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Race, Place and Health in Britain and its Empire, 1880-1960 - Semester 1 - HIS00161H

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Sabine Clarke
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

This module explores the connections between environment, race and health after 1880 with a focus on Britain and its empire. It moves from a consideration of the way that the tropics were imagined, and race and disease were theorised, to the practical measures introduced to control disease or reduce exposure to environmental harms. The course will explore the way in which the differences between temperate and tropical environments were constructed and the relationships that were drawn between location and disease, such as the idea that tropical environments were inherently pathological. It will consider the significance of the rise of scientific racism and the interactions between these ideas, environmental medicine and new theories of disease causation such as bacteriology. It will look at a scholarship that has explored the relationship between political economy and health, and the connections between medical knowledge and the government of colonial subjects, and will place the history of disease and public health in the context of larger processes such as colonisation, military occupation, urbanisation and development. Finally, it will examine the interactions between ideas of the body and disease that prevailed in Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and India to problematize the notion that European medical knowledge was necessarily superior or more effective than that which existed in other places.

Related modules

Students taking this module must also take the second part in Semester 2.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To introduce students to in depth study of a specific historical topic using primary and secondary material;
  • To enable students to explore the topic through discussion and writing; and
  • To enable students to evaluate and analyse primary sources.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Grasp key themes, issues and debates relevant to the topic being studied;
  • Have acquired knowledge and understanding about that topic;
  • Be able to comment on and analyse original sources;
  • Be able to relate the primary and secondary material to one another; and
  • Have acquired skills and confidence in close reading and discussion of texts and debates.

Module content

Students will attend a 1-hour briefing in week 1 and a 3-hour seminar in weeks 2-4, 6-8 and 10-11 of semester 1. Weeks 5 & 9 are Reading and Writing Weeks (RAW). Students prepare for and participate in eight three-hour seminars in all.

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

  1. Ideas of health and disease before 1880
  2. Plague and social control
  3. Controlling VD at home and abroad
  4. The invention of Tropical medicine
  5. Medicine and colonial development.
  6. The slums of Manchester and Port-of-Spain
  7. Food in the ‘30s.
  8. The many health services of the empire


Task Length % of module mark
Text Commentaries and Essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

For formative work, students will produce a text commentary.

The summative assessment will consist of two parts, to be submitted together:
a) Two text commentaries of 500-750 words; and
b) One 1,500-word essay.

The commentaries comprise 50% and the essay 50% of the overall mark for this module. Summative assessments will be due in the assessment period.


Task Length % of module mark
Text Commentaries and Essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Following their formative task, students will typically receive written feedback that will include comments and a mark within 10 working days of submission.

Work will be returned to students in their seminars and may be supplemented by the tutor giving some oral feedback to the whole group. 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 summative assessment tasks, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 25 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 semester 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:

  • Pratik Chakrabarti, Medicine and Empire, 1660-1960 (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013).
  • Randall Packard, White Plague, Black Labour: Tuberculosis and the Political Economy of Health and Disease in South Africa (London: James Currey, 1989).
  • Margaret Jones, Public Health in Jamaica: Neglect, Philanthropy and Development (Jamaica: the University of West Indies Press, 2013).

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.