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MA Medical History and Humanities

A unique opportunity to study health from diverse perspectives

Year of entry: 2021 (September)


1 year full-time,
2 years part-time

Start date

September 2021 (term dates)

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The MA in Medical History and Humanities is an exciting interdisciplinary course jointly run by the Departments of History and English. It is also open to people with backgrounds in other humanities disciplines, as well as those with social science, science and public health backgrounds with an interest in the medical humanities. 

The course is shaped by cutting-edge international research spanning the fields of medical history, literature, sociology, philosophy, health sciences and policy. Students and staff from varying disciplines, periods and geographical regions work collaboratively, giving you a distinctive interdisciplinary and international experience.

You'll explore historical, literary, social and cultural perspectives on illness and health, general wellbeing, issues of public health and the history of medicine. You'll examine the links between history, the humanities and policy to gain advanced skills in analysis and critical reflection.

The course draws on expertise from:

The scope of the course was ambitious and brought to light a wide range of interesting avenues for research and explanation from bioethics to health advertising, triumphalist narratives and conceptions of the body. It was a fantastic introduction to the hopes and possibilities of the course.
MA Medical History and Humanities student, 2016

Leading research

In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework assessment, the Department of English had the highest proportion of world-leading (4*) research of all UK English departments, while in the Times Higher Education's ranking of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework assessment, the Department of History was second overall for research performance.

Interdisciplinary perspectives

This course crosses the boundaries of several disciplines, allowing you to look at current and past studies in a different light.

Links to the World Health Organisation

The Centre for Global Health Histories is the WHO Collaborating Centre for Global Health Histories. This is in recognition of its assistance to the organisation in implementing its work and achieving its goals.

Course content

The course consists of:

  • one core module (20 credits)
  • three option modules (20 credits each)
  • a research training module (10 credits)
  • 20,000-word dissertation (90 credits)

Instead of one option module, you can elect to study two skills training modules (10 credits each).

In the Autumn Term, you'll complete the core module and one option module.

The research training module runs over the Autumn and Spring Terms.

In the Spring Term, you'll complete two further option modules, or one option module and two skills training modules.


Core modules

Option modules

Modules are offered from both the Department of History and the Department of English. You can choose from a range of topics in medical history, the humanities and beyond. Recent modules offered include:

Skills modules

You may choose to complete two skills modules (instead of an option module) which will provide you with invaluable skills training across a range of fields.

Part-time students normally take the skills modules during their first year, but they can arrange to take these in the second year if required.

Recent modules offered include:

Our modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff.
Our course structures are changing in September 2023. Find out more about how this course may be affected.


During the Summer Term and the summer vacation, you will write a research dissertation of up to 20,000 words on a topic of your choice.

You will be under the supervision of a member of staff in either the Department of History or the Department of English, who will provide you with specialist advice and guidance. Our range of expertise and wealth of source material means we can provide supervision on a wide range of topics, both chronologically and geographically. Recent dissertation topics have included:

  • The Persevering Surgeon: the Visualisation of Anatomy in the Eighteenth to the Nineteenth Century
  • Building the National Health Service: Hospital Planning and Design in Boston, Lincolnshire, 1945 - 1974
  • Form Within Form: Remaking the Patient Body in the Testimonies of Jewish Doctors in Auschwitz
  • China’s malaria control and eradication and ideas of development: A critical history, 1950 to 1989

The York approach

Every course at York is built on a distinctive set of learning outcomes. These will give you a clear understanding of what you will be able to accomplish at the end of the course and help you explain what you can offer employers. Our academics identify the knowledge, skills, and experiences you'll need upon graduation and then design the course to get you there.

Students who complete this course will be able to:

  • Deploy an in-depth and comprehensive knowledge of cutting-edge interdisciplinary scholarship to interpret and account for the dynamics of illness, well-being, embodiment, and global health policy.
  • Differentiate the perspectives of multiple historical and cultural actors and assess their broader contextual and interdisciplinary significance using a range of analytical approaches and methods.
  • Demonstrate a high capacity for independent thought and action, through considered critical arguments in the course of research, writing, and/or collaborative engagement.
  • Construct innovative essay and dissertation questions that are relevant to the field of medical history and its wider interdisciplinary applications within and beyond academic research.
  • Demonstrate advanced research techniques and gain transferrable skills in locating and analysing relevant sources, data, and archival materials using manual and digital tools; match and manipulate raw materials using carefully chosen and clearly articulated methodologies drawn from a range of disciplines as appropriate.
  • Solve problems in relation to practical issues that emerge during the research process and in relation to complex interdisciplinary debates about global health policy, whilst understanding the ethics of representation.
  • Communicate research findings imaginatively, lucidly, and succinctly using a variety of media forms, including seminar discussion, oral presentations, and critical writing.
  • Deploy different forms of source evidence in order to build arguments that can be robustly defended and impactfully applied across a range of critical and practical contexts.

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2021/22

Study modeUK (home)International and EU
Full-time (1 year) £8,440£18,700
Part-time (2 years)
This is the year 1 fee. Fees for future years are subject to confirmation.

Students on a Student Visa (formerly Tier 4 Visa) are not currently permitted to study part-time at York.

For courses which are longer than one year, the tuition fees quoted are for the first year of study. Fees for subsequent years are subject to increase (no more than 2% each year).

Fees information

UK (home) or international fees? The level of fee that you will be asked to pay depends on whether you're classed as a UK (home) or international student. Check your fee status

Find out more information about tuition fees and how to pay them.

Additional costs

There is no obligation to purchase books or other texts - all core texts and resources will be available in our library or online.

Funding information

Discover your funding options to help with tuition fees and living costs.

We'll confirm more funding opportunities for students joining us in 2021/22 throughout the year.

If you've successfully completed an undergraduate degree at York you could be eligible for a 10% Masters fee discount.

Living costs

You can use our living costs guide to help plan your budget. It covers additional costs that are not included in your tuition fee such as expenses for accommodation and study materials.

Teaching and assessment

You’ll work with world‐leading academics who’ll challenge you to think independently and excel in all that you do. Our approach to teaching will provide you with the knowledge, opportunities, and support you need to grow and succeed in a global workplace.

Coronavirus (Covid-19): changes to courses

We've made some changes to the way our courses are delivered to minimise potential disruption from the ongoing global pandemic.

Teaching format

Most of your modules will consist of weekly two-hour seminars. The Research Training module will be taught through three-hour workshops. You will normally work in small groups of fewer than 20 students.

Teaching location

You will be based in the Department of History in Vanbrugh College on Campus West. Most of your teaching will take place in Vanbrugh College.

About our campus

Our beautiful green campus offers a student-friendly setting in which to live and study, within easy reach of the action in the city centre. It's easy to get around campus - everything is within walking or pedalling distance, or you can always use the fast and frequent bus service.

Assessment and feedback

You will be primarily assessed by essays and your dissertation. You will have the chance to submit assignments for formative assessment. These assessments do not affect your final mark but will give you an opportunity to receive written feedback on your work and 1:1 personal guidance from your tutors. You will also have opportunities to present your work in different formats and develop your public speaking and presentation skills.

Careers and skills

You will complete this course with the academic, personal, and professional skills needed to pursue further academic research, or expand your career horizons towards health policy analysis, consultancy, or project work in the governmental and non-governmental sectors. You will also have the opportunity to engage in the vibrant research environment of the Centre for Global Health Histories and take advantage of its unique global network, resources, and events.

This course provides unique insights into health and medical policy, meaning you'll have the opportunity to better understand the links between health and social and economic development, as well as cross-cultural policy-making, via certain option modules.

Career opportunities

Graduates may pursue careers in diverse areas such as:

  • the arts and visual culture
  • public health
  • medicine
  • social policy development
  • advanced research at PhD level

Transferable skills

  • Analytical thinking
  • Formation of original arguments
  • Effective time management
  • Communication skills
  • Professional presentation skills
  • Project design and management skills
  • Organisation skills
  • Independent research skills, using a range of physical and digital resources and methodologies

Entry requirements

Typical offer
Undergraduate degree 2:1 or equivalent
Other international qualifications Equivalent qualifications from your country

Additional requirements

You will need to submit examples of written work with your application. Please see our guidance on submitting written work.

English language

If English isn't your first language you may need to provide evidence of your English language ability. We accept the following qualifications:

Minimum requirement
IELTS 7.0, minimum 6.5 in each component
C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency 185, minimum 176 in each component
Duolingo 120, minimum 110 in all other components
PTE Academic 67, minimum 61 in each component
TOEFL 96, minimum 23 in each component
Trinity ISE III Distinction in all components

For more information see our postgraduate English language requirements.

If you've not met our English language requirements

You may be eligible for one of our pre-sessional English language courses. These courses will provide you with the level of English needed to meet the conditions of your offer.

The length of course you need to take depends on your current English language test scores and how much you need to improve to reach our English language requirements.

After you've accepted your offer to study at York, we'll confirm which pre-sessional course you should apply to via You@York.


You can apply and send all your documentation electronically through our online system. You don’t need to complete your application all at once: you can start it, save it and finish it later.

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Next steps

Contact us

Get in touch if you have any questions

Dr Alexander Medcalf

Learn more

Department of English and Related Literature, Department of History

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