Accessibility statement

Medical History & Humanities: A Critical Introduction - HIS00091M

« Back to module search

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

Module summary

This module is co-convened by Dr Alexander Medcalf (Department of History) and Dr Juliana Mensah (Department of English and Related Literature)

This core module identifies and examines key theoretical concepts and debates in medical history and humanities, including shifting definitions of the field itself, and the co-existence of multiple conceptions and approaches. It begins with a session which explores the term ‘medical humanities’ and traces its history. The opening session will introduce medical humanities as a field which crosses disciplinary, cultural and temporal boundaries. This interdisciplinary, cross-cultural approach is reflected in the wide geographical and historical scope of the material covered in seminars throughout the module.

In the sessions which follow, students will engage with theories of the body, conceptions of health, medicine and well-being, representations of illness, and different types of engagement with health policy through the study of materials from early modern, eighteenth-century, modern and contemporary periods. Students will explore a range of methodologies; they will examine primary and secondary historical sources, critically analyse images, and engage in close readings of literary texts. Students will be encouraged to reflect on the value of the different approaches, as well as on how their understanding of medical humanities has shifted throughout the module.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2022-23

Module aims

This module aims to:

  • Introduce students to key theoretical concepts and debates in the fields of medical history and humanities

  • Encourage students to consider the flexibility of the terms ‘medical history’ and ‘medical humanities’, and to think about them from a wide historical and global perspective

  • Introduce key methodologies in the medical history and humanities, and explore the challenges and the possibilities of interdisciplinary work

  • Provide opportunities for students to discuss, debate and write about literary and historical texts and sources across a broad chronology

Module learning outcomes

After completing this module students should have:

  • Select, evaluate and critically analyse primary and secondary historical sources and materials

  • Engage in close readings of literary texts, literary criticism and theory

  • Locate images, texts, and works of art relating to the cultural history of medicine in their wider historical contexts

  • Make connections between medical history and humanities, and global health policy

  • Participate in discussions and debates that cross disciplinary boundaries

  • Effectively present an argument or a set of ideas orally

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. Perspectives on Medical History and Humanities

  2. Pollution, Perception and Public Health

  3. Love, Melancholia and Medieval Medicine

  4. Medicine in the Nineteenth Century City

  5. One Health: Animals as Medicine

  6. The Human Body in History and Culture

  7. Reading and Health in Early Modern England

  8. Visual Culture in Medical History and Humanities


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 essay for formative assessment, due in week 6, for which they will receive an individual tutorial.

Students taking the module as a core module will submit a 4,000 word assessed essay in week 10 of the autumn term. For those taking the module as an option module, a 4,000 word assessed essay will be due 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
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 module starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:

Rosenberg, Charles and Janet Golden (editors). Framing Disease: Studies in Cultural History. Rutgers University Press, 1992.

Whitehead, Anne, Angela Woods, Jane MacNaughton and Jennifer Richards (editors). The Edinburgh Companion to the Critical Medical Humanities. Edinburgh University Press, 2016.

Waldschmidt, Anne, Hanjo Berressem, and Moritz Ingwersen, eds. Culture – Theory – Disability: Encounters between Disability Studies and Cultural Studies. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2017.

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.