Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2017-2018 (archived)


Department: Philosophy


Type Open Level 1 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2017/18 Module Cap Location Durham


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To give a basic, structured overview of the history of medicine and theories of health and disease in Western societies from Graeco-Roman antiquity to the end of the 19th century, including their philosophical connotations, and to deepen this knowledge in several key areas.


  • Chronological Part: the art of healing and humoral theory in ancient Greece; Roman medicine; Western medieval medicine; the Arab-Islamic tradition of medical knowledge; Renaissance medicine; the scientific revolution of the 17th century; medicine and medical systems in the Enlightenment; science and doctors in the 19th century.
  • Thematic Part: historical concepts of the body; the rise of hospital medicine; medical professionalisation and the academisation of surgery; medicine for and by women; changes in the treatment of the insane; development of laboratory medicine and medical technology; scientific theories of disease causation; history of public health; epidemiological change.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of the module students will have knowledge and understanding of:
  • the typical features of, and major historical developments in, Western medicine and theories of health and disease from Graeco-Roman antiquity to the end of the 19th century, including their philosophical connotations.
  • important developments within certain key areas of the history of Western medicine, including body concepts and theories of disease causation, hospital medicine, the medical profession, surgery, medicine and women, treatment of the insane, laboratory medicine, medical technology, public health, and epidemiology.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • grasp, analyse, evaluate and deploy subject-specific concepts and arguments
  • locate, understand, assess and utilise pertinent historical (and, where appropriate, philosophical) sources
  • interpret and criticise relevant texts.
Key Skills:
  • express themselves clearly and succinctly in writing
  • comprehend complex ideas, propositions and theories
  • defend their opinions by reasoned argument
  • seek out and identify appropriate sources of evidence and information
  • tackle problems in a clear-sighted and logical fashion

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

  • The Subject Knowledge is taught through lectures, discussion groups, and guided reading, and assessed by examination.
  • The Subject Skills are obtained through discussion groups, formative essay writing, and guided reading, and are assessed by summative essay.
  • The Formative essay provides the opportunity for students to test and extend their knowledge and understanding of the module content, and develop their ability to present and defend relevant arguments and theories using available learning resources, uninhibited by the need for summative assessment.
  • The Summative essay tests knowledge and understanding of the course material, and the ability to identify and explain issues covered in the module, and, using relevant research material, to present different approaches to those issues, and make reasoned judgement on the merits and demerits of such approaches.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 22 1 per week 1 hour 22
Discussion groups 9 Fortnightly 1 hour 9
Preparation and Reading 169
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
two-hour written examination 100%
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
2000 word essay 100%

Formative Assessment:

One 2000 word 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