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History of Science and Medicine (MA)

Course Description

This Master's degree in history explores how the formidable forces of science and medicine have fundamentally shaped who we are. The history of science and medicine covers the history of ideas, technologies and interventions, but it also takes into consideration the history of everyday experiences of health, illness and wellbeing. 'Ordinary' people turn out to be the extraordinary lens through which we can reflect on our past. Pain and illness change the way we look at the world: certain forms of suffering are increasing, with chronic pain, for example, now affecting around 40% of people in Britain and America. The provision of healthcare is also undergoing major shifts and history can teach us valuable lessons about how medicine and caregiving has been understood in the past.

This programme explores the historical roots and the social and conceptual foundations of modern science and medicine, equipping you with a deep understanding of how scientific and medical ideas and institutions relate to their broader historical context. It offers you the chance to study this fascinating, expanding area of social and cultural history at a department in which teaching is research-led, delivered by core staff with world-renowned research expertise. This is a growing field in which exciting new questions are being asked and new methodological approaches are being created and applied. Birkbeck is at the forefront of these advances and, unlike similar MA programmes, we cover the period from the ancient world to the present, and from global perspectives.

The programme provides a framework within which you can develop your research techniques and prepare for doctoral, professional or other research, but the primary focus is on providing a rich and varied experience of studying history at postgraduate level, allowing you to satisfy and expand your passion for the subject. The programme will also appeal to healthcare professionals and caregivers who may benefit from knowing more about the history of medicine, health and care.

The compulsory core course will introduce you to the systematic study of historiography and the methodologies used in the analysis and interpretation of historical source material. You can explore the enormous breadth of research interests in the department via the 3 option modules you choose, which span from the ancient to the contemporary. Finally, the dissertation gives you the chance to pursue your own interests and undertake your own research and critical thinking under the supervision of a member of staff with relevant expertise.

Why study this course at Birkbeck?

Arts and humanities courses at Birkbeck are ranked third best in London and 11th in the UK in the Times Higher Education 2015-16 World University Subject Rankings.
This Master's degree offers an innovative approach to an exciting area of historical and cultural study and is taught by renowned scholars, including Professor Joanna Bourke.
The programme allows you to follow your own interests, with a wide choice of option modules, while developing your research skills and undertaking a dissertation in an area that interests you.
Birkbeck is home to several doctoral candidates and postdoctoral fellows, working in the areas of medical history and medical humanities, who are funded by the Wellcome Trust. Students on this programme are eligible to apply for Wellcome Trust studentships.
Our Department of History, Classics and Archaeology is one of the leading research and teaching departments for history in the UK. It is ranked 6th in the UK for the percentage of our research deemed world-leading or internationally excellent.
Our academic staff are international authorities in their fields, delivering stimulating, research-led teaching.
Our department is home to thriving student societies and a number of affiliated research centres that actively run seminars, conferences and other events where some of the world's best scholars present their latest research. These include the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, the Raphael Samuel History Centre and the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities.
We are located 5 minutes' walk from the British Museum and the British Library, while the Museum of London is easily reachable. The Institute of Historical Research is located in Bloomsbury, near the main Birkbeck campus, and has an internationally renowned library collection and seminars that you can attend.
Birkbeck Library has an extensive history collection, including the major specialist journals, and access to online materials.

Visit the History of Science and Medicine (MA) page on the Birkbeck, University of London website for more details!

Student Profiles

Postgraduate Support Scheme for final-year undergraduates (full-time) - 20+ Awards

We are pleased to announce that, for October 2015 entry, Birkbeck has a limited number of new £10,000 postgraduate scholarships. These scholarships are for students progressing from a full-time undergraduate degree to a part-time Master’s degree starting in 2015/16.

Value of Scholarship(s)



To be eligible for the scholarship you must be:Starting a 2-year part-time taught Master’s degree in 2015/16
Domiciled in the UK/EU
Progressing from an undergraduate course for which you were charged the higher tuition fee (applicable since 2012–13)
Studying at postgraduate Master’s level for the first time

Application Procedure

If you want to apply for this support, you must follow these steps:Submit an application for your intended course
Submit an application for the Postgraduate Support Scheme

Further Information


Entry Requirements

A second-class honours degree in a humanities subject. If English is not your first language or you have not previously studied in English, our usual requirement is the equivalent of an International English Language Testing System (IELTS Academic Test) score of 6.5, with not less than 6.0 in each of the sub-tests.

Course Fees

Part-time home/EU students: £ 3975 pa Full-time home/EU students: £ 7950 pa

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