Category Archives: Talks & events

Colloquium: Knowledge in Context


22-23 September 2017

University of Oxford

In 1997, Laurence Brockliss (Magdalen College, Oxford) and Colin Jones (QMUL) published The Medical World of Early Modern France, a landmark in the history of medicine because of its integration of social and institutional history with intellectual history.  It established a vibrant new approach to the history of medicine and knowledge of the early modern period while also encouraging Anglo-French intellectual exchange.  As 2017 is the twentieth anniversary of this work’s publication and the year of Laurence Brockliss’s retirement, colleagues and former pupils have organized a colloquium in their honour.  Scholars from a range of historical disciplines (classical scholarship/antiquarianism, philosophy, and the natural sciences) will discuss the ways in which knowledge is contextualized in early modern Europe and Britain.  Participants are also from a variety of national perspectives and locations, demonstrating the range of Brockliss and Jones’s impact in integrating intellectual history with other sub disciplines of history.

Organizers: François Zanetti, Floris Verhaart, Erica Charters

Registration: £40 (£20 for students/ECR/unwaged), to open 1 August.

For more details:


Conference – Disease and Medicine in East and West: Points of Difference, Points of Contact

Event: Conference – Disease and Medicine in East and West: Points of Difference, Points of Contact
When: 6 & 7 July 2017
Where: Osler-McGovern Centre, 13 Norham Gardens, Oxford

Medicine in most Asian countries has evolved in very different ways to that in the West, for biomedicine continues to compete with other medical cultures, most of which have distinctive epistemologies and institutions. The diverse ecological and social conditions existing in Asia have also meant that medicine – in all its forms – has often had different priorities to that in the West. And yet, among this diversity we may observe certain common themes. Biomedicine outside the West also took different forms and sometimes learned from as well as competed with indigenous knowledge and practice.

This conference examines some of these points of converge and diverge, and considers how Asian countries have managed their transition to biomedical modernity. Papers range from the medieval to the modern period and from South Asia to China, Korea and Japan. Subjects covered in the papers include pharmacy, malaria, naval medicine, contagious disease, medieval medicine and recent trends in disease and medicine.

Keynote Speaker: Professor Mark Harrison

Although this event is free to attend, numbers are limited and registration is essential by 5pm Monday 26 June; please email Belinda Clark if you would like to attend, advising of any allergies/dietary requirements.

For the programme of events, see:


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

Week 5 Seminar: Medical Reform in Jamaica

Medical Reform in Jamaica, 1826-43: imperial and colonial contexts

The next HSMT seminar of Trinity Term will take place at 16.00 on Monday 22nd May (5th Week) in the Lecture Theatre of the History Faculty on George Street. It will be delivered by Aaron Graham.

Aaron Graham is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at UCL, having received his DPhil from the University of Oxford in 2012, and been a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at Jesus College, Oxford between 2012 and 2015. His current research analyses monetary policy, financial regulation and central banks in Britain, Ireland and colonies such as Australia, Canada, South Africa and the West Indies between 1783 and 1844, and how a transnational regulatory framework was built up between these years to help maintain this complex political, economic and monetary union. He is also carrying out a parallel study of state, slavery and society in Jamaica between 1660 and 1840, in order to establish the political and social roots and fiscal and military capacities of colonial state structures in this period. His first book looked at corruption, government and political partisanship in the early eighteenth century, a theme developed in other articles, and more recent publications will examine corruption, patriotism and loyalism in Britain and North America between 1754 and 1783.

This paper covers the battle in Jamaica between 1826 and 1843 for a College of Physicians and Surgeons that would license medical practitioners and regulate medical practice.  It will highlight how the radical ideas of metropolitan reformers such as Thomas Wakley for overhauling the medical practice in Britain spread overseas, and the difficulties that liberal supporters in Jamaica found putting them into practice.  In particular, the plan by the College to examine local candidates by viva and grant them licenses to practice was a liberal step that generated opposition from conservative doctors and planters in Jamaica, who worried that it would break down social and racial boundaries, and from the medical establishment in London, who saw it as a plot by Wakley and other reformers to break their own contested monopoly on licensing in England.   Imperial and colonial medical politics therefore intersected and interacted, to shape the flow of new practices between Britain and the wider world.

Relevant titles in the Wellcome Unit Library:


Poverty and life expectancy : the Jamaica paradox by James Riley (HB1322.35 J25 RIL 2005)
A multidisciplinary study reconstructing Jamaica’s rise from low to high life expectancy, and explaining how this was achieved. Riley looks at the inexpensive means used, such as the emphasis on schoolchildren and their parents learning to manage disease hazards.


Health and medicine in the circum-Caribbean, 1800-1968 by Juanita de Barros, Steven Palmer & David Wright (RA455 HEA 2009)
A collection of essays exploring the cultural and social domains of medical experience in the Caribbean, and considers the dynamics and tensions of power. It considers the perseverance of indigenous and popular medicine, as well as the rise of western medicine.


Mary Seacole : the charismatic black nurse who became a heroine of the Crimea by Jane Robinson (RT37.S43 ROB 2005)
A work exploring the life of Mary Seacole, the independent Jamaican doctress who combined the herbal remedies of her African ancestry with sound surgical techniques. She opened the ‘British Hotel’ in the Crimea, a hut supplying soldiers with food, clothing and medical care.


Launching global health : the Caribbean odyssey of the Rockefeller Foundation by Steven Palmer (RA441 PAL 2010)
This title examines the Rockefeller Foundation’s campaigns as a laboratory for discovering and testing the elements of a global health system for the twentieth century. Its programmes in treating diseases in Caribbean sites laid the foundation for international health initiatives.


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:
L0022113 Credit: Wellcome Library, London
Jamaica; 1821 after: Paolo Fumagalli
Published: [Dalla tipografia del dott. Giulio Ferrario],[Milan] : [1821]
Size: platemark 17.4 x 24 cm.; Collection: Iconographic Collections
Library reference no.: Iconographic Collection 2498733i
Full Bibliographic Record: Link to Wellcome Library Catalogue
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

Week 4 Seminar: Health, military service, and economic mobility of US Civil War soldiers

The next HSMT seminar of Trinity Term will take place at 16.00 on Monday 15th May (4th Week) in the Lecture Theatre of the History Faculty on George Street. It will be delivered by Chulhee Lee.

Lee is currently a Visiting Scholar at Wolfson College, Oxford, as well as being a professor of Seoul National University. His research interests are in economic history, labour and demographic economics, and the economics of ageing. His research has included work on the relationship between socioeconomic background, disease and mortality.

Lee’s book in progress, upon which this seminar is based, explores firstly how the experiences of US Civil War soldiers while in service were shaped by their socioeconomic backgrounds prior to enlistment, and secondly how wartime medical and military experiences influenced the post-service economic mobility of veterans. Prior exposure to unfavourable epidemiological environments reduced the chances of contracting and dying from disease among Union soldiers while in service. The different degree of immunity against pathogens is the most plausible explanation for the mortality differentials. Combat exposure, wounds and diseases suffered by Union veterans while in service diminished their wealth accumulation and geographic mobility, perhaps by lowering their physical productivity. The wartime experience of being deployed to distant regions increased veterans’ post-service geographic mobility, probably by offering them more information about other places and reducing psychological resistance to moving to a new territory. Unskilled recruits appointed as commissioned and non-commissioned officers and those assigned to white-collar military duties were more likely to move up to a white-collar occupation after service. The findings of the book suggest that the effects of military service during the Civil War on servicemen varied depending on their socioeconomic status prior to war, initial health condition, and luck. To some veterans, military service provided a valuable opportunity to master new skills, widen one’s perspective on the outside world, and build a new social network. To other soldiers, military service was a traumatic event that persistently damaged health and economic performance over the life course.

Relevant titles in the Wellcome Unit Library:


Marrow of tragedy : the health crisis of the American Civil War by Margaret Humphreys (E621 HUM 2013 and online)
A work examining the Civil War as the greatest health disaster the US has ever experienced, with governments poorly prepared for the sick and wounded, and the advancements in medicine and public health that were made during the war.


Medicines for the Union Army : the United States Army laboratories during the Civil War by George Smith (E621 SMI 2001)
Smith explores the evolution of the army’s medical department from competence to efficiency during the war, as the organisation and supply system grew to counter diseases such as malaria, typhoid fever and venereal diseases.


Learning from the wounded : the Civil War and the rise of American medical science by Shauna Devine (R151 DEV 2014)
A study of how Union army physicists rose to the medical challenges of a war in which nearly two-thirds of fatalities were caused by disease, leaving a lasting impact on medical practice owing to the methods of study and experimentation developed.


Years of change and suffering : modern perspectives on Civil War medicine by James Schmidt and Guy Hasegawa (E621 YEA 2009)
This title aims to correct the Hollywood myths of Civil War medicine, exploring how the sick and wounded were treated on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line, including amputations, diseases and wounds of the nervous system and new surgical techniques for injuries.


The irritable heart of soldiers and the origins of Anglo-American cardiology : the US Civil War (1861) to World War I (1918) by Charles Wooley (RC666.5 WOO 2002)
A work focusing on both the Civil War and World War 1, and the curious condition that incapacitated thousands of otherwise healthy troops. Characterised by chest pains, palpitations, breathlessness and fatigue, the ‘irritable heart of soldiers’ provoked much interest in soldiers’ hearts.

Journal articles

There are several of Lee’s published journal articles that are available to read through online library institutional access (login via SOLO first):

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:
V0015313 Credit: Wellcome Library, London
Return of wounded Confederate prisoners, under a flag of truce, during the American Civil War. Wood engraving.
Collection: Iconographic Collections
Library reference no.: ICV No 15623
Full Bibliographic Record Link to Wellcome Library Catalogue
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 

Seminar: Distilling Household Medicine in Eighteenth-Century England

2017 Oxford Seminars in the History of Alchemy and Chemistry
(Seminars will be on 3 May, 10 May, 17 May and 14 June)











Wednesday 17 May – 15:00-17:00, Maison Francaise d’Oxford (2-10 Norham Rd, OX2 6SE)

18th Century Chemistry in Britain

Chair: John Perkins (Oxford Brookes)

Speaker: Katherine Allen (Oxford)

“Furnish Herself of Very Good Stills”: Distilling Household Medicine in Eighteenth-Century England

Speaker: John Christie (Oxford)

Make your Own Volcano: Early Modern Alum Production in Britain

The seminar is free of charge, and anyone with an interest in the history of alchemy, chemistry, medicine or the sciences is invited to attend. The format is two or three papers followed by a Questions & Answers session. Participants are also invited to join us for a drink afterwards, and/or dinner with the speakers. 

For more information, questions or directions to the venue, please feel free to contact Georgiana Hedesan at

And if you’d like to read up on the subject, here are a couple of suggestions for titles available in the Unit Library:

Come and talk to us if you’d like any help finding resources.

Workshop: War, Health, and the Environment in the Modern Age

The Centre for the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, Oxford
Oxford Centre for Global History

War, Health, and the Environment in the Modern Age

Tuesday 6 June, 2pm-5.30pm
History Faculty, George St, Oxford

Historians have come to recognize the crucial role that health and environment play in modern warfare. At the same time, the history of the interaction between disease and war has been a particularly fruitful sub-discipline in the history of medicine. This part-day workshop brings together leading scholars on the history of war and its interaction with health and the environment in the modern period, with a particular emphasis on global contexts.

Speakers include: Margaret Humphreys (Duke University); Chulhee Lee (Seoul National University); Mary Brazelton (Cambridge); Guillaume Picketty (Sciences Po); Mark Harrison (Oxford); Jeong-Ran Kim (Oxford); Atsuko Naono (Oxford); Rod Bailey (Oxford); Micah Muscolino (Oxford)

Organized by: Rod Bailey, Erica Charters, Mark Harrison

All welcome.

Week 1 Seminar: Django’s phrenologist

Django’s phrenologist: science, slavery and material culture, 1791-1861

The first HSMT seminar of Trinity Term will take place at 16.00 on Monday 24th April (1st Week) in the Lecture Theatre of the History Faculty on George Street. It will be delivered by James Poskett.

Poskett is the Adrian Research Fellow at Darwin College, Univesity of Cambridge. His research engages broadly with the global and imperial history of science from 1750, with particular research interests in the history of slavery and the history of the book. Currently, he is working on two projects: firstly, a book on the global history of phrenology, based on his doctoral research, and secondly, a new project on the global history of science and print, with a particular focus on the useful knowledge movement in the nineteenth century. He is also an advocate of public engagement, writing for national newspapers, websites and magazines. In 2013, Poskett was shortlisted for the BBC New Generation Thinker Award.

Eustache Belin saw the violence of slavery and revolution first hand. Born a slave on the French colony of Saint-Domingue in 1773, Eustache spent his youth toiling in the sugar mills. But amidst the Haitian Revolution of 1791, he escaped to Paris. Incredibly, in the 1830s, a French phrenologist took a cast of Eustache’s head. Over the next thirty years, Eustache became a focal point for discussion of African character. Phrenologists wanted to understand the relationship between the African mind, slavery and revolution. In this talk, Poskett follows the bust of Eustache as it travelled back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean. In doing so, he shows how a single phrenological bust was deployed by both supporters and opponents of abolition. More broadly, this talk suggests that the history of science and race needs to be understood as part of a history of material exchange.

Relevant titles in the Wellcome Unit Library:


A system of phrenology by George Combe (BF885.E7 C7 COM 1836)
One of the most detailed and authoritative popular phrenology texts, Combe’s seminal work covers the majority of subjects touched by phrenology, from mesmerism to racism



Franz Joseph Gall, inventor of phrenology and his collection by Erwin Ackerknecht and Henri Vallois (BF869.G3 ACK 1956)
A short pamphlet on Gall’s work and his collection of phrenology-related items – 221 skulls, 102 casts of heads and 31 casts of brains.



Conquest of mind : phrenology and Victorian social thought by David de Giustino (BF868.D36 DEG 1975)
A work examining the reception and diffusion of phrenology in Britain, its uses to various professions and its challenges to traditional religion. Phrenology’s kinship with Rationalist ideas is explored for its appeal.



The cultural meaning of popular science : phrenology and the organization of consent in nineteenth-century Britain by Roger Cooter (Q127.G4 COO 1984)
Cooter studies the popularity of phrenology and the impact of science on Victorian society, in particular its social and ideological functions.



Phrenology and the origins of Victorian scientific naturalism by John Van Wyhe (BF879.V36 VAN 2004)
A detailed history of phrenology as one of the most influential ideological and cultural developments in Victorian Britain, in which Van Wyhe argues that naturalism can be attributed to phrenology’s diffusion.



Phrenology in the British Isles : an annotated historical biobibliography and index by Roger Cooter (Z7204.P47 COO 1989)
An annotated bibliography of phrenological sources.



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.

Call for Papers – Patient Voices

Patient Voices: Historical and Ethical Engagement with Patient Experiences of Healthcare, 1850–1948

An interdisciplinary, policy-focused symposium at New College, University of Oxford

18–19 September 2017

In 1948, diverse health provisions in Britain were consolidated into a single, state-directed service. After almost seventy years of the NHS—the bedrock of modern welfare—there is great concern about any return to a mixed economy of healthcare. The proposed privatisation of health services is controversial because it threatens to destabilise the complex relationships of patients with medical professionals and the state. It calls into question the structure and accessibility of healthcare, as well as the rights of patients, both as medical consumers and sources of medical data. Yet these are questions that equally shaped the development of the NHS prior to its foundation. Historical perspectives on pre-NHS healthcare—perspectives that are increasingly informed by the experiences of patients—are fundamental to understanding not just the past but also the choices before us.

Social historians of medicine have responded in various ways to Roy Porter’s 1985 call for histories incorporating the patient view. But despite work across diverse fields, patient voices before 1948 are yet to be fully integrated into historical scholarship. This symposium brings together historians, medical ethicists and archivists with interdisciplinary expertise to explore questions relating to the accessibility and ethics of the study of patient voices and data in the specific context of pre-NHS provisions. Through research presentations, roundtable discussions and interactive sessions, participants will explore the collection and qualitative use of historical medical records. The symposium will focus on methodological issues by investigating a range of available archives and piloting new strategies for retrieving as-yet-unheard historical patient voices. It will also address ethical issues arising from these pilot strategies, including questions of data protection, informed consent and the implications of new technologies in storing and analysing information.

Following the symposium, participants will be invited to submit articles for a special issue.

We welcome proposals for 20-minute papers that address one or more of the following questions:

–  How should historians access and interpret the experiences of patients, particularly those with stigmatising conditions?

–  How can historians negotiate archival ‘silences’ when locating patient voices?

–  What can patient experiences tell historians about past, present and future interactions between healthcare consumers and providers?

–  How can the study of historical patient experiences inform the social, political and clinical dimensions of healthcare in the future?

–  What ethical considerations should inform the collection, maintenance and use of sensitive medical archives, including digitisation, data analytics and discourse analysis?

–  How can attention to these ethical considerations shape the study of healthcare and facilitate high-quality medical-humanities research?

Proposals should not exceed 300 words and should be accompanied by a short biography. Please submit them to Anne Hanley (University of Oxford) and Jessica Meyer (University of Leeds) at by 1 April 2017.

Talk: From Bandage Wallahs to Knights of the Red Cross

From Bandage Wallahs to Knights of the Red Cross: The Men of the Royal Army Medical Corps in the First World War

Date: 9 March 2017, 16:00 (Thursday, 8th week, Hilary 2017)
Venue: Worcester College, Walton Street OX1 2HB
(See location on maps.ox)

Details: Memorial Room
Speaker: Dr Jessica Meyer (Leeds)
Part of: Globalising and Localising the Great War
Booking not required
Audience: Members of the University only
Editor: Jeannie Scott
See more at:

Dr. Jessica Meyer