Introduction to the History of Medicine - HIST3850

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2021 to 2022
Autumn Term 4 15 (7.5) Steven Taylor checkmark-circle


The module introduces students to a broad range of material and themes relevant to the history of medicine, highlighting changes and continuities in medical practice and theory as well as in medical institutions and professional conduct. The section on ancient medicine addresses the role of Greek writers such as Hippocrates. The section on medieval medicine focuses on major epidemics, the origins of medical institutions, and the role of medical care and cure in the context of social and demographic changes. In particular, this section addresses the role of the Black Death and subsequent plagues, as well as the history of hospitals. The section on early modern and modern medicine explores the development of psychiatry and the asylum system in the 18th century, the rise of public health and the welfare state, and the role of social Darwinism and eugenics in the 19th and early 20th centuries. For the late 19th and 20th centuries, the course will look at the role of gender and sexuality, medicine and modern warfare, health and disability, and modern medicine and medical ethics.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 20
Private study hours: 130
Total study hours: 150

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods:

Essay 1 2,000 words 40%
Essay 2 2,000 words 40%
Seminar Performance 20%

Reassessment methods:
Reassessment Instrument: 100% coursework

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List:

Barry, J. and C. Jones (eds.). (1994) Medicine and Charity before the Welfare State. London: Routledge
Bynum, W.F. et al. (2006) The Western Medical Tradition, 1800 to 2000. Cambridge: CUP
Conrad, L. I. et. al. (1995) The Western Medical Tradition. Cambridge: CUP
Elmer, P., Grell, O.P. (eds.) (2004) Health, Disease and Society in Europe, 1500-1800. A Source Book. Manchester: Manchester University Press
Getz, F.M. (1998) Medicine in the English Middle Ages. Princeton: Princeton University Press
Hardy, A. (2001) Health and Medicine in Britain since 1860. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan
Jordonova, L.J. (2001) History in Practice. London: Arnold
Lindemann, M. (1999) Medicine and Society in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge: CUP
Loudon, I. (ed.) (1997) Western Medicine. An Illustrated History. Oxford: OUP

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Been introduced to the broad sweep of medical history, and provided with the skills needed to understand evaluate, contextualise and communicate effectively their knowledge of history.
2 Developed their intellectual interest in the history of medicine and their skills in researching historical subjects and in communicating their knowledge and ideas, both orally and in writing.
3 Been introduced to the underlying issues associated with medical history, and have an ability to evaluate and interpret these within their specific context .
4 Learnt to marshal an argument; to summarise and defend a particular interpretation or analysis of historical events and challenge historiographical debates on the topic.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Considered critically relevant intellectual concepts as well as differences of opinion and interpretation both amongst historians, and they will have developed their ability to identify and solve problems
2 Worked both independently and within groups. Students will have engaged in independent work, using library resources, and will have practiced and improved their skills in time management, historical research, organisation and analysis of material, oral presentations and essay-writing.
3 Engaged in group work, in which they will have interacted effectively with others and worked co-operatively to enhance one another's learning.
4 Acquired the skill to communicate complex concepts effectively through written work. They will have acquired the ability to further develop skills they have already gained, which will be of use to them in future study or occupations.
5 Improved their communication skills and skills with IT.
6 Acquired the skill to present information creatively and accessibly.


  1. Credit level 4. Certificate level module usually taken in the first stage of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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