Module Catalogue 2020/21

HIS2078 : Approaches to the History of Western Medicine (Inactive)

  • Inactive for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Thomas Rütten
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



Medical History can be, and has been taught in many different ways: systematically, chronologically, from the doctors', patients', society's point of view, as a history of institutions, ideas, discoveries. This module aims to teach medical history by way of case studies while at the same time improving skills in dealing with a range of primary source material (epistemic, literary and pictorial genres) and helping to develop strategies to make such primary sources 'speak' to the historian (of medicine) and respond to his/her questions. We will be examining representative examples of such genres (invective, observatio, patient file, textbook, novella, trial records). We will contextualise our samples historically and thereby discover that they (and each phenomenon of reception prompted by them) are products of a given culture, do have a locus in history, reflect the time and place from which they originate.

This module aims:
To sharpen the students' awareness of the existence of different source material on which (medico-) historiographical accounts are based.
To develop skills in dealing with such diversity appropriately, i.e. to identify the chances and limitations of each genre of source material with regard to its explanatory power
To identify the disciplinary range of expertise necessary to evaluate a given historical source
To contextualise primary 'medical' sources historically, i.e. culturally, socially, politically
To introduce the idea that these sources can and should only be called 'medical' in the broadest (non-reductionist) sense of the word.
To develop problem solving strategies that help to come to grips with a given source.

Outline Of Syllabus

1. Introduction
2. 'Medical' Invectives (case-study: Petrarch’s invective against physicians, mid 14th century)
3. 'Medical' Textbooks (case-study: anatomy, Andreas Vesalius, De Fabrica, 1543)
4. 'Medical' Observationes (case study: suicide in Antwerp, Pieter van Foreest, mid-16th century)
5. 'Medical' Illustrations (case-study: Rembrandt's Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp, 1632)
6. How to write an essay
7. 'Medical' Fiction (case-study: Thomas Mann, Death in Venice, 1912) I
8. 'Medical' Fiction (case-study: Thomas Mann, Death in Venice, 1912) II
9. Patient Files (case-study: Egon R., Bohn/Waldniel 1941/1943-44)
10. 'Medical' Trial records (case-study: Nuremberg Medical Trial, 1946-1947)
11. 'Medical' Films (case study: documentary on Robert Jay Lifton, 2009)
12. Questions and Answers

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

This module intends to provide an outline of post-classical Western medicine. It does so in an inductive way by choosing primary sources as points of departure and exploring their nature, validity, reliability, scope of explanatory power and (actual and potential) impact on historical accounts. The module builds on the students' general historical knowledge acquired in year one. It adds a component to their historical understanding that is as vital as matters of birth and death, health and disease are in any given society in past and present. It prepares students for further exposures to primary sources (texts, images, artefacts) during the last year of their undergraduate degree and in terms of both methodology and content, paves the way for independent and postgraduate studies.

Intended Skill Outcomes

Subject-specific or Professional Skills: locating, critically reading and historically contextualising source material; approaching images and artefacts as historical primary 'sources'
Cognitive or Intellectual Skills: Transferable Skills (from General History to the History of Medicine; from History to other professional occupations); analysing and interpreting primary sources; appraisal of the validity, reliability, plausibility, reproducibility of historical information provided by and retrieved from a primary source; contextualilsing sources against their cultural, social, political environment; considering the receptional history of such sources, their hermeneutical openness; discovering historiographical professionalism as a remedy against historical relativism Key Skills: Teamwork; speaking for and in front of a group; doing justice to events, evidence and people; enhancing understanding of "the other" via contextualising; overcoming idealogies, stereotypical thinking, and prejudices; developing into critical readers of primary (and secondary) material

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion661:0066:0040% of guided independent study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture122:0024:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading661:0066:0040% of guided independent study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching61:006:00Seminars
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops12:002:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery41:004:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study321:0032:0020% of guided independent study
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures impart core knowledge and an outline of knowledge that students are expected to acquire; in addition, they stimulate development of listening and note-taking skills. Since a number of seminar slots will be used for group discussion, that is to say will instigate discussions, for which the class will be split in discussion groups with their "leaders" reporting back to the class, the module will also develop the students' capacity for critical judgement and their ability to respond promptly, cogently and clearly to new and unexpected questions arising from this study.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M201,000 words documentary commentary
Essay1A803,000 word essay (including footnotes, excluding bibliography)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Work submitted during the delivery of the module forms a means of determining student progress.
Submitted work tests intended knowledge and skills outcomes, develops key skills in research, reading and writing.

All Erasmus students at Newcastle University are expected to do the same assessment as students registered for a degree.
Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. This will take the form of an alternative assessment, as outlined in the formats below:

Modules assessed by Coursework and Exam:
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be one essay in addition to the other coursework assessment (the length of the essay should be adjusted in order to comply with the assessment tariff); to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Exam only:
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be two 2,000 word written exercises; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Coursework only:
All semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be expected to complete the standard assessment for the module; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending the whole academic year or semester 2 are required to complete the standard assessment as set out in the MOF under all circumstances.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2020/21 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2021/22 entry will be published here in early-April 2021. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.