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Celebrating Five Years of ‘Medical History’ at the University of York

Posted on 13 December 2016

The Centre for Global Health Histories looks back over five years of support from the Wellcome Trust and Cambridge University Press, as the open access journal ‘Medical History’ continues to flourish.

As 2016 draws to a close, the Centre for Global Health Histories at the University of York celebrates and gives thanks for five years of support and generous assistance from the Wellcome Trust and Cambridge University Press, in ensuring the future of Medical Historyat CGHH. Medical History is a refereed journal devoted to all aspects of the history of medicine, health and related sciences, with the goal of broadening and deepening the understanding of the field, in the widest sense, by publishing historical studies of the highest quality. Five years ago, support from the Wellcome Trust allowed ownership of the journal to be passed to Cambridge University Press, and the editorial office moved to the Centre for Global Health Histories at the University of York’s Department of History.

The Wellcome Trust and Cambridge University Press have demonstrated considerable effort over these years to ensure that Medical History remains a flagship publication in the history of medicine and related humanities studies. In particular, important steps have been taken by the Wellcome Trust, CUP and the editorial team behind Medical History to allow the journal to continue to develop and become increasingly internationalised in scope and attention. Medical History continues to seek out the best scholarship from regional and international networks of academics working in the medical humanities, in order to foster positive co-operation between academic institutions, policy-makers and implementers. The important connections that have developed because of Medical History are reflective of the Wellcome Trust, CUP and editors’ desires to enrich international relations between academic and non-academic participants in the conversation about global health and medicine.   

Over the years Medical History has featured a number of issues and articles of unique value to the medical humanities community. In 2012 the journal published a significant article from Prof Vivan Nutton, ‘Vesalius Revised: His Annotations to the 1555 Fabrica,” which shared information about some extraordinary discoveries made, which will shape the way historians of Renaissance medicine understand anatomists and different medical professions of the time. In 2015 Medical History demonstrated a commitment to keeping up with new possibilities in the digital humanities by publishing a special ‘virtual’ issue. Drawing on research done by Dr Henrice Altink (Department of History, University of York), the issue ‘From the Local to the Global: Fifty Years of Historical Research on Tuberculosis’ constituted a series of landmark articles about the disease from specialists around the world. There have also been a number of other special issues within Medical History which have contained exciting and innovative material. Very recently neurological and mental health was given a much needed spotlight in the special issue ‘Soul Catchers: The Material Culture of the Mind Sciences.’ Earlier, in July 2015, Medical History published ‘Skill in the History of Medicine and Science,’ while in 2014 ‘New Directions and Challenges in Histories of Health, Healing and Medicine in South Africa’ became a focus.

In recent years the support from CUP and Wellcome has allowed Medical History to host the ‘William Bynum Prize’ essay competition. The William Bynum Prize is awarded annually to the author of an original essay on any theme relating to the history of medicine and its related sciences. The Prize’s awarding committee is chaired by Professor Bynum himself, supported by the editor and members of the editorial advisory board of Medical History.  

Complementing this annual prize, the support given to Medical History has allowed for the annual ‘William Bynum Lectures,’ the most recent of which was held at the Royal Society of Medicine and supported by Cambridge University Press and the Centre for Global Health Histories. 2016’s lecture was delivered by Dr Chris Renwick (University of York), and focused on his research project “Biology, Social Science, and History: Past, Present, and Future Interactions.” The William Bynum lectures are open to the public, and feature extraordinary research from the medical history community, presented in an open and engaging format for a broad audience.

In an effort to reach this broad international audience, Medical History also recently launched a new website, reflecting ongoing efforts to make the content as accessible as possible to a broad international audience. Medical History is committed to open access publication, in a manner which maximises the accessibility of articles while securing a sustainable future for the journal. Open access publishing is a particular priority for the Wellcome Trust, who believe that it is “the most effective way of ensuring that the research we fund can be accessed, read and built upon. In turn this will foster a richer research culture.” You can read about the Wellcome Trust’s work on open access availability on their website.

Medical History is associated with the European Association for the History of Medicine and Health, the Asian Society for the History of Medicine, and the World Health Organization's Global Health Histories initiative, and published by the Cambridge University Press with Wellcome Trust support.  You can read the most recent issue online now, including an editorial about the 2015 William Bynum Prize.