Introduction to the History of Medicine - HIST3850

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


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

Autumn Term
• Essay 2,000 words 40%
• Primary Source Exercise 1,000 words 40%
• Seminar Performance 20%

Spring Term
• Essay 1,500 words 20%
• Primary Source Exercise 500 words 20%
• Seminar Performance 10%
• Examination 2-hours 50%

Reassessment methods
Reassessment Instrument: 100% coursework

Indicative reading

The University is committed to ensuring that core reading materials are in accessible electronic format in line with the Kent Inclusive Practices.
The most up to date reading list for each module can be found on the university's reading list pages:

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 Understand the broad sweep of medical history, and possess the skills needed to understand evaluate, contextualise and communicate effectively their knowledge of history.
2 Demonstrate their intellectual interest in the history of medicine and their skills in researching historical subjects and in communicating their knowledge and ideas, using a variety of methods.
3 Engage with the underlying issues associated with medical history, and have an ability to evaluate and interpret these within their specific context .
4 Marshal an argument; summarise and defend a particular interpretation or analysis of historical events and challenge historiographical debates on the topic.
5 Examine and evaluate primary sources, whether texts or images, and understand their context, strengths and limitations, and value.

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

1 Consider 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 Work both independently and within groups. Students will have engaged in independent work, using library resources, and will have practised and improved their skills in time management, historical research, organisation and analysis of material, presentations and essay-writing.
3 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.
4 Practise their improved communication skills and skills with IT.
5 Present information creatively and accessibly.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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