Medicine Through Time




24 tutorials available 24 tutorials total

When did you last visit the doctor or dentist? Imagine the last illness or accident you had (hopefully not too serious a one!). Did you see someone quickly? Did they give you a diagnosis and treatment? Did they make you better? Now, imagine having no access to a doctor or dentist. Imagine no effective drugs or treatments. Imagine operations or tooth extractions with no anaesthetic. Imagine having no understanding of why you are Ill or if you'll get better. You'll have some insight into the lives of those who lived in this country a 1000, a hundred or even fifty years ago.

Tutors for this module

Emily Bartlett


Assistant Lecturer
School of History, University of Kent

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Medicine Through Time Course Overview

Medicine Through Time GCSE History

Medicine in Britain, 1250-present day, is a thematic or ‘broad sweep’ look at how we have moved from the earliest understanding of medicine as a distinct discipline to our current world of genomic medicine, mri scans and magic bullets.  Beginning in the medieval period, students will look at the understanding of causation, treatment and prevention in a time when germs were unknown and disease was believed to be divine punishment, the result of astrological anomaly or spread in the smells or ‘miasma’ of medieval villages and towns.  From here you move to the medical Renaissance when a return to the Ancient Greek and Roman texts began to lead to changes and developments in anatomical understanding and the teaching of medicine, even while the church rejected such new ideas.  
Then into the 18th and 19th centuries when the huge pressure of an industrialising and urbanising population saw a huge increase in disease, which pushed public health to the fore. At the same time the scientific revolution began with the development of vaccination, antiseptic and anaesthetics and the work of Pasteur, Jenner and Snow as well as the changes in nursing brought about by Florence Nightingale.  The enlarging population which faced the assault of pathogens in the ever growing cities also had a chance of effective treatment and prevention thanks to the work of scientists and physicians.
A move from the 19th century to the present day will see phenomenal developments in understanding of causation and changes in public health, diagnosis and treatments with x-Ray, MRI, antibiotics and the development of the NHS.  The changes witnessed in the past fifty years have been immense but are very much built upon the work of earlier scientists and cataclysmic events like World War One.  You will look at the horrific environment of the trenches on the Western front and consider what impact war had on medical treatment and developments.  Was war and the ever increasing sophistication and barbarity of weapons actually good for medical developments and understanding?
By the end of medicine in Britain 1250-present day, students should have an understanding of both continuity and change, a knowledge of some of the huge events that affected our world and an understanding and an ability to consider the impact of environment and the sources we can use to chart the huge sweep of time which takes us from the relative ‘medical dark ages’ to the ‘enlightened’ world of today.  We can diagnose ailments, use stem cells to grow replacement organs and map the human genome but our life expectancy may begin falling as environmental factors, lifestyle choices and new diseases and drug resistance threaten some of our huge advances.
For their history GCSE, students will be asked to describe and explain changes as well as justify an opinion they have on a given statement.  This series of podcasts aims to aid students in increasing understanding, identifying key areas of continuity and change and improving their breadth and depth of knowledge and their interest in this most fascinating of topics. 

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