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Drugs, Disease, and Demi-Gods: Health and Healing in the Early Modern World

Key information

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Module description

From the European household via slave ships and indigenous communities to the centres of early empire, this module will examine ideas of health and healing across the early modern world. By taking a global approach to early modern medicine, students will travel beyond the intellectual and commercial centres of European cities to diverse sites of medical practice on land and sea, across the Americas, Africa and Asia. As well as considering the place of medicine within different communities, students will examine both spiritual and natural remedies for the sick; the biological consequences of intercultural contact; the trade of exotic drugs; and the circulation of medical knowledge between cultures and across continents. A global understanding of health and healing, sickness and suffering, will allow students to diversify their understanding of early modern medicine and reflect on both the connected and disconnected nature of the early modern world.

Assessment details

1 x 1,500-word formative essay;  1 x 3,000-word essay (100%)

Educational aims & objectives

Provisional teaching plan

  1. Thinking Globally
  2. The European Household and the Medical Marketplace
  3. The Columbian Exchange: New Drugs, New Diseases
  4. Indigenous Healing in Africa and the Americas
  5. Suffering and Slavery
  6. Gods and Jesuits in East Asia
  7. Medicine, Commerce and Empire: India and the Indies
  8. Ships, Seas and Disease
  9. Climate, Environment and Health
  10. Global Histories of Disease

Teaching pattern

10 x 2 hour seminars

Suggested reading list

This is suggested reading and purchase of these texts is not mandatory.

Mark Jackson (ed.), A Global History of Medicine (Oxford; Oxford University Press, 2018)

Pratik Chakrabarti, Materials and Medicine: trade, conquest and therapeutics in the eighteenth century (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2010)

Alfred Crosby, The Columbian Exchange: biological and cultural consequences of 1492 (Westport: Praeger Publishing, 2003), 30th Anniversary Edition

Pablo F. Gomez, The Experiential Caribbean: Creating Knowledge and Healing in the Early Modern Atlantic (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2017)

Subject areas


Module description disclaimer

King’s College London reviews the modules offered on a regular basis to provide up-to-date, innovative and relevant programmes of study. Therefore, modules offered may change. We suggest you keep an eye on the course finder on our website for updates.

Please note that modules with a practical component will be capped due to educational requirements, which may mean that we cannot guarantee a place to all students who elect to study this module.

Please note that the module descriptions above are related to the current academic year and are subject to change.