Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2010-2011 (archived)


Department: History


Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2010/11 Module Cap 50 Location Durham


  • A pass mark in at least ONE level one module in History.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • This course looks at the understanding and experience of health care and medicine in early modern Europe.
  • Students will gain an insight into the contemporary understanding of, and responses and reactions to, disease and healing in this period.


  • The body, like health and illness, is a social construct; the product of a particular historical moment. This course places the body at the centre of an investigation into the history of medicine and health care in early modern Europe. In a time when the body’s interiority was literally uncharted territory how did early modern people understand processes such as menstruation, reproduction and excretion? How did early modern men and women experience their bodies? What did it mean to be a man or a woman? How were health and illness understood? How did sick people talk about their ailments and express their pain? In this module we will look at the different ways in which both sick and healthy bodies were constructed and perceived ranging from the patient’s point of view to the clinical medical gaze of the ‘professional’ practitioner. This will include an examination of changing explanations for health and illness from humoralism to iatrochemistry and iatromechanism, the construction of pain narratives and illness stories, and understandings of monstrous births. We will look at contemporary understandings of, and responses and reactions to, disease and healing, focusing on the plague and the pox. Changing attitudes to madness, anatomy and dissection, legal medicine and sexual difference will also be examined. We will explore the relationship between various medical practitioners and their patients, the role of women as midwives and health carers asking where nurturing ends and medicine begins. Drawing on recent revisionist histories of medicine and the body we will examine the relationship between the early modern body and our modern-day perceptions of health and illness reflecting on what it means today to be embodied.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Knowledge and understanding of key themes in the history of medicine in early modern Europe
  • An appreciation of current historiographical debates regarding the history of medicine
  • The contextualisation of health care and medicine within wider social and cultural frameworks
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Subject specific skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/ModuleProformaMap/
Key Skills:
  • Key skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/ModuleProformaMap/

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Student learning is facilitated by a combination of the following teaching methods:
  • lectures to set the foundations for further study and to provide the basis for the acquisition of subject specific knowledge. Lectures provide a broad framework which defines individual module content, introducing students to themes, debates and interpretations. In this environment, students are given the opportunity to develop skills in listening, selective note-taking and reflection;
  • seminars to allow students to present and critically reflect upon the acquired subject-specific knowledge, methodologies and theories, and to identify and debate a range of issues and differing opinions. The seminar is the forum in which students are given the opportunity to communicate ideas, jointly exploring themes and arguments. Seminars are structured to develop understanding and designed to maximise student participation related to prior independent preparation. Seminars give students the opportunity to develop oral communication skills, encourage critical and tolerant approaches to reasoned argument and historical discussion, build the students’ ability to marshal historical evidence, and facilitate the development of the ability to summarise historical arguments, think in a rapidly changing environment and communicate in a persuasive and articulate manner, whilst recognising the value of working with others and, occasionally, towards shared goals.
  • Assessment:
  • Unseen Examinations test students' ability to work under pressure under timed conditions, to prepare for examinations and direct their own programme of revision and learning, and develop key time management skills. The unseen examination gives students the opportunity to develop relevant life skills such as the ability to produce coherent, reasoned and supported arguments under pressure. Students will be examined on subject specific knowledge;
  • Summative essays remain a central component of assessment in history, due to the integrative high-order skills they develop. Essays allow students the opportunity to recognise, represent and critically reflect upon ideas, concepts and problems; students can demonstrate awareness of, and the ability to use and evaluate, a diverse range of resources and identify, represent and debate a range of subject-specific issues and opinions. Through the essay, students can synthesise information, adopt critical appraisals and develop reasoned argument based on individual research; they should be able to communicate ideas in writing, with clarity and coherence; and to show the ability to integrate and critically assess material from a wide range of sources.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 20 Weekly in Terms 1 & 2; revision lecture in Term 3 1 hour 20
Seminars 8 4 in Term one, 4 in Term two 1 hour 8
Preparation and Reading 172
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Essays Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
essay 1, not including footnotes and bibliography 2000 words max 50%
essay 2, not including footnotes and bibliography 2000 words max 50%
Component: Examination Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
unseen examination 2 hours 100%

Formative Assessment:

One or more short assignments submitted in writing or delivered orally and discussed either 1:1 or in a group context.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University