Week 7 Seminar: Challenges to teaching the history of global health

Challenges to teaching the history of global health

The next HSMT seminar of Trinity Term will take place at 16.00 on Monday 5th June (7th Week) in the Lecture Theatre of the History Faculty on George Street. It will be delivered by Margaret Humphreys.

Humphreys is a a specialist in the history of science and medicine, and has focused her research and publications primarily on infectious disease in the U.S. and the American south, in particular yellow fever and malaria, as well as the history of medicine during the American Civil War. She has also published on the history of diabetes, public health ethics, and colonial medicine. She is currently a professor of Duke University.

‘Global health’ is an entity, or at least a moniker, born just about two decades ago. Humphreys asks: when should a course dubbed ‘The History of Global Health’ begin? This seminar will explore the odyssey of two historians of medicine who created such a course, and the perplexities of deciding what’s in and what’s out. How does ‘global health’ relate to ‘tropical medicine’, ‘colonial medicine’, ‘International health’ and even ‘military medicine’? If grounded in ‘the social determinants of health’, then where does one begin – with food, fire, agriculture? Humphreys seeks to mine communal ideas about the history of global health and its relationship to our established historiography.

Relevant titles in the Wellcome Unit Library:


A history of global health : interventions into the lives of other peoples by Randall Packard (RA441 PAC 2016)
This work argues that while global-health initiatives have saved millions of lives, they have had limited impact in underdeveloped areas, where health-care workers are poorly paid, infrastructure and basic supplies are lacking, and underlying social and economic factors cause ill health.


Governing global health : challenge, response, innovation by Andrew Cooper, John Kirton and Ted Schrecker (RA441 GOV 2007)
A volume studying the global challenges and responses to the issues surrounding global health, conceptualising global health as a war that is being lost on many fronts. In particular, it examines the devastation of re-emerging and newly emerging diseases, and the shock of bioterrorism.


Global health in Africa : historical perspectives on disease control by Tamara Giles-Vernick and James Webb (RA545 GLO 2013 and online)
This title explores the histories of global health initiatives to control disease in Africa, including the unintended consequences of failed initiatives. The essays provide historical and anthropological research that integrates the social and biomedical sciences.


Prevention and cure : the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, a 20th century quest for global public health by Lise Wilkinson and Anne Hardy (R773 WIL 2001)
This history of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine details its development into its current position as a center of education and research in the biomedical sciences in the context of world health. It contains personal reminisces from early pioneers of tropical disciplines.

Please come and ask library staff if you would like any help with locating resources, or conducting further research. We also welcome further suggestions for reading not included in this post.

Header Image
Pilot in Burkina Faso for MenAfriVac immunization campaign
Credit: WHO