The History of Medicine has a significant place in a number of Undergraduate degree programmes, where the principal role of the Unit is the delivery of Undergraduate teaching, particularly the MBChB degree where, in the last decade, nearly two thousand medical students have taken Special Study Modules and Special Study Activities at differing levels.  Our Undergraduate teaching programme is balanced between background lectures and self-directed learning and include the following modules:

Intercalated BMedSc in the History of Medicine

The Intercalated degree programme, structured within the framework of Medicine in Society lasts one academic year and is available to MBChB students after the end of Years 2, 3 and 4, as well as to BDS students at the end of Year 2. It also admits students from other UK medical and dental schools. Taught modules, as components of the programme, which are taken in the first semester, currently on offer include:

  • Research Methodologies in the History of Medicine
  • The History of Medical Specialisation, 1700-1950
  • The History of Medical Institutions, 1700-1950
  • Medicine in Society, 1750-1950
  • History of Occupational Health and Medicine, 1700-1950

In the Second Semester the sole activity of the student is the research towards a 10,000-word dissertation. Many students undertake this work abroad or in other parts of the UK, for which there is substantial financial support from the Medical School. In the last few years, students have carried out their research in various countries, such as Canada, China, the USA, Austria, France, Greece, the Ukraine, Egypt, South Africa, India, Barbados, Jamaica, Australia, Peru, New Zealand, Malaysia and Fiji. Students of medicine and dentistry taking the degree are eligible to compete for funding from the Sir Arthur Thomson Charitable Trust.

Additional details relating to the programme are available from the History of Medicine BMedSc - Intercalated Degree course page.  

Short Electives in the History of Medicine

A number of shorter courses exploring aspects of the history of medicine are available to undergraduate medical students in years 1, 2 and 3. These include modules on the history of epidemics, anatomy and a general introduction to the history of medicine. Each module involves students attending between 6 and 8 lectures on a specialist subject, designing a project in collaboration with a member of staff, writing up a research essay based on primary and secondary sources and presenting their findings to their group at the end of the module. Modules include:

MBChB Special Study Module 1, Year 2: Introduction to the History of Medicine

This module offers second-year students an introduction to the history of medicine broadly defined. It comprises six lectures on modern trends in the history of medicine, the rise of medical institutions and the emergence of modern medicine. Lectures take place between January and March, and students are then free to undertake their mini research projects during the Easter break. Research findings are presented to the group at the conclusion of the break.

MBChB Special Study Module 2, Year 3: The History of Epidemics

This module offers third-year students an introduction to the history of epidemics. It comprises six to eight lectures on aspects of the history of epidemics. These have included an introduction to historical perspectives on epidemics, responses to plague in early modern Europe, the eradication of smallpox, cholera in the nineteenth century industrial city, the making of global flu, and the modern AIDS pandemic. Lectures take place in the last week of April and the first weeks of May, and students are then free to design and complete their research essays over the following weeks. Essays are submitted in June and student presentations take place in July.

MBChB Special Study Module 3, Year 2: Skin and Bones: Perspectives on the History of Anatomy

This module offers second-year students an introduction to the history of anatomy. It comprises six to eight lectures, delivered by staff in Anatomy and in the Centre for the History of Medicine. These lectures have focused on the rise of the anatomical tradition, the making of anatomy museums, anatomy and the academy, procuring bodies, the evolution of preservation techniques, and legislation relating to the use of human tissue and dissection. Lectures take place between January and March, when students also prepare short research papers which are presented to the group.

MBChB Special Study Module 6, Year 4: Student Elective (Research Supervision)

Students are free to discuss ideas for research with a member of the Unit for their year 4 elective. In the past, students have explored the history of x-rays in Britain, as well as the diffusion of surgical techniques around the globe. Students' projects have taken them to local and national archives, as well as libraries, museums and archives in Toronto, Montreal, Boston and New York. While students are not required to have previous experience in the history of medicine, they are expected to develop their project in close collaboration with a member of the Centre.

External Teaching

Staff in the History of Medicine Unit have also offered a number of courses and undertake a certain amount of teaching outside the Unit. Much of this is undertaken in the School of Historical Studies, Department of Modern History, University of Birmingham. These activities include:

BA in Medieval and Modern History, Year3: Dissertations (Dr Reinarz)

Final-year history students can undertake research into the history of medicine. In December of their second year, students in Historical Studies are notified of potential supervisors for their final-year projects and are encouraged to meet with supervisors to design suitable research topics. In their second year, students undertake a bibliographic review and meet with their supervisor at least 5 times during term in order to develop their projects. The summer before their final year is spent undertaking the majority of their research. During third-year, students will write up their findings in close collaboration with supervisors and dissertations are submitted in February. Each year for the last decade, 2-4 History students have been supervised by members in the History of Medicine Unit. Subjects have included: the advertisement of quack medicines in Birmingham's newspapers; the history of homeopathy in the midlands; the Victorian freak show; responses of local doctors to the introduction of the NHS; the history of Birmingham dispensary; the London Foundling Hospital in the nineteenth century; and a comparative history of the patients at Hatton and Birmingham Asylums.

MA in Birmingham and Midland History (Dr Reinarz)

The School of Historical Studies runs a two-year, part-time MA in the history of Birmingham and West Midlands History. As part of this course, students receive three lectures on aspects of midland history from the Unit's Director, Jonathan Reinarz. Lectures include an introduction to the sources in the history of medicine, the history of business in Victorian Birmingham and the history of Birmingham medicine in the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. Students may chose a subject related to the history of medicine for their dissertations, which are due at the conclusion of the second year. In the past, students have researched subjects, such as the history of midland friendly societies and the health of female munitions workers in Birmingham.