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Global Health: Decolonising Histories, Politics & Practice - HIS00056M

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Joseph Mujere
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module summary

This module studies the history and politics of global health, examining its complex links with international and national health policies. The constituent seminars historicize the many factors influencing the development, running and evaluation of these initiatives in different national settings in Asia, Africa, Latin America and, not least, Europe. Sessions will examine attitudes and administrative realities within various global and international organisations based within Europe and the Americas and their offices within the different national capitals. Most importantly, we will also assess practice within diverse field contexts, where policies were often recast in response to a variety of social, economic and political expectations and challenges.

Rather than reiterating the widely held assumption that global health programmes were implemented top-down, after being advocated by organisations linked to the industrialised ‘north’ on the ‘global south’, this set of seminars will underline the usefulness of studying the history of the many complexities of project implementation in a diversity of locales. In this way, this module will describe the complex links between international health and development organisations, national governments and local administrative structures, and privately and publicly-run service providers. The seminars will also examine the role of the target populations in determining the final shape of health campaigns. This module will involve discussions about cutting edge methodologies, not least the use and interpretation of a range of primary materials, including unpublished documents, documentary films and oral interviews. This discussion of historiographical and methodological issues will allow an examination of links between academia, bodies claiming to provide independent policy assessment, and those involved in designing public health advocacy projects. This module will provide in-depth training in how a very specific form of historical research and analysis can feed productively into health policy at all levels of governance.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2022-23

Module aims

This module aims to:

  • Develop skills of source analysis and interpretation;

  • Assess a range of source material and relevant secondary works; and

  • Develop students’ powers of evidence-based historical argument, both orally and in writing.

Module learning outcomes

After completing this module students should have:

  • Be familiar with the key themes in a historical literature that looks at developments in international and global health in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries

  • Be able to problematize and historicize primary materials relating to international and global health in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries

  • Understand how historians of health, medicine and science have engaged with - and have sought to influence - international and global health policy in the late nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries

Module content

Teaching Programme:

Students will attend eight weekly two-hour seminars in weeks 2-9.

Seminar topics are subject to variation, but are likely to include the following:

  1. The rise of tropical medicine in imperial and non-imperial contexts

  2. The rise of the Rockefeller Foundation and the League of Nations

  3. The birth of the United Nations and the formation of the World Health Organization

  4. The worldwide malaria eradication programme

  5. The global smallpox eradication programme

  6. The global primary healthcare mission and the production of universal health coverage

  7. The rise of new epidemic disease emergencies, such as AIDS

  8. Globalization and the rise of ‘global’ health


Task Length % of module mark
4,000 word essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students will complete a 2,000-word formative essay, due in week 6 of Autumn term. They will then submit a 4,000-word assessed essay for summative assessment in week 2 of Spring term.

For further details about assessed work, students should refer to the Taught Masters Degrees Statement of Assessment.


Task Length % of module mark
4,000 word essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment, students will receive oral feedback at a one-to-one meeting with their tutor and written feedback consisting of comments and a mark within 10 working days of submission. Tutors are also available in their student hours to discuss formative assessment. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 20 working days of the submission deadline. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment.

Indicative reading

For term time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:

  • Medcalf, Alexander and Sanjoy Bhattacharya, ed. Tropical Diseases: Lessons From History. Hyderabad: Orient BlackSwan, 2014. Available for free download here.
  • Medcalf, Alexander, Sanjoy Bhattacharya, Hooman Momen, Monica Saavedra and Margaret Jones, ed. Health For All: The journey to Universal Health Coverage. Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan, 2015. Available for free download here.
  • Medcalf, Alexander, Monica Saavedra, Magali Romero Sa and Sanjoy Bhattacharya, ed. Leprosy: A Short History. Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan, 2016. Available for free download here:
  • Kishore, Raghav, Magali Romero Sa, Samantha Peel, Alex Wade, Sanjoy Bhattacharya and Philip Kerrigan, ed., Mental Health: Pasts, Current Trends and Futures. Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan, 2017. Available for free download here:

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.