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2023/24 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

HPSC5800M The Origin of Modern Medicine (Birth of the Clinic)

30 creditsClass Size: 50

Module manager: Dr Adrian Wilson

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

This module is mutually exclusive with

HPSC3315History of the Body

This module is approved as an Elective

Module summary

Western medicine in 1700, and even in 1760, was still tied to its ancient foundations; but thereafter it witnessed a series of dramatic transformations, involving new practices, technologies and ideas, not least new ideas about the body. This module will explore those developments selectively, focusing on one of the specific themes listed below, laying a major emphasis on primary sources, and emphasizing relevant historiographic perspectives and debates.


On completion of this module, students should be able to:
(1) distinguish the rival approaches to the body which have characterised Western medicine in its historical development;
(2) relate interpretations of the body to the institutional settings of medical practice and teaching;
(3) grasp and articulate historical changes in the development of Western medicine;
(4) interpret primary sources associated with the themes of the module;
(5) critically assess the relevant historiography;
(6) write a substantial essay based on original source-materials;
(7) write a historiographic critique on a topic relevant to the themes of the module.


The content is drawn from the module HPSC 3312, which examines the post-Renaissance origins of modern Western medicine, concentrating on such themes as:
- The eighteenth-century foundations of what Foucault called the 'birth of the clinic'
- The roles of education, technology and theory in laying the foundations of modern medicine during the long eighteenth century
- Competing perspectives on the body in Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment culture and medicine
- Representations of the body and disability in 18th- and 19th-century medicine, art and literature
For HPSC 5800M students will be required (as specified below) to demonstrate in their written work a critical engagement with primary sources and with historiographic debates.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours270.00
Total Contact hours30.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)300.00

Private study

Reading for classes: 120 hours
Writing of assessments: 150 hours

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Essay #1 (see below) to be written by Week 9, and feedback to be given within two weeks of termtime.

In addition, performance during seminars and tutorials will be monitored and feedback will be given as required.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay3,000 words50.00
Essay3,000 words50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Essays are of 3,000 words. One of the two essays must be based on primary sources, and the other must take the form of, or include, a historiographic review.

Reading list

There is no reading list for this module

Last updated: 28/04/2023 14:44:02


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