From Tasting Urine to Biotech: Exploring the History of Medicine

History 103S.001

Spring 2018
3205 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
Tu 2-4
Class Number: 

Today, medicine and medical understandings of health and disease permeate our daily lives. We debate access to health care and the ethical limits of biomedicine, adhere to ‘No Smoking’ rules, define diets in terms of health, and buy products that kill 99% of all germs. But how has this medicalization of our daily lives and ideas emerged throughout the twentieth century? Where and to whom did people turn when they got sick in the nineteenth century? How did patients and healers then define sickness and health? How and when did the medical system that we know today emerge? How do definitions of “normal” organize medical thinking and medical training? How do new technologies relate to ideas about race and gender?

This course explores topics in the history of medicine. We will examine the ways historians have studied the historical practice of medicine and changing definition of health and disease. The course will address themes such as the emergence of a medical profession, popular understandings and experience of health and illness, the rise of the hospital, the relationship between medicine, science and politics, and the way culture frames medical definitions and interpretation of bodies, health, and disease. In examining these issues, the class will pay particular attention to how people are affected differently by medical practices and technologies depending on their race, gender, and class. While the course focuses on the history of American medicine, it acknowledges that changes in the practice, theory, and education of medicine often do not occur in isolation but are part of transnational developments.