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One Medicine? Investigating human and animal disease

Creative Commons - Wellcome Trust

A Wellcome Trust-funded programme of research based at King's.  

Duration of project: 2011-16

Principal Investigator:

  • Dr Abigail Woods 

Post-doctoral research associates:

In recent years, prominent vets, doctors, and scientists in North America and Europe have called repeatedly for greater integration of human and animal health research and policy. Highlighting the joint threats posed by climate change, food insecurity and emerging diseases (75% of which are zoonoses), and the similarity of disease processes and agents in humans and animals, they have lobbied for the creation of 'One Medicine’ or (more recently) ‘One Health.' This drive towards One Health is underpinned by a sense of history. Advocates routinely point to a 19th century golden age when human and animal health were closely integrated, for their mutual benefit. However, such claims rest on limited historical evidence. Until now, the relations between human and animal health in this period, and their change over time, have not been subjected to critical scrutiny.

Our project addresses this problem through three inter-related work packages that extend from c1800 to the present day. We are investigating the various organisations, institutions, agendas and personnel that brought human and animal health together within British, North American and international health research and policy. With due regard to the wider social, political, economic and scientific contexts, we ask under what circumstances an integrated approach to human and animal disease was thought possible and desirable, how it was pursued, and with what effects. The aims of this analysis are three fold: to uncover the roles and importance of animals and their diseases in the history of biomedicine; to historicise the current drive for One Health; and to produce findings of relevance to its current and future practice. 

The key joint output of this project will be a book published by Palgrave: Woods, A, Bresalier, M, Cassidy, A, and Mason Dentinger, R, One Health and its Histories: Animals and the shaping of modern medicine (scheduled for submission in 2016). This will incorporate chapters on: ‘Doctors in the Zoo: Connecting human and animal health in British zoological gardens, c1830-1880’, ‘The disappearance of diseased sheep from medical research agendas, c1880-1930’, ‘Livestock and the problem of world hunger, c1920-2000’, ‘Border-crossing parasitologists’, and ‘Animals, humans and ‘One Health’ in the early 21st century.’

Key outputs to date  


Woods, A. ‘One health, one medicine: Reconnecting humans and animals within medical history’, Western Humanities Review (forthcoming)

Cassidy, A. ‘One Medicine? Cross-disciplinary advocacy for animal and human health’ In Frickel, S., Albert, M. & Prainsack, B. (eds.) Investigating Interdisciplinarities: Theory and Practice across Disciplines. (forthcoming, Rutgers University Press).

Bresalier, Michael, Cassidy, Angela, and Woods, Abigail, ‘One health in history’, in J Zinsstag , E Schelling, M Whittaker, M Tanner and D Waltner-Toews (eds), ‘One health’: The theory and practice of integrated health approaches (CAB International, 2015), 1-15 Woods, A, and Bresalier, M, 'One health, many histories', Veterinary Record 174 (2014), 650-54

Conference panels/Workshops:

‘Working Across Species: Comparative Practices in Modern Medical, Biological and Behavioural Sciences’ – international workshop convened at KCL, 2016.

Being human/Being animal’ – event at the Hunterian Museum under the auspices of ‘Being Human’: the UK national festival of the humanities, 2015

Biennial Congress of the World Association for the History of Veterinary Medicine, London, 2014. Project members helped to organise this event. ‘The history of One Health’ was a key theme.

‘Global ecologies of ‘One Health” - panel convened by Michael Bresalier and Rachel Mason Dentinger and chaired by Abigail Woods, at the American Association for the History of Medicine Conference, Chicago, 2014.

Being human / being animal’ – two workshops ('Animals in Human Medicine' and 'Being Animal') organised by Dr Michael Bresalier, with contributions from all project members and the wider academic community, for the King’s College London Arts and Humanities Festival, “Being Human”, 2013.

‘Beyond the animal model’ – panel of speakers organised by Dr Abigail Woods to explore the contributions of animals and their diseases to the history of biomedicine. International Conference for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, Manchester, 2013.

‘Disease and health in humans and nonhumans’ – Open Panel of speakers organised by Dr Angela Cassidy at the Society for Social Studies of Science/European Association for Study of Science and Technology Joint Conference, Copenhagen, October 2012


The project team have shared their research findings with a wide variety of audiences, including:  

Abigail Woods

  • Second Annual One Health International Symposium, Liverpool University
  • Veterinary Public Health Association
  • MA students on the Edinburgh University MA programme in One Health
  • Immuno Valley, Utrecht (a public-private consortium at the interface of human and animal health)
  • Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh
  • World Association for the History of Veterinary Medicine
  • Society for the Social History of Medicine
  • Veterinary History Society
  • International Conference for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine

Angela Cassidy

  • Science, Technology and Innovation Studies group, University of Edinburgh
  • British Animal Studies Network
  • Public Communication of Science and Technology Conference
  • Royal Geographical Society, Institute of British Geographers annual conference
  • Society for the Social Studies of Science conference
  • University of Cambridge Veterinary School
  • BBSRC Food Security workshop
  • One Health Forum, Seoul National University and POSTECH University, Korea
  • Global Risk Forum One Health Summit, Davos
  • Animal Health Veterinary Laboratories Agency
  • European College of Veterinary Public Health

Michael Bresalier

  • Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Imperial College London 
  • European Science Foundation - DRUGS Network

Rachel Mason Dentinger

  • International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology conference
  • History of Science Society conference
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