Sickness and Health in Early Modern England

Tutor: Mark Jenner / Sophie Weeks 

Module type: Explorations

Module code: HIS00031I

How did people understand the workings of their bodies? How did C16 and C17 England cope with the challenge of plague and other epidemic and endemic diseases? How did they understand disease? To what extent and why did these understandings change?

Surveying the impact of, responses to, and cultural understandings of, disease in early modern England, this course explores these and related questions, drawing upon the growing and exciting historiography on health, medicine and the body. It examines not only areas of major public policy such as developing government responses to plague, but also the social history of medicine and health care and how historians reconstruct the experience of ill health. Special attention is given to the role of "irregular practitioners" and to midwives in this pre-professional age, to the emergence of new drugs and new understandings of the body and to the ways in which developments in medicine and social relief interacted with each other.

The seminar programme may deal with the following:

  • The Disease Environment
  • Plague and Policy
  • Keeping Healthy
  • Being Sick
  • Giving Birth
  • Going Mad
  • New Medical Ideas: Anatomy, chemistry, empiricism
  • New Medical Products: Drugs, Quacks and Commercial Healthcare
  • Disease and Disfigurement


For more detailed information, please visit the module catalogue.