Tag Archives: Talks & Events

2017 McGovern Lecture- 25th October

The McGovern Lecture is hosted annually at Green Templeton College, and focuses on the history of medicine. You can find a list of past McGovern Lectures here.

Professor Edgar Jones (Instutute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London) will deliver this year’s lecture, Shell Shock: understanding psychological casualties from the battlefield.

The scale of the First World War, and in particular the high numbers of killed and wounded, marked the conflict as one of the most significant events of the twentieth century. For the first time, psychiatric casualties were not only a medical priority but also presented as a military crisis. In a protracted war of attrition, shell shock had the capacity to erode morale and undermine the fighting strength of the major combatants. Some senior physicians, such as Gordon Holmes, interpreted shell shock in the absence of a head wound as little more than cowardice, whilst others, including Charles Myers and Frederick Mott, explored ideas of psychological vulnerability and sought to correlate its symptoms with traumatic exposure. Clinical presentations differed between armies. In the UK, shell shock was commonly represented as a movement disorder, characterised by tremor and unusual gaits. This stood in contrast to Germany and Italy where seizures and dissociated, soldier-like actions were more commonly reported. Possible explanations for these national differences will be discussed in the context of combat medical services.

When: Wednesday 25 October, 18:00-19.30

Where: E P Abraham Lecture Theatre, Green Templeton College, Woodstock Road, Oxford.

This lecture is free for all to attend, but booking is essential: book your seat here!

Seminars in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology- Week 3, 23rd October

Next week’s Seminar in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology will be delivered by Dr Emese Lafferton, on the topic Sciences and cults of the mind: hypnosis, psychiatry and modernity in Austro-Hungary.

Dr Lafferton is Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Central European University, Budapest. Her general research interests include the history of life sciences, psychiatry, eugenics, racial thinking, evolutionary theories, hereditary theories, physical anthropology and ethnography;  the history of science, empire, and nationalism; the history and sociology of medicine.

In this talk Dr Lafferton will first briefly present the outline of her book project which studies the 19th century fascination with the mind and weaves compelling case studies from urban and rural Hungary and Austria into a sustained analysis of the psychiatric and popular cultures of the psyche. This provides the wider context for her research on medical hypnosis between 1880 and 1920 in the Hungarian Kingdom. She is interested in how the boundaries of science were questioned, blurred, negotiated or maintained in the face of potentially subversive explorations into elusive psychic phenomena, and will try to show what new insights the Central-Eastern European material and perspective may offer to our understanding of the emergence of the modern European mind.

When?: Monday 23rd October at 16.00. Tea and coffee will be available from 15.30 in the Common Room.

Where?: History Faculty Lecture Theatre, George Street, Oxford

Seminars convened by Professor Rob Iliffe, Dr Sloan Mahone, Dr Erica Charter, Dr Roderick Bailey and Dr Atsuko Naono of the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, Oxford.
More information about this term’s seminars can be found here.

Seminars in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology: Week 2, 16th October

Speaker: Dr Julie Parle (University of KwaZulu-Natal)

Title: The okapi, the wolf, the fellow, and the baboons: thalidomide in South Africa, 1956-1976

Abstract: Responsible for ‘the world’s worst and most poignant medical disaster’, thalidomide was first formally marketed on 1 October 1957, in West Germany. Instructions for its withdrawal were issued 49 months later, by which time thalidomide-containing products had reached more than 50 countries across the world, including 18 in Africa. Following a pharmaceutical okapi, and via fragmentary histories – those of a man called Wolf, a WHO Travelling Fellow, and several hundred baboons – I focus on the surprising presence and uses of thalidomide in South Africa, 1950s to 1970s. I suggest that tales of this teratogen may be of significance for widening global histories of this drug and for those of medical science and the state in South Africa in the twentieth century.

Conveners: Professor Rob Iliffe, Dr Sloan Mahone, Dr Erica Charters, Dr Roderick Bailey, Dr Atsuko Naono

When: Monday 16th October at 16:00, coffee available from 15:30 in Common Room

Where: History Faculty Lecture Theatre, George Street, Oxford

More information: http://www.wuhmo.ox.ac.uk/termly-seminars

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 belinda.clark@wuhmo.ox.ac.uk if you would like to attend, advising of any allergies/dietary requirements.

For the programme of events, see: http://www.wuhmo.ox.ac.uk/event/disease-and-medicine-east-west-points-difference-points-contact


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 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/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 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/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 georgiana.hedesan@history.ox.ac.uk

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.