Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2011-2012 (archived)


Department: Health [Queen's Campus, Stockton]


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2011/12 Module Cap None.


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To engage students with medicine in its different historical and cultural contexts.
  • To introduce the characteristic features of ancient, medieval, early modern, and modern medicine.
  • To identify changes and continuities in medical knowledge and practice.
  • To promote understanding of historicity of the human body and of concepts of health and disease.
  • To provide knowledge about different forms of health care provision and health-related institutions.


  • The seminars will cover major areas of history of medicine. Following an introductory session, these areas will be treated in three chronological and three thematic seminars:
  • The introductory seminar session will make students familiar with arguments why a historical perspective is important for medicine. The historical contingency of medical knowledge and practices will be illustrated and discussed through a case study.
  • In the three chronological seminars, the main historical periods of ancient, medieval and early modern, and modern medicine since 1800 will be introduced and major features of these periods discussed.
  • The three thematic seminars will look into major historical issues of health, medicine and disease. In particular, they will deal with the history of the human body, changing lay and expert concepts of health and disease, and the great variety of healers and health-realted and medical instituions through time.
  • In consultation with the Module Leader, students will choose a topic for their assessed Essay. The Essay's topic should normally come from one of the subject areas covered in the seminars. Topic proposals falling outside these areas will have to be approved by the Course Director.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of the module students should be able to:
  • demonstrate understanding of medicine in specific cultural contexts and historical periods;
  • show familiarity with key historical writing on the human body, concepts of health and disease, or health care provision and health-related institutions.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of the module students should be able to:
  • evaluate different historiographical interpretations of key developments in medicine, health and disease;
  • demonstrate skills in historical interpretation of sources relating to medicine, health and disease;
  • write a critical and well-informed Essay on a selected topic from the history of medicine.
Key Skills:

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

    • This module will be taught in 7 two-hour group seminars, and with individual tutorial sessions on the topic of the assessed essay. In addition, draft versions of the assessed essay will be presented in a one-day workshop before submission.
    • Each of the two-hour seminars will be led by a lecturer. The seminars include a short introduction to the topic by the lecturer; students' historical interpretation of selected sources; students' short presentations of key primary and/or secondary literature; and joint critical discussion of pre-read research publications (partly in group work).
    • The individual tutorials (entitlement of up to 4 contact hours with the chosen supervisor) will support the student's work towards the assessed essay. They include discussion of the chosen research/essay topic; guidance on relevant research methods and literature; development of a research plan and time-table; and feedback on essay drafts.
    • In the workshop (up to 8 hours) students will present draft versions of their essay and discuss them with their fellow-students and the lecturer.
    • These teaching and learning methods will support students in achieving the Learning Outcomes. The Learning Outcomes will be formally assessed by the essay.
    • Though optional, students will also be expected to attend the research seminars, workshops or special lectures organized by the Department of Philosophy and the Centre for the History of Medicine and Disease.
    • Students will also have the opportunity to attend on a voluntary basis the seminars for the MA in History of Medicine at the University of Newcastle.

    Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

    Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
    Tutorials up to 4 Flexible as required 1 hour 4
    Seminars 7 Weekly 2 hours 14
    Workshop 1 Once 8 hours 8
    Preparation and Reading 274
    Total 300

    Summative Assessment

    Component: Assessed Essay Component Weighting: 100%
    Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
    Assessed Essay (including footnotes, excluding bibliography and appendices) 5,000 words 100%

    Formative Assessment:

    Short formative essay of 2,000 words on a topic distinct from that of the summative essay.

    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