Global Medicine: Historical Sources and Problems (HIH1611)

StaffDr Rebecca Williams - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The aims of this module are (1) to introduce students to key ideas, institutions and interventions in the interrelated histories of global health, international health and colonial medicine; and (2) to introduce students to the rich body of sources available for analysing and interpreting this history. Through close analysis of a diverse range of sources, students will critically assess global health projects in their social and political contexts, and examine their relationship to broader projects of imperialism, modernization, development and globalization. Students will also have the opportunity to conduct their own research into the source material, to consider its utility and limitations, and use it to explore particular topics and themes. In doing this, the module will help students develop skills in source analysis and research that will provide a foundation for future historical work.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Knowledge of key ideas, institutions and interventions in the history of colonial medicine, international health and global health.
  • 2. Ability to analyse the relationships between global health and major social, economic and political processes and ideologies.
  • 3. Work critically with a range of sources for the history of global health, international health and colonial medicine.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Identify the problems of using historical sources, e.g. utility, limitations, etc, and compare the validity of different types of sources.
  • 5. Answer a question briefly and concisely.
  • 6. Present work orally, respond to questions orally, and think quickly of questions to ask other students.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Conduct independent study and group work, including the presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning.
  • 8. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment.
  • 9. Work with others in a team and to interact effectively with the tutor and the wider group.
  • 10. Write to a very tight word-length.

Syllabus plan

Following an introductory lecture in the first week, this module will focus on a source (or set of sources) each week. Sources will be diverse, and drawn from a range of different kinds of archive: from oral history, to conference proceedings, official reports of postcolonial governments, and correspondence and diaries held in the collections of transnational organizations. 
Possible topics to be covered by the module include: disease, medicine and empire; health and transnational organisations; international health philanthropy; health and postcolonial governance; health, international development and the Cold War; disease eradication campaigns; population control and family planning; the shift from ‘international health’ to ‘global health.’

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities22 hour lecture: Introduction to module
Scheduled learning and teaching activities2010 x 2 hour seminars. At a meeting of the whole class generally a different group of 3-4 students will give a presentation to the whole class, followed by class discussion and working through the sources for that week carefully. Additional sources may be issued in the class and the lecturer will also use the time to set up issues for the following week.
Guided independent study128Students prepare for the session through reading and research; writing a weekly source essay and preparing one group presentation in the course of the term.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation (3-4 students)10-15 minutes1-4, 6-7, 9Oral
Lowest mark from portfolio of 5 source commentaries500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries60 (15% per commentary)2000 words (500 per commentary)1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments
Essay on Sources401500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
4 highest marks of portfolio of 5 source commentaries4 highest marks of portfolio of 5 source commentaries1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period
1500-word essay1500-word essay1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Sunil S. Amrith, Decolonizing International Health: India and Southeast Asia, 1930-65 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006)
David Arnold, Colonizing the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic Disease in Nineteenth-Century India (Berkeley; London: University of California Press, 1993)
Theodore M. Brown, Marcos Cueto, and Elizabeth Fee, ‘The World Health Organization and the Transition from “International” to “Global” Public Health’, American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 96, No. 1 (2006), pp. 62-72
Matthew Connelly, Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population (Cambridge, MA; London: Belknap Press, 2008)
Andrew Cunningham and Bridie Andrews (eds.), Western Medicine as Contested Knowledge (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997)
Timothy Mitchell, Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity (Berkeley; LA; London: University of California Press, 2002), Ch. 1, ‘Can the Mosquito Speak?’, pp. 19-53
Randall M. Packard, ‘Malaria Dreams: Postwar Visions of Health and Development in the Third World’, Medical Anthropology, Vol. 17, No. 3 (1997), pp. 150-176
Meaghan Vaughan, Curing their Ills: Colonial Power and African Illness (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1992)
Paul Weindling (ed.), International Health Organizations and Movements, 1918-1939 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

National Documentation Centre of the National Institute of Health & Family Welfare (India): 
Rockefeller Foundation 100 Years documents: 
United Nations Official Documents System: 
USAID Development Experience Clearinghouse: 
World Bank elibrary:

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Film: Deepa Dhanraj, Something Like a War (1991) – a documentary about population control in India

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Medicine, Health, Imperialism, Cold War, Development, Colonialism, Globalisation.