What you will study
In today’s society, the growth of medical technologies, costs of treatment and provision of medical care have become increasingly controversial issues which affect everybody’s life. History can provide a valuable perspective from which to make sense of today’s challenges. This module is for all students with an interest in history or medicine, and aims to provide a broad and deep understanding of how different social, political and cultural contexts shaped medical thought and practice between 1500 and 1930. Medical theories about the body and disease did not develop in isolation, but owed much to ideas from contemporary science and religion. The work of governments in providing health care was shaped by broader ideas of the proper function of the state. The role of hospitals was determined not just by the constraints of medical technology, but by funding and by the identity of patients as ’deserving cases’.
The module is organised chronologically, with each unit focusing on a major topic, such as the variety of healers in the early modern period; the development of the nineteenth-century medical profession; or colonial medicine. Comparisons help the appreciation of historical and geographic differences, and this is why the module explores the history of medicine across Europe and takes into account the input of non-western medical systems.
The work of the module is spread over 32 weeks. This includes six ‘reading weeks’ which provide a chance to catch up on work and prepare assignments. There are six tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) that begin with short essays and work up to long essays using material from across the module. The questions in the final three-hour examination are of similar forms.
Images and material culture are now at the centre of medical historians’ research. In addition to exploring a variety of written sources, you will engage with a range of visual materials. Videos will show and discuss the history of the buildings and spaces used for medical practice. The CD-ROM will help you to analyse still images to make sense of the changing perceptions of the body and the portrayal of patients and practitioners. You will learn how to ’read‘ buildings, objects and images to gain new insight into medicine in the past.
The module develops not only an understanding of the key features of the social history of medicine in Europe between 1500 and 1930, but also the skills to work independently; to evaluate and use primary and secondary source materials; to write essays; and to think critically about the work of historians. These skills will equip you for a wide range of studies at OU level 3.
If you would like more information about this module you can visit the A218 website which includes further details about the module content, samples of study materials, extracts from the CD-ROM, and frequently asked questions.