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Global Visions & Local Actions: The History & Politics of International Health - HIS00056M

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Sanjoy Bhattacharya
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23
    • See module specification for other years: 2019-20

Module summary

This module studies the history and politics of international and ‘global’ health. 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 international organisations based within Europe and the Americas, their offices within the different national capitals and, perhaps most importantly, within diverse field contexts, where policies were often recast in response to variety of social, economic and political 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about cutting edge methodologies, not least the use and interpretation of a range of primary materials, including unpublished documents, documentary films and oral interviews.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 indesigning 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 cycle
A Autumn Term 2022-23

Module aims

The 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 successfully completing this course students should:

  • 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.

Seminars may include the following themes:

  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
Essay 4000 Words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students will complete a 2,000-word essay for formative assessment, due in week 6 or 7 of the autumn term, for which they will receive an individual tutorial. They will then submit a 4,000-word assessed essay for summative assessment in week 2 of the spring term.

For further details about assessed work, students should refer to the Statement of Assessment for Taught Postgraduate Programmes.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 4000 Words
N/A 100

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment task, students will receive written feedback consisting of comments and a mark within 10 working days of submission. They will also receive verbal feedback at an individual tutorial. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their formative work during their tutor’s student hours. 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. Supervisors are available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment for Taught Postgraduate Programmes.

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.