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Medicine and Classicism in Comparative Perspective

The Medicine and Classicism in Comparative Perspective conference will be held at the Warburg Institute, London from 13 - 14 November 2009. This conference is organised by David Arnold and Peter E. Pormann (University of Warwick) with the support of the Wellcome Trust and the University of Warwick.

The term ‘classical’ has come to be applied to a number of medical traditions around the world, from ancient to modern times and from Europe and the Middle East to South Asia and East Asia. The conference will bring together scholars from different backgrounds to consider what is meant by the term ‘classical’ when applied to medicine.

Among the main questions to be examined are:

  • Does ‘classical’ denote adherence to a set of written, canonical sources (and, if so, how do those sources acquire their authority)?
  • Does it indicate certain kinds of training or understandings of the body and disease-causation (perhaps in conscious contrast to non-‘classical’ concepts of healing)?
  • Does ‘classical’ signify certain ways in which medicine is practised (and on whom)?
  • How does it reflect and inform the social standing of the practitioners, and how do they defend their traditions in the face of criticism (as from modern, western medicine)?

As well as addressing these questions in relation to specific times and places, the participants will also consider how concepts of medical classicism have spread and how effectively a concept of ‘classical medicine’ enables us to make comparisons and recognise connections between one medical tradition and another.

Speakers will include:

  • David Arnold, David Hardiman, Pauline Koetschet, Elaine Leong and Peter E. Pormann (University of Warwick)
  • Guy Attewell, Vivienne Lo, Vivian Nutton and Ronit Yoeli Tlalim (Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL)
  • Helen King (University of Reading)
  • Anne-Marie Moulin (CNRS-REHSEIS University of Paris 7)
  • Volker Scheid (Westminster University)
  • Miri Shefer (Tel-Aviv University)

Listen to a Podcast of David Arnold and Peter E Pormann discussing the idea of the classic in medicine. Alternatively visit iTunesU to listen to the discussion.

Download the conference programme here (PDF Document)

    To register please contact Elizabeth Witchell at the Warburg Institute: For further information please contact David Arnold ( or Peter E. Pormann ( Conference Fee: £10.00 per day - £5.00 concessions.