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Level 5

5AAH1081: Drugs, Disease, and Demi-Gods: Health and Healing in the Early Modern World

Credit value: 15
Module convenor/tutor: Dr Philippa Hellawell
Teaching pattern: 10 x 2 hour seminars (weekly)
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year
Assessment: 1 x 1,500 word formative essay, 1 x 3,000 word essay (100%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years.

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.

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. Health, Suffering and Slavery
  6. Gods and Jesuits in China and South East Asia
  7. Medicine, Commerce and Empire: India and the Indies
  8. Ships, Scurvy and Surgery at Sea
  9. Colonialism, Race, and Acclimatisation
  10. Global Histories of Disease

Recommended core reading

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) 

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