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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.

Why choose this course?

  • 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.

This course in detail

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 
  • Engineering Society: Eugenics and Biopolitics, 1860-1945
  • Science, Magic and Religion 
  • Ethics and Ideas: From the Hippocratic Oath to Informed Consent 
  • The Hospital in History

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.

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.


Visit the MA History - History of Medicine page on the Oxford Brookes University website for more details!

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