Medicine & the State in Modern Britain ESH4076

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course examines the evolution of the relationship between medicine and the State in Britain over the course of the C19th and C20th. It includes analysis of the impacts of total warfare and centralised welfare, the establishment of the NHS, and the subsequent challenges of state-run healthcare.


Lecture: one hour per week

Seminar: one hour per week


Please note this course does not run every session. For further information please check the ESH Moodle page.

Requirements of Entry

Enrolment in an MA (SocSci) or MA (Arts) Honours Programme. This is an interdisciplinary course, and applications from outside students will be welcome and considered on a case-by-case basis.


60% - A single two-hour examination. Students must answer two essay-style questions from a choice of seven.


25% - One essay (2000-2500 words, excluding bibliography) chosen from list of questions linked to seminar/lecture topics.


15% - One project report (1000-1500 words, excluding bibliography)

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable


Course Aims

1. To introduce students to key issues, topics and debates regarding the roles and functions of medicine in modern society - and how these have changed over time.

2. To encourage students to consider how medical roles, and professional identities and status, evolve through engagement with socio-political, economic, scientific and ethico-legal issues.

3. To promote students' critical understanding of secondary literature and a selection of primary source material.

4. To encourage students to enhance their communication skills - expressing their own ideas and summarising historiographical arguments and debates.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate systematic knowledge, and critical understanding of key topics in the evolution of medicine over the past two centuries, including the influences of scientific knowledge, legislative developments and growing professional status and authority.

2. Demonstrate awareness of medicine's changing relationship with the State - e.g. the introduction of national health insurance; the growth of public health agendas; and medical regulation and law.

3. Assess the significant impact of 'total warfare and total welfare' in the middle decades of the C20th 

4. Demonstrate the ability to critically analyse, and make effective use of, primary and secondary historical sources.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.