ATS2995 - Blood and guts: A history of medicine in Europe - 2019

12 points, SCA Band 1, 0.250 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Organisational Unit


Chief examiner(s)

Associate Professor Paula Michaels


Associate Professor Paula Michaels

Not offered in 2019


Twelve credit points of first-year Arts units.


Held in London and Edinburgh, the unit aims to introduce students to the history of medicine in Europe. Far from value-free, medical knowledge and practice is everywhere and always embedded in a social, political, economic, and cultural context. We will probe these entwined historical experiences through an analysis of the written texts, visual sources, and material artefacts left by patients and practitioners. The focus will be on the period from the eighteenth century through to the present, when technological innovation revolutionised medical care and life expectancy increased dramatically. Topics may include: patient experiences; medical professions and professionalisation; medical technologies and epistemologies; authoritative knowledge and power in the clinic and in the laboratory; medicine and colonialism; relationship between mind and body.

Great Britain is an optimal location for a deep dive into the history of medicine. A global hub of medical history, London offers many and varied venues for exploring this topic. More than two dozen specialised museums and libraries in and around the city highlight one or more aspect(s) of the history of medicine, while numerous other collections feature fine art and material culture relevant to its study. Thanks to its prominent role in medical innovations of the Enlightenment, Edinburgh offers its own unique story accessible through local museums and libraries. For students with an interest in public history or museum studies, this is an ideal opportunity to think critically about those fields.


Upon successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

  1. explain current debates within the field of medical history;
  2. critically assess representations of race, class and gender in medical texts, images and historical objects, and in displays at medical museums of the present;
  3. discuss and reflect upon the ways in which historians can inform critical discussion about contemporary medical practices;
  4. communicate research on relevant topics orally and in writing.


Within semester assessment: 100%

Workload requirements

Minimum total expected workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 288 hours per semester typically comprising a mixture of scheduled learning activities and independent study. A unit requires on average three/four hours of scheduled activities per week. Scheduled activities may include a combination of teacher directed learning, peer directed learning and online engagement.

See also Unit timetable information

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study