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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 have studied disease, public health, and the practice of medicine in a number of different location and time specific 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 colonial medicine, international health institutions, traditional medical practices, as well as a close look at two or three particular diseases or health issues such as smallpox and disability.

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 anthropology, history, and public health itself. Students will hone their skills through reading, exercises, classroom discussion, oral presentations, and formal writing. Due to the global nature of the course, texts will include case-studies from different areas of the world.

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 contextualize historical sources and texts.


  • Students will be able to situate current global health initiatives in historical perspective.

  • Students will be able to critically analyse the use of terms like “health” and “disease.”

  • Students will be able to explain how ‘public health’ is shaped by actors, place and political moments.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2021-2022 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 (guest) lecture by the professor and student presentations of supplementary texts. One weekly seminar will be dedicated to an historical case study, while the other weekly seminar will focus on a more contemporary case study. There will also be an excursion to a relevant historical collection.

Assessment Method

  • Engagement (Participation), 15%

  • Group presentation on historical text, 19%

  • Historical Data Project, 30%

  • Final Essay(s) 36%

Please note:

In accordance with article 4.8 of the Course and Examination Regulations (OER), within 30 days after the publication of grades, the instructor will provide students the opportunity to inspect their exams/coursework.

There is a no re-sit policy at Leiden University College.

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,



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