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2008/09 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HIST2170 Patient Voices: Medicine and Healthcare in the Middle Ages

20 creditsClass Size: 42

Module manager: Dr Iona Mccleery

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2008/09

This module is approved as an Elective

Module summary

What happened when people were ill in the Middle Ages? This course explores the history of medicine in the medieval period as much as is possible from the point of view of the sick. Students will start by examining medieval concepts of health, healing and disease, and then go on to consider the health needs of several different social groups: poor people, kings, townsfolk, women, children, the elderly, diseased and insane across a broad chronological and geographical period, and the various ways they went about curing illness and preventing disease. Through discussion of these groups students will come across a wide variety of medical practitioners and health providers including itinerant toothpullers, university-trained physicians, saints, surgeons, magicians and midwives, and analyse their training, theories and the relationship they have with their patients. The intention is to study the choices of the medieval sick in context, using a broad range of primary sources and a number of different historical approaches.


On completion of this module students will have a better understanding of medieval ideas about medicine and healthcare in specific social and historical contexts. They will have a much wider knowledge of medieval religion, law, popular and elite culture, social structure and daily life. They will be able to interpret primary sources and evaluate historiographical approaches

Skills outcomes
Students will gain the skills to interpret and analyse both visual and textual evidence and evaluate different approaches to a subject. They will gain the ability to convey knowledge in written and oral form in a group context.


This course will start with an introduction to medieval medical history and the different historical approaches used for the study of the sick. Then after an overview of the patient-practitioner relationship as it changed between the ancient and renaissance periods, the course will examine different kinds of patients, divided both socially - poor, rich, townsfolk, kings and their courts - and by disease - male and female specific diseases, children, the old, the insane and those with plague, leprosy and other medieval conditions. There will also be an opportunity to examine surgical and other therapeutic methods and the course will end with a discussion of whether the sixteenth century was a crucial turning point in the treatment of the sick

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours183.00
Total Contact hours17.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Exam preparation; researching, preparing, and writing assignments; undertaking set reading; and self-directed reading around the topic. 183 hours.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Contributions to class discussions, an assessed exercise or exercises worth 10% of module marks, an assessed essay.

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1 x 2,000 word essay to be handed in by 12 noon on Friday of teaching week 730.00
Oral PresentationOral contribution10.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)40.00

10% oral presentation is redone with 'an equivalent written exercise'

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Standard exam (closed essays, MCQs etc)2 hr 60.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)60.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 29/04/2009


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