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Health, Society and History




Admissions requirements



Over the span of the block we will examine how scholars and practitioners study disease and public health. Health maintains a prominent position in our everyday lives as well as in history, often in subtle ways. Our examination of the topic will range temporally from mid-nineteenth century to the twenty-first century. This course will not take a chronological approach to the subject, but instead will tend toward topical issues such as the development of public health offices, infant mortality, and the individual categories of disease, such as those that are respiratory or waterborne.

This course offers an introduction to key themes related to health, public health, and disease. Its core objective is to train students to think critically about the role of health and disease in society, both past and present. 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 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

By successfully completing this course, you will:

  • Students will be able to discuss and described general themes and trends over time in the field of public health along with changes in ideas of disease etiology.

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

  • devise and execute a well-argued essay, while polishing your academic prose.

  • 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.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

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 introductory 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. Students will give a presentation on supplementary materials, write two short critical thinking essays, and write one essay-based take-home exam.


  • Class participation 15%

  • Presentation on supplementary material 15%

  • Annotated bibliography entry on supplementary material 5%

  • Short critical thinking essays (500-600 words), 2 @ 12.5% each

  • Final take-home exam of 2500-3000 words 40%


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

Required text for purchase:
Johnson, Steven. 2006. The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic– and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World. Riverhead Books. [Electronic versions of the book or the hard copy are equally as acceptable]


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Sarah E. Hinman, email:


Reading to be completed in preparation for the first class:
Preface & Introduction – Farmer, Paul. 2001. Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues. Berkley: University of California Press. [The text will be emailed to students the week before classes begin]