Call for Papers


The Body Politic: States in the History of Medicine and Health
Biennial Conference of the European Association for the History of Medicine and Health (EAHMH)
Bucharest, Romania, 30 August - 2 September 2017
Hosted by ‘Carol Davila’ University of Medicine and Pharmacy Bucharest

Proposals should be sent to before 31 January 2017
A full programme featuring keynote speakers will be published in May 2017.

The state, as we have come to know it, is very much a 19th-century creation. After poverty, ill health was the dominant social issue targeted by the interventions of emerging -states. Following the principle of the fair allocation of resources to meet basic social and economic needs, many countries introduced collective funding of health care in the 19th century. National healthcare systems came to epitomise the principle that all citizens have an equal right to health and that costs should be shared equitably. At the end of WWII, the WHO defined health as a universal human right. In the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), it was proclaimed that “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including medical care”. Over the course of the 20th century, health and disease have become a matter of direct concern for the state. As an aspect of democratic citizenship, the provision of medical care is not considered a favour, but a civil right guaranteed by the state.

In recent decades, we have witnessed a globalisation of disease patterns, the rise of chronic disease, rapid technological change, spiralling healthcare costs, and the demise of the nation state. From 1990 onwards, we have seen heated public and political debates about the organisation and financing of collective healthcare. One key question has been: to what extent can the state be held responsible for the health of citizens and the practice of medicine? In many countries, collective arrangements were critically reconsidered, reformed or transferred to “the market”. Rationalisation and commercialisation brought in managers, who took control from professionals, creating new bureaucracies that to a large extent withdrew from democratic supervision. Triggered by the crisis of the welfare state since the 1980s and by the reassessment of the system of nation states since 1989, this conference sets out to rethink the role of the state in the domain of healthcare.

This is the first EAHMH biennial conference to be hosted in Eastern Europe. To date, Eastern Europe has received only limited attention from medical historians. Due to large political shifts, the history of the region is embracing new opportunities. While detailed regional studies are still required to uncover the pathways and processes of knowledge construction, the conference intends to foster discussions about how historians have considered the role of power and politics in the construction of medical knowledge. The conference organisers seek abstracts that relate to the following themes, but not limited to these alone:

  • To what extent is the state allowed to interfere with the (private) lives of its citizens?
  • Can health be considered a civil right and if so, what does that mean in practical terms? How far does the individual responsibility of citizens go?
  • Given the fact that democratic citizenship not only involves entitlements but also responsibilities and obligations, can health or the prevention of illness and a healthy lifestyle be imposed on citizens as a civic duty?
  • How do collective health care arrangements, professionalism and democracy relate to each other?
  • How should the responsibilities of state, civil society, the medical professions and individual citizens be distributed?
  • Can we speak of “national” diseases, or even national ethics?
  • Is health a precondition for the realisation of citizenship? To what extent is citizenship a precondition for health?
  •  When faced with global health challenges, how should states relate to international bodies in the field of governance of health (care), and what is the role of non-state actors?
  • The State and the new international medical economy: towards two Europes?

The Scientific Board of the EAHMH invites proposals for 25-30 minute papers or panels of three or four papers on any aspect and era broadly relating to the topics and questions suggested above. Abstracts should be approximately 500 words in length and accompanied by a single-page CV.

Proposals should be sent to before 1 January 2017.
A full programme featuring keynote speakers will be published in May 2017.

Past Conferences...

  • Cash and Care, Cologne, Germany, 2015: From 2 to 5 September 2015 the biennial conference of the EAHMH took place in Cologne, Germany – organized by President Heiner Fangerau and colleague Maria Griemmert. In between the inspiring keynotes of Paul Unschuld, Virginia Berridge, Nancy Tomes and Wendy Kline, participants explored the conference theme ‘Cash and Care: Economics and Values in the History of Medicine and Health’ in a great number of intriguing papers and panels. Thank you Heiner and Maria for another wonderful EAHMH conference!


  • Bodies Beyond Borders: The Circulation of Anatomical Knowledge7-9 January 2015.
    In January 2015, the Research Group, Cultural History since 1750, will organize a conference on the circulation of anatomical knowledge: Bodies Beyond Borders. More information and a full programme can be found on the Ku Leuven website:
  • 2014 Conference, Kingston University, London Nursing History: a work in progress, 9 July 2014 For further details, please download the Call for Papers
  • 2014 Conference, Sydney, Australia Quarantine: History, Heritage, Place, 14-16 August 2014. For further details, please download the Call for Papers
  • Risk and Disaster in Medicine and Health, Lisbon, Portugal, 2013.

All smiles from the deck of our conference yacht; (from left to right), John Harley Warner (Yale), Arlene Keeling (Virginia), conference keynote Barbra Mann Wall (Penn) and Jonathan Reinarz (Birmingham; Secretary EAHMH).

Lisbon Conference host, Professor Laurinda Abreu, on yet another legendary EAHMH boat trip. Picture by J. Reinarz

  • The UK History of Nursing Colloquium, The History of Colonial and Post-Colonial Nursing, Oxford, UK, 4 July 2013. For further details please download the Call for Papers
  • Therapy and Empowerment - Coercion and Punishment: Historical Perspectives on Work and Occupational Therapy, Oxford, 26-27 June 2013. For further details please download the Call for Papers.
  • Body and Mind in the History of Medicine and Health, Utrecht 2011
    Thank you to everyone who attended the EAHMH conference in Utrecht. You can read more about the conference here. Pictures from the conference can be found hereand pictures from the Boerhaave performance can be viewed here.
  • Risk and Disaster in Medicine and Health (Lisbon, Portugal)
  • Global Developments and Local Specificities in the History of Medicine and Health, (Heidelberg/Germany, 2009)
  • Environment, Health and History, (London/UK, 2007)
  • Cultural History of Health and Beyond, (Paris/France, 2005)
  • Health Between the Private and the Public: Shifting Approaches, (Oslo/Norway, 2003)
  • Health and the Child: Care and Culture in History, (Geneva/Switzerland, 2001)
  • The Healthy Life: People, Perceptions, Politics (joint conference of the EAHMH and the International Network for the History of Public Health)
    (Almuñecar/Spain, 1999)
  • Coping with Medicine, Law and Human Rights - Historical Perspectives,(Castelvecchio/Italy, 1997)
  • Coping with Sickness: Perspectives on Health and Health Care, Past and Present,(San Feliu/Spain, 1995)
  • Coping with Sickness: Science, Culture, Professions, (Lunteren/Netherlands, 1993)