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MA History - History of Medicine

MA / PGDip / PGCert

School of History, Philosophy and Culture

Oxford Brookes University is the home of the Centre for Medical Humanities, which is renowned nationally and internationally for its innovative and cutting-edge scholarship.

The MA History (History of Medicine) is a distinctive strand within our MA History. The strand offers you the unique chance to focus specifically on the social, scientific and cultural history of medicine, as well as the relationship between medicine and the humanities (history, philosophy, sociology, literature and art)  through a course of research training. It also gives you the flexibility to pursue taught modules in other aspects of history if you wish.

We have specifically designed the programme to bridge the gap between a taught Masters in History (History of Medicine) and a Masters by Research. The programme has been shaped by leading researchers in our department. This means that the modules offered to reflect the most recent developments in History of Medicine.

We offer core skills training modules and the opportunity, in the form of independent study and dissertation modules, to conduct research on topics of your choosing. 

Available start dates

September 2019 / September 2020

Teaching location

Headington Campus

Course length

  • Full time: PGCert: 4 months, PGDip: 9 months; MA: 12 months
  • Part time: PGCert: 2 semesters; PGDip: 3 semesters; MA: 24 months

For full application details, please see the 'How to apply / Entry requirements' section.

  • You will benefit from being taught by a team of nationally and internationally recognised scholars. We are all active researchers and we include all aspects of our own research on the course, teaching specialist modules in our areas of expertise and supervising dissertations in our specialist subjects.
  • The knowledge and expertise you gain is grounded in the latest scholarship within the field.
  • You will have the opportunity to conduct advanced research on a dissertation subject of your choice.
  • The course provides an excellent preparation for students intending to continue with PhD research. It will also be of interest to health care professionals and to graduates in history or the social sciences seeking further personal development.
  • All classes are held in the evening. There are no exams - assessment is by written work only.
We welcome further enquiries – please contact the MA Subject Co-ordinator, Dr Viviane Quirke, or the History Programme Administrator, email: history@brookes.ac.uk

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.  Further information regarding each module on offer is also available from the MA Subject Co-ordinator for History.

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
  • 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: Dr Viviane Quirke

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 second compulsory, and the capstone of the MA in History (History of Medicine). 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 (including footnotes).

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 2). The dissertation is completed over the summer and is submitted on the last Friday in 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 history@brookes.ac.uk.

Teaching and learning

The MA course is taught through small-group seminars, discussion groups, workshops and individual tutorials as well as historiographical and bibliographical presentations. Several modules also include field trips to local museums and archives.

Classes are held in the evenings (except where indicated), and the sessions usually run from 18:00 – 19.00. 

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. Assessment is entirely by written coursework. 

Shorter courses in History are also available: the postgraduate diploma and the postgraduate certificate. It is possible to transfer between these and the MA course.


Specialist facilities

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.

Attendance pattern

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.

Programme changes

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 page.

Tuition fees

Home/EU - full time fee: 2019/20: £6,120 (Masters) £5,510 (Diploma) £3,060 (Certificate) 2020/21: £7,500 (Masters) £6,500 (Diploma) £3,750 (Certificate)

Home/EU - part time fee: 2019/20: £3,120 2020/21: £3,750

International - full time: 2019/20: £13,730 2020/21: £14,200

Where part time fees are quoted this is for the first year only.

Please be aware that some courses will involve some additional costs that are not covered by your fees. Specific additional costs for this course, if any, are detailed in the 'This course in detail' window above.

Questions about fees?
Contact Student Finance on:
+44 (0)1865 483088

Funding and scholarships

Entry requirements

You should normally hold a 2:1 honours degree, or its equivalent, in an appropriate subject. If it is some time since you completed your undergraduate education and you do not meet the standard requirement, it may be possible to consider your application based on evidence of other relevant personal and professional experience, the support of your referees and examples of written work.

Applicants may be asked to send a sample of recent academic writing in English together with the application form. If this is not possible, you may substitute a 1,500-word essay reviewing a recent academic book on a historical topic.

Applicants for research degrees should normally hold a master's degree in a subject appropriate to the proposed research topic and the same level of English language proficiency as required for the master's courses.

Find out more about research degrees

English language requirements

Please see the university's standard English language requirements

English requirements for visas

If you need a student visa to enter the UK you will need to meet the UK Visas and Immigration minimum language requirements as well as the university's requirements. Find out more about English language requirements.

International applications

Preparation courses for International and EU students

We offer a range of courses to help you to meet the entry requirements for this course and also familiarise you with university life. You may also be able to apply for one student visa to cover both courses.

  • Take our Pre-Master's course to help you to meet both the English language and academic entry requirements for your master's course.
  • If you need to improve your English language, we have pre-sessional English language courses available to help you to meet the English language requirements of your chosen master’s.

If you are studying outside the UK, for more details about your specific country entry requirements, translated information, local contacts and programmes within your country, please have a look at our country pages.

How to apply

Terms and Conditions of Enrolment

When you accept our offer, you agree to the Terms and Conditions of Enrolment. You should therefore read those conditions before accepting the offer.


Students who have completed the MA in History have developed a variety of careers. A significant number have gone on to undertake PhD study, secondary school history teaching, and archive management. Others have taken up or developed their careers in medically related professions: in animal health; psychiatry; paramedical specialities; University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust research. The Brookes Careers service provides practical tips, training and advice for up to three years after graduation.

What our students say » 


How Brookes supports postgraduate students

We have a dedicated History librarian who is on hand to answer your enquiries, teach you information skills and guide you around the electronic resources on offer. The library also offers regular training sessions on accessing and making the best use of key resources in your specific subject area.

Support on the History MA is provided by an academic advisor to all students, and by an administrator. Between them, they ensure that all students are fully supported in relation to their module choices, enrolment and the ongoing administration of their course. In addition, Student Support Coordinators are there to give advice on using Brookes systems and process, as well as offer pastoral support and guidance on university life. They can also provide signposting to Disability and Counselling Services.

Supporting your learning

From academic advisers and support co-ordinators to specialist subject librarians and other learning support staff, we want to ensure that you get the best out of your studies.

Research highlights

Our historians are regarded as experts in their field and their research informs some of the key debates in society. 


Research areas and clusters

Our thriving research and postgraduate culture will provide you with the ideal environment in which to undertake a research degree on a broad range of topics from 16th century to the present day, and to engage in interdisciplinary research. Research skills are developed in preparation for your dissertation and provide a potential pathway to PhD study.

You will have the opportunity to work alongside scholars of international standing as well as receiving comprehensive training in research methods. Principal research areas in which our teaching staff specialise include:

  • race, ethics and ideas
  • poverty, welfare and public health
  • crime, forensic medicine and the law
  • psychiatry, mental health and healing
  • western and indigenous medicine, with a focus mainly on Europe and India
  • pharmaceutical R&D, with an emphasis on the development of drug treatments for chronic diseases and cancer, in Britain, France and the USA 
  • urban space, health and the environment, from the early modern to the modern period.

As well as meeting to discuss and analyse central texts in the field, each group undertakes a number of activities. This includes organising work-in-progress seminars, and offering support and feedback for external grant applications.

For further information on our research expertise, please visit our staff profiles page.

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