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Global Histories of Health, Medicine and Disease


Admission requirements

Required course(s):



Over the span of the block we will examine how scholars and practitioners study disease, public health, and the practice of medicine in a number of different locational contexts. Health maintains a prominent position in our everyday lives as well as in history, often playing a key role in societal changes. This course will not take a chronological approach to the subject, but instead will tend toward topical issues such as the history of biomedicine, colonial medicine, traditional medical practices, as well as a close look at two or three particular diseases such as smallpox and malaria.

The core objective of this course is to train students to think critically about public health in a number of different contexts and consider how current ways of thinking about health developed over time. To that end, we will consider these subjects from a variety of academic perspectives including geography, anthropology, history, and public health itself. While to understand health and disease deeply one needs some knowledge of biology and other sciences for our purposes there is no requirement of a strong background in this. Biological concepts will be introduced via lecture or discussion as needed. Students will hone their skills through reading, exercises, classroom discussion, oral presentations, and formal writing.

Course Objectives


  • Students will be able to write focused arguments relating to course content.

  • Students will be able to give an effective oral presentation that educates the class on a supplementary topic.


  • Students will be able to discuss and describe general themes and trends over time in the related to health, disease, and medicine.

  • Students will be able to explain and analyze the different perspectives and meanings of the terms “health” and “disease.”

  • Students will be able to explain contexts related to ways of understanding health, diseases and medicine.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This course will proceed primarily as a seminar, meeting for two 2-hour sessions per week. Each class will center on discussion of an assigned reading, with remarks or a short lecture by the professor and brief student presentations of supplementary texts. The instructor may also provide reading questions in advance of class, along with suggestions and strategies for digesting the assigned material. Instead of web-postings students will be asked to respond in writing to questions posed at the start of some class sessions.

Assessment Method

Engagement (Participation), 10%
Annotated Bibliography, 10%
Group Presentation, 15%
Two short essays, 15% each
Final Exam, 35%

Reading list



Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Sarah Hinman,


The first reading will be communicated via email in the week before the class begins.