HISTORY 284 - Sickness and Health in Society: 1492 to the Present
Section: 001
Term: FA 2009
Subject: History (HISTORY)
Department: LSA History
Requirements & Distribution:
With permission of instructor.
Advisory Prerequisites:
First-year students must obtain permission of the instructor.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

From devastating infectious epidemics to the quiet suffering of malnutrition, health problems have both affected and reflected the evolution of modern society. The course will study four different historical periods, exploring such issues as:

  • the effects of individual habits, environmental conditions, and medical innovation on public health;
  • the role of ethics, economics, and politics in medical decision making;
  • the changing health problems of the disadvantaged, including Native Americans, women, Blacks, immigrants, and workers;
  • the changing meaning of concepts like "health," "disease," "cause," and "cure";
  • the dissemination and impact of medical discoveries; and
  • the changing organization and power of the healing professions.

We will focus on American history, although comparisons will be drawn to other societies. The course is a basic introduction, however, first-year students must obtain permission of the professor to enroll. Classes are taught in lecture format with discussion sections, and will include a variety of audio-visual sources. There will be two essay-style examinations, and frequent short quizzes. This is a challenging and demanding course. Those who miss the first meeting without advance permission will be dropped from the course.

Reading assignments will range from modern histories to poetry and old medical journals.

Required Readings:

  • Leavitt and Numbers, Sickness and Health in America, 3rd edition, Wisconsin (1997)
  • Rosenberg, Cholera Years, Univ. Chicago Press
  • Crosby, Columbian Exchange, Greenwood
  • DeKruif, Microbe Hunters,
  • Pernick, The Black Stork , Oxford Univ. Press
  • Morantz-Sanchez, Sympathy and Science, UNC Press
  • Warner and Tighe, Major Problems in History of American Medicine, Houghton Mifflin (2001)
  • Course pack from Dollar Bill

HISTORY 284 - Sickness and Health in Society: 1492 to the Present
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
MW 1:00PM - 2:30PM
002 (DIS)
W 3:00PM - 4:00PM
003 (DIS)
W 4:00PM - 5:00PM
004 (DIS)
Th 4:00PM - 5:00PM
NOTE: Data maintained by department in Wolverine Access. If no textbooks are listed below, check with the department.

Coursepack Location:
Dollar Bill
There are two parts to the coursepack. Both are required reading. Part One consists of material not easily available elsewhere and purchase is required. Part Two is required reading but the individual selections are also available on reserve.
ISBN: 0275980928
The Columbian exchange : biological and cultural consequences of 1492, Author: Alfred W. Crosby, Jr. ; forewords by J.R. McNeill and Otto von Mering., Publisher: Praeger 30th anniv 2003
ISBN: 0395954355
Major problems in the history of American medicine and public health : documents and essays, Author: ed. by John Harley Warner ...., Publisher: Houghton Mifflin 2001
ISBN: 029915324X
Sickness and health in America : readings in the history of medicine and public health, Author: edited by Judith Walzer Leavitt and Ronald L. Numbers., Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press 3rd ed. 1997
ISBN: 0156027771
Microbe hunters, Author: Paul De Kruif ; introduction by F. Gonzalez-Crussi., Publisher: Harcourt Brace 1996
ISBN: 0226726770
The cholera years : the United States in 1832, 1849, and 1866, Author: Charles E. Rosenberg ; with a new afterword., Publisher: University of Chicago Press 1987
ISBN: 0195135393
The black stork : eugenics and the death of "defective" babies in American medicine and motion pictures since 1915, Author: Martin S. Pernick., Publisher: Oxford University Press 1999
ISBN: 9780807848906
Sympathy & science : women physicians in American medicine, Author: Morantz-Sanchez, Regina Markell., Publisher: University of North Carolina Press 2000
Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

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