The MA History (History of Medicine) consists of four modules: a compulsory core module, two elective modules and a dissertation.
Postgraduate diploma students take Modules 1, 2 and 3. Postgraduate certificate students take Module 1 and one elective module.
Module 1: Theories, Methods and Practices in the History of Medicine: An Introduction to MA Study
Every student takes this compulsory core module which is designed to help make the transition from undergraduate to graduate-level work. You will develop your understanding of the historiography of medical history humanities and acquire the necessary skills in research methods and interpretation of historical sources, which will enable you to engage in independent research. This module is taken in Semester 1 and is assessed by two written assignments.
Modules 2 and 3: Elective modules
Research is fundamental to the MA programme in History (History of Medicine). It informs all of our teaching and enjoys an international reputation. The topics of these modules thus reflect the specific research expertise of the staff in the department.
Applicants are encouraged to visit the staff webpages of the module leaders for full information regarding their research interests.
Master's students choose two elective modules, enabling the close study of topics in two different areas of historical analysis. The modules on offer are as follows:
- Worlds of Risk: Technology, Health and the Environment ‘Risk’ encourages students to reflect on the novelty of the present age, and to explore questions about when and how understanding and managing risks became such a key feature of modern societies. It provides a critical and historical perspective on a series of contemporary risks, among them climate change and technological catastrophes, and the dangers that have accompanied the rise of new technologies, particularly synthetic chemicals, drugs, artificial foodstuffs, and the nuclear industry. Module leader: Dr Tom Crook with Dr Viviane Quirke
- Engineering Society: Eugenics and Biopolitics, 1860-1945 examines comparative themes in the history of eugenics, racism, biopolitics, anthropology and modernity from 1800 to 1945. Students will be given the opportunity to study the fundamental issues that have pre-occupied historians of biology, science and modernity since the 1800s and combine these with specific case studies from a wide range of European countries. Module leader: Dr Marius Turda
- Science, Magic and Religion introduces students to history-of-science based theories on the social construction of knowledge and alerts them to the boundary issues involved in the construction of science, magic and religion. The second part of the course focuses on methodological issues, in particular primary source selection and interpretation. Module leader: Prof. Waltraud Ernst
- Ethics and Ideas: From the Hippocratic Oath to Informed Consent examines various comparative themes in the history of medical ethics, from Hippocrates to the present. In particular, students will be given the opportunity to study the fundamental issues that have pre-occupied historians of medical malpractice and clinical research. Module leader: Prof. Paul Weindling
- The Hospital in History provides a long-term analysis of the origins and transformations of the hospital in its social context. The course covers changing organisational forms, funding, medical specialisation, therapeutic innovations, patients, public perceptions, and the broader politics of hospital development within western and non-European contexts. Module leader: Prof. Waltraud Ernst
Students also have the option of taking an Independent Study Module, which normally involves the completion of an extended, research-based essay (6,000 words) on a topic of their choice. The current module leader is Dr Viviane Quirke.
Each module lasts for one semester and is assessed by two or three written assignments.
Full-time MA students take one elective module in each semester. Part-time MA students take their first elective in Semester 2 of the first year and their second elective in Semester 1 of the second year.
Please note: as our courses are reviewed regularly, the list of modules you choose from may vary from that shown here.
Module 4: Dissertation
This is the capstone of the course. You will have the opportunity to conduct a major in-depth investigation into a historical topic of your choice, leading to the production of a 15,000-word thesis. The topic may be related to one of your elective modules or may be chosen from another area of your interest.
You will be supported in your research by individual supervision from a specialist tutor and by group workshops on advanced research design that take place in Semester 2 (for part time students this is taken in Year Two). The dissertation is completed over the summer and is submitted on the first Monday of September.
Further information on the History team here at Brookes, including recent publications, can be found by visiting our staff profiles
We welcome further enquiries – please contact the MA Subject Co-ordinator or the History Programme Administrator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Teaching and learning
The MA course is taught through small-group seminars, workshops and individual tutorials. Assessment is entirely by written work. There are no examinations.
Oxford Brookes is home to the Centre for Medical Humanities (CMH). The Centre was established in early 2015. It marks an exciting expansion and diversification of the work previously conducted through the Centre for Health, Medicine and Society which over the past 15 years has been the beneficiary of substantial support from both Oxford Brookes University and the Wellcome Trust. The CMH is building on this track record of outstanding research and grant successes, innovative teaching, career development and public outreach. Engaging with the expanding field of medical humanities, the CMH brings historians of medicine together with scholars from History, History of Art, Philosophy, Social and Life Sciences as well as Anthropology and Religion. It thus aims to foster genuine interdisciplinary collaboration amongst staff and students through a range of new research and teaching initiatives, which reflect the new concerns with the relationship between medicine and the humanities in the twenty-first century.
Students have access to Oxford Brookes University’s special Welfare collection, as well as numerous local medical archive resources. They also have access to the world famous Bodleian Library, a copyright library, which houses all books published in the United Kingdom and Ireland. In addition to the Bodleian and its unparalleled collection of books and rare historical manuscripts, there are affiliated libraries such as Rhodes House, home to the Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies, and the Vere Harmsworth Library of the Rothermere American Institute, where students will find one of the finest collections of publications on the Political, Economic and Social History of the United States from colonial times to the present.
Oxford is a lively centre for events, exhibitions, seminars and open lectures in various specialist areas of history, which staff and students at Brookes regularly attend.
It is also an easy bus or train ride to London for convenient access to a wider resource of historical materials. These include various seminars and lecture series offered by the University of London and the Institute of Historical Research. In addition, The National Archives at Kew, The British Library and other specialised libraries such as the Wellcome Library will be of particular interest to students.
Oxford is also within easy reach of other archival collections in Birmingham, Cambridge, Reading and Bristol.
Classes are held in the evenings and the sessions run from 6.30pm to 9.00pm.
Part time students attend the university one evening per week and should be able to devote an additional 12-15 hours per week to private study.
Full time students attend classes on two evenings per week and spend 30 hours per week in private study.
On rare occasions we may need to make changes to our course programmes after they have been published
on the website. For more information, please visit our
Changes to programmes