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HIS3334 : Talking Cures and Troubles: An Oral History of Health and Medicine in Britain, c. 1948 - 2000

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Graham Smith
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


Particular attention will be paid to the following objectives:
• Evaluation of the historical significance of oral histories narrating the history of medicine in Britain under the National Health Service (NHS) through the close analysis of a set of archived oral histories c. 1 long, life history interviews or 3-5 topical interviews from medicine and health dependent on availability, but, for example: patients’ oral histories could include thalidomide, diabetes, mental health and palliative care, while professionals could include surgery, medical science, nursing and General Practice.
• Introduction of students to the historiography of, and key elements in the history of the NHS.
• Exploring histories of particular patient and professional groups.
• Introducing students to methodological debates in the reuse of oral histories of medicine and how oral history sources can be employed by historians.
• Developing an understanding of the opportunities and challenges of reusing oral histories alongside other secondary and primary sources.
• Allowing students to develop the ability to listen, read, analyse and reuse oral history recordings, transcripts and summaries, with an emphasis on the critical skills required for the analysis of oral sources, narratives and memories.
• Developing students’ capacity for independent learning and research.

Outline Of Syllabus

The course will explore the way health professionals and patients have remembered the history of medicine and health care provision under the NHS.
Topics might include: the development clinical specialities; administration, management and managerialism;, the emergence of patient stories (including cancer stories), the rise of health consumerism; changes in public health and health promotion (with particular reference to morbidity and co-morbidity); the shifting division of British medicine; the rise of primary care and/or surveillance medicine; changing perceptions of the patient body and mind; health scares and crises; ethnicity, care, provision and receipt; medical harm and iatrogenic illness; and the history of individual medical institutions.

In addition to using texts discussing the theories of remembering (narrating memory) in oral history and the history of the NHS, the course will utilise a wide range of oral history sources including collections of interviews available through digital archives (e.g. Wellcome Trust, British Library Sound Archive, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Archives, DIPEx, Hospice Oral History Archive). Students will not be collecting, but reusing, oral histories.

While the history of the NHS will be taught, students will be guided to research a profession or set of patient experiences in more depth and within that wider context. Similarly, while oral history analytical approaches will be taught, students will be expected to appropriately apply these in their work.

Teaching will be in two blocks. The first on the history of the NHS, the second on the use of oral; history sources in the historical context of the NHS.

Assessment will be by oral presentation and essays.

Teaching Methods

Module leaders are revising this content in light of the Covid 19 restrictions.
Revised and approved detail information will be available by 17 August.

Assessment Methods

Module leaders are revising this content in light of the Covid 19 restrictions.
Revised and approved detail information will be available by 17 August.

Reading Lists