The ways in which we think about and treat disease have changed dramatically over the past few centuries, not least in the momentous transformation to a system based on science and technology. This course will present an overview of the history of Western medicine from the 18th century to the present. It will discuss the history of diseases and treatments for such diseases as heart attacks, tuberculosis, and diabetes, as well as the history of medical practice and medical education. We will consider the history of treatments and controversies that persist to the present day, as well as some we now see as useless (or even harmful).
Topics to be discussed include:
- changes in medical knowledge and clinical practice
- changes in how the human body and disease have been conceptualized
- the invention of tools to treat sick people
- ways that people have experimented on other human beings
- the changing roles of healers in social and cultural context
- the history of major institutions such as medical schools and hospitals
Everyone is welcome — there are no prerequisites; any medical knowledge necessary will be presented in class. Students will be evaluated on the basis of short response papers, attendance/participation, section participation, and two in-class examinations.
Readings are in a coursepack. We will critically analyze primary sources such as medical articles and letters, as well as secondary historical sources. We will also include works of literature, such as poems, plays, short stories, and novels. Two books are required, both plays, An Enemy of the People and Miss Evers' Boys. The course will consist of two lectures and a discussion section each week.