This course has concessions available

Healing The Body In A Premodern World

How were sick people treated in premodern societies? Going from healing tablets in Ancient Mesopotamia to Ambroise Paré's prosthetics in Early Modern France, this course will provide insight into how the body and medicine were understood in a variety of different societies. Western Traditions of humoral theory are incorporated alongside Asian, African and Islamic concepts of disease to create a global understanding of premodern history of medicine.

Available Classes:

Who is this course for

No prior knowledge is necessary, and an interest in history of medicine would be ideal. A good understanding of English is essential. If you wish to read before the course, the following book is recommended: William Bynum, The History of Medicine: A Very Short Introduction

What does this course cover

This course takes a global outlook on premodern history of medicine. The first half of the course will focus on Ancient Medicine, from the period BCE. Starting in Mesopotamia, we will also visit China, Egypt, Greece and Rome. A study of plague will help us transition into the medieval period, where we will then consider Islamic, English, French and Ethiopian attitudes to medicine. We will consider particular maladies as presented by the sources, as well as the role of religion in causing and healing disease. Institutions like hospitals will be assessed alongside the role of individual healers and physicians.

By the end of the course, students will be able to:
' Give an account of different attitudes to healing in the premodern world.
' Confidently assess primary and secondary source materials from a variety of traditions.
' Participate in discussions about key aspects of history of medicine including medicines, the body and the role of healers.
' Understand the importance of contextualising premodern medicine, rather than thinking it to be primitive or backwards.
' Understand the problematic nature of retrospective diagnosis.

What will it be like

Classes will begin with an informative talk by the tutor about each week's subject, which will be followed by a group discussion in a friendly, relaxed environment. This will be structured in a variety of ways, and you will be invited to bring your own questions and ideas to shape the discussion towards things you find most interesting. You will be expected to participate in these in-class discussions and activities such as debates or presentations. There will be a suggested reading for each week, and we will consider extracts from sources in our classes. Further readings will also be provided should you wish to read more widely.

You will be invited to write five blog posts on your reaction to the materials throughout the course - either about five separate weeks, or a combining weeks together. This will help you prepare for the course assessment: a 500 word reflective piece on an idea or object from the course. To support your writing, one of the sessions mid-way through the course will be focused on academic writing skills.

What else do you need to buy or do

All course materials will be provided digitally through the Virtual Learning Environment, so there will be no costs for these unless you decide to print them. Please bring something to make notes with- this can be pen/pencil and paper, or a laptop, whichever you feel more comfortable with- or a combination of the two. Access to a computer is advised in order to use the course materials, as well as completing the assignments.

Outside the class, you will be expected to read and reflect on the weekly course materials which should take no longer than two hours. While there will be some in-class time devoted to assessments, you will be expected to complete them in your own time. For the blog posts, this may take around an hour, and for the reflective piece, this may take up to two hours.

What this course could lead to

This course could lead you to consider other history, history of art, philosophy, languages or literature courses run by the centre or elsewhere

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I've been to many Centres to study in London and the Mary Ward Centre is one of the nicest I've studied in.

MWC student


This course has concessions available for people who meet certain criteria

Got a Question about this Course?

Contact The Departmental Administrator.

Why choose Mary Ward?

Mary Ward Centre is the adult education centre with a difference. We provide a wide range of subjects for people at all levels and run courses during the day, evening and weekends to suit your timetable. You can learn face to face at one of our centres (Bloomsbury or Waterloo) or take an online course

Get inspired and enjoy excellent teaching in an environment where each individual’s learning experience is valued. That’s what makes Mary Ward Centre ‘the friendly place to learn.’