies, this module will explore the multiple relationships between ethnicity, race and migration, and offers the opportunity to explore other categories of analysis, such as gender and class, in new ways. The module will encourage students to consider present-day issues involving migration, ethnicity and health, such as responses of governments and health care providers and the impact of migrants on host communities and cultures, in light of historical perspectives. The module will further develop and explore themes, such as power, identity and race, identified in the ‘Theory, Skills and Methods’ module. Similarly, it will exemplify issues, such as the role of science and medicine in framing empire and the postcolonial, introduced in ‘Themes and Methods in Medical History’. It offers case studies of the processes and impacts of globalisation in the modern period and thus supports and extends the learning goals of the Global History Core module.

Module Aims

To expose students to the widest possible range of historiographical responses to issues of migration and ethnicity in the modern period

To cover a range of migration case studies from the mid-eighteenth through to the late twentieth centuries, and geographically to include British, Irish, Australian, Asian, African, North American and Latin American examples.

To explore issues of health and medicine arising in relation to migration and ethnicity

To uncover the reciprocal impacts of migration on both host and home societies and cultures.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will be encouraged to:

  • Confidently discuss a range of case studies from a comparative perspective, paying due attention to changes over time and regionality;
  • Explore digital archives and databases to uncover primary sources, both quantitative and qualitative;

  • Further develop written, verbal communication skills;

  • Further developing critical analytical skills, particularly through explorations of comparative history and historiography;

  • Further develop archival research skills.

Outline Syllabus

Week 1: Introduction

Week 2: Famine, migration and public health

Week 3: Migration, quarantine and control

Week 4: Race, ethnicity and migration

Week 5: Migrant mothers: gender, ethnicity and migration

Week 6: Reading Week

Week 7: Migration, ethnicity and mental illness

Week 8: Migration and disease case study (Tuberculosis)

Week 9: Internal migration and regional/national identity

Week 10: Workshop with the MRC: Labour and migration


Illustrative Bibliography

Alison Bashford, Medicine at the Border: Disease, Globalization and Security, 1850 to the Present (2006).

Alison Bashford, Imperial Hygiene: A Critical History of Colonialism, Nationalism and Public Health (2004).

Charlotte Borst, Catching Babies: The Professionalizaton of Childbirth, 1870-1920 (1995).

Linda Colley, Britons: Forging a Nation, 1707-1837 (1992).

Anne Fadiman, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors and their Collision of Two Cultures (1997).

Amy Fairchild, Science at the Borders: Immigration, Medical Inspection and the Shaping of the Modern Industrial Labour Force (2003).

Sander Gilman, Difference and Pathology: Stereotypes of Sexuality, Race and Madness (1985).

Alan M. Kraut, Silent Travellers: Germs, Genes and the ‘Immigrant Menace’ (1994).

Erika Lee ‘Enforcing the Borders: Chinese Exclusion along the U.S. Borders with Canada and Mexico, 1882-1924’, The Journal of American History, 89 ( 2002), 54-86.

Eithne Luibheid, Entry Denied: Controlling Sexuality at the Border (2002).

Howard Markel, Quarantine: East European Jewish Immigrants and the New York City Epidemics of 1892 (1997).

Lara Marks, Model Mothers: Jewish Mothers and Maternity Provision in East London, 1870-1939 (1994).

Lara Marks and Michael Worboys (eds), Migrants Minorities and Health (1997).

Angela McCarthy, ‘Ethnicity, Migration and the Lunatic Asylum in Early Twentieth-Century Auckland, New Zealand’, Social History of Medicine, 21 (2008), 47-65

Donald MacRaild (ed.) The Great Famine and Beyond: Irish Migrants in Britain in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (2000).

Nayan Shah, Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco's Chinatown, (2001).

Paul Stoller, Money Has No Smell: The Africanization of New York City (2002).


1 assessed essay of 5,000 words; the course is taught in weekly 2-hour seminars


Migration, Health and EthnicityMODULE HANDBOOK

Seminar Day


Seminar Time


Seminar Room



Tutors' Offices
Hilary Marland H3.15
Roberta Bivins H3.30