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Course Description







The MPhil in Health, Medicine, and Society is a full-time 9-month course that provides students with the opportunity to carry out focused research under close supervision by senior members of the University. Students will acquire or develop skills and expertise relevant to their research interests, as well as a critical and well-informed understanding of the roles of the history, philosophy, sociology and anthropology of health and medicine.

Those intending to go on to doctoral work will learn the research skills needed to help them prepare a well planned and focused PhD proposal. During the course students gain experience of presenting their own work and discussing the issues that arise from it with an audience of their peers and senior members of the Department; they will attend lectures, supervisions and research seminars in a range of technical and specialist subjects central to research in the different areas of history, philosophy, sociology and anthropology of health and medicine.



Core courses

1. History of medicine

  • Bedside medicine: patients, bodies and medical encounters
  • Hospital medicine: charitable care, the Paris Clinic, and the rise of research institutions
  • Experimental medicine: reassessing the laboratory revolution
  • Biomedicine and biomedicalization

2. Philosophy and ethics of medicine

  • Defining health and disease: fact and value
  • Measuring health and disease: QALYs, well-being and the limits of the numerical
  • Medical ethics: principles, virtues and institutions
  • The tangled ethics and epistemology of medical research

3. Medical sociology

  • The relationship between human society and human health and illness
  • Concepts of health and illness in comparative historical and cross cultural perspective
  • The therapeutic arts and sciences in comparative historical and cross cultural perspective
  • The political economy of health and illness

4. Medical anthropology

  • Learning to practise scientific medicine
  • Who is really ill?
  • Re-inserting the social, cultural, political and economic
  • Affliction and healing beyond biomedicine

 Optional variable modules

5. History of medicine: Public and environmental health
6. History of medicine: Reproduction
7. Philosophy and ethics of medicine: Health justice and inequalities
8. Philosophy and ethics of medicine: Medical epistemologies
9. Medical sociology: Ethnographies of biomedicine
10. Medical sociology: Sex, gender and the body
11. Medical anthropology: Anthropology and epidemics
12. Medical anthropology: Global health 



The course is overseen by a Manager who takes responsibility for day-to-day oversight of the course and liaison with staff and students. Students choose a ‘home’ subject (History, Philosophy, Sociology or Social Anthropology), and the Advisor for that subject guides them in formulating a programme of study. Students work with supervisors in writing their essays and dissertation.

The core modules are the main teaching resource for this course. All students attend all core modules which run twice a week during Michaelmas term and are led by different senior members of teaching staff and focus on selected readings. Eight optional modules run during Lent term, and students are advised to attend at least two of these. In Easter term students attend Dissertation seminars which provide opportunities for them to present their own work. Students receive two one-to-one supervisions on the modules on which they choose to write essays and four on their dissertations.

The Advisors assist students in the identification of a topic and a supervisor for their dissertation during Michaelmas term. Students will be expected to start work on their dissertation during Michaelmas and continue working on it throughout the course of the year. Students receive independent reports from two examiners on each of their three essays and the dissertation.

One to one supervision

Students will receive 13 hours of supervision per year.

Seminars & classes

Students will attend 30 hours of seminars per year.


Students are encouraged to attend the lectures, research seminars, workshops and reading groups that make Free School Lane a hive of intellectual activity. The Departments also offers graduate training workshops, which focus on key research, presentation, publication and employment skills.




  • Core module 1: ‘Formative’ 3,000 word essay based on a choice of set questions concerning key texts. This essay is assessed but does not contribute to the final mark (there are no consequences for failing this essay).
  • Dissertation project approved along with any risk assessments or ethics applications that are required.
  • Attendance at 4 x core module seminars.


  • Core module 2: 5,000 word assessed essay on set topics from core modules.
  • Core module 3/Optional module: 5,000 word essay either on a different core module from essay 1 or on an optional module.
  • Together these two essays count for 40% of the overall mark.
  • Attendance at 2 x optional module seminars.


  • Dissertation of between 10,000 and 15,000 words (60%). Presentation at dissertation seminars.
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