BA Art History and History

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Bodies in History: An introduction to the History of Medicine

Course unit fact file
Unit code HSTM10772
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Centre for History of Science, Technology & Medicine (L5)
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Bodies in History provides an introduction to medicine in modern Western culture from 1500-2000. You will learn about the themes explored by historians of medicine including: class, race, gender and national identity. Areas of study include, Renaissance Anatomy and Eugenics.


To provide an introduction to medicine in modern Western culture, from c 1500- c 2000. To show how, through a focus on bodies (human and social), historians of medicine address themes such as class, race, gender, national identity, economic life and cultural production, and how scientific and medical theories and practices can be understood as part of wider histories.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this unit, students will have acquired a knowledge of the outlines of modern history of medicine; skills in linking ‘body histories’ to wider contexts; critical abilities in analysing historical arguments; experience of presenting historical arguments in written seminar responses; and experience of presenting oral arguments in seminar discussions. In addition, students taking the 20 credit unit will be able to find and research a topic of their own choosing; to find and assess critically primary and secondary sources; to write, with full scholarly apparatus, a report on their individual research project.

This unit can also be taken as a 10 credit version (HSTM10272).


Lecture content

  • Bodies in History: A Course Introduction
  • Bodies Explored: Renaissance Anatomy
  • Bodies Ordered: Enlightenment Taxonomies
  • Bodies Analyzed: The Medicine of Hospitals and Corpses
  • Dirty Bodies : Constitution, Contagion, and 19th-Century Epidemics
  • Bodies and Minds: Psychiatry and Fin-de-Siécle Culture
  • Infected Bodies: Germs, Microbiology and Everyday Life
  • Better Bodies: Evolution and Eugenics at the Turn of the Century
  • Calibrating Bodies: Scientific Medicine and the Machine Age
  • Productive Bodies: Modern States and the Price of Health
  • Patient Bodies: Medicine and Consumerism, 1950-2010
  • Review and revision session

The course meets for one two-hour session. These will include a lecture followed by a practical workshop. The lectures will treat the subject synthetically; the workshops are intended for closer critical investigation of particular issues raised in the week's required reading. Attendance at BOTH lectures and workshops is required.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Students will develop critical abilities in analysing historical arguments
Students have the opportunity to be innovative in terms of how they address their essay topic
Oral communication
Experience of presenting oral arguments in seminar discussions
20 credit students must find and critically assess primary and secondary sources in order to complete their project
Written communication
Written seminar responses.

Assessment methods

2 hour examination (25%); practical assessment (25%); written project (50%)

Feedback methods

Students may ask questions at any time during lectures and seminars. Teaching staff can usually answer specific queries by email or during office hours, and will provide contact details in the course handbook or at lectures. All submitted coursework will be returned with annotations and an assessment sheet explaining the mark awarded.

Recommended reading

  • Brunton, D (2004) Medicine Transformed: Health, Disease and Society in Europe, 1800-1930.
  • Cooter R and Pickstone J (2000) Medicine in the Twentieth Century. Harwood Academic
  • Elmer, P (2004) The Healing Arts: Health, Disease and Society in Europe, 1500-1800.
  • Porter, R (2003) Blood and Guts.


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 12
Practical classes & workshops 12
Independent study hours
Independent study 174

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Ian Burney Unit coordinator

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