Money and Medicine in Britain and America since 1750 - HI888

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Spring
View Timetable
7 30 (15) DR C Jones







Medicine has often been depicted as an objective science, a science that can accurately diagnose and effectively treat many illnesses and diseases. Yet, medicine is also big business, generating and/or costing economies and multinational companies billions of pounds each year. Drawing on a combination of medical, commercial and social history, this module will explore the multifaceted relationship between money and medicine in Britain and America since 1750. It will follow a broadly chronological structure charting the rise of the 'medical marketplace' in the eighteenth century to the current healthcare crisis in provision in Britain and America. Topics will include patent and proprietary medicines; quackery and unorthodox medical provision, such as homeopathy; the development of the pharmaceutical industry; the emergence of healthcare insurance and the NHS; and the 'golden age' of technological medicine since the 1950s. A central theme of the module will be the tension between the provision of healthcare as a universal right and as a commodity and the module will examine the ways in which this tension affects the quality and therapeutic effectiveness of the care and goods provided in the British and American contexts. The module will also make use of a wide range of source material. As well as newspapers, reports and textbooks, it will draw on advertising media, film, newspapers and patent records.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

This module will be taught by eleven 2-hour seminar sessions. Each session will comprise a mixture of lectures, discussion of primary source material and debates on secondary reading, and will support the achievement of the learning outcomes.

Method of assessment

The module will be assessed by 100% coursework:

Two independent research essays demanding close engagement with both primary and secondary sources (2,500 words each, 30% each - 60% in total).
One critical commentary on one of the groups of primary documents. This commentary will be written in a blog style and may be published on the blog of the Centre for the History of Medicine, Ethics and Medical Humanities (1,500 words, 15%).
One presentation (20 minutes, 25%).

Indicative reading

Blume, S. (1992) Insight and Industry: On the Dynamics of Technological Change in Medicine, Boston, MA: The MIT Press.
Cooter, R. and J. Pickstone (eds., 2003) Companion to Medicine in the Twentieth Century, London: Routledge.
Digby, A. (1994) Making a Medical Living: Doctors and Patients in the English Market for Medicine, 1720-1911, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Jones, C. (2013) The Medical Trade Catalogue in Britain, 1870-1914, London: Pickering & Chatto.
Starr, P. (1982) The Social Transformation of American Medicine: The Rise of a Sovereign Profession and the Making of a Vast Industry, New York: Basic Books.
Takahiro, U. (2010) Health in the Marketplace: Professionalism, Therapeutic Desires and Medical Commodification in Late-Victorian London, Palo Alto, CA: The Society for the Promotion of Science and Scholarship.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes:

On successfully completing this module students will be able to:
1. Demonstrate an enhanced and sophisticated understanding of the historic relationship between money and medicine.
2. Critically assess the tension between healthcare provision as a universal right and healthcare as a commodity.
3. Demonstrate a broad and deep understanding of British and American medical history and its relevance for state, private and/or commercial healthcare provision in these countries today.
4. Demonstrate an enhanced and sophisticated understanding of relevant theoretical and practical tools for exploring that history.


The intended generic learning outcomes.

On successfully completing this module students will be able to:

1. Critically analyse a diverse range of primary source materials.
2. Construct critically nuanced coursework in an independent manner.
3. Undertake independent research and learning.
4. Demonstrate the ability to consider complex issues from a range of perspectives.
5. Present to an audience in a clear and confident manner, demonstrating oral communication skills.

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