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HSTCMP 410 A: Medicine, History, And Society

Meeting Time: 
MW 3:30pm - 5:20pm
BAG 154

Syllabus Description:



Spring 2016: MW 3:30 – 5:20

Room: Bagley 154

Instructor:                             Laura Harkewicz, Ph.D.; Lecturer, Department of History

Office:                                   Smith 06

Office hours:                        MW 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. and by appointment


Course website:          

Class research guide:

 Course Description:

In the last few decades, medicine and the life sciences have become the locus for some of society’s most extravagant hopes and acute anxieties. Medicine, History, and Society is aimed at students who would like to uncover the history behind the headlines and take the “longer view” of some of these issues. It will cover some basic facts and concepts, featuring three broad themes: 1) medical ways of knowing, 2) technological contributions, and 3) the effects of existing philosophies, paradigms, or political/social/cultural conditions. We will discuss a variety of characters from the history of medicine and consider their contributions to the medical field. We will investigate the origins of aspects of contemporary life familiar to us all, from the vitamins we take daily to giving birth in a hospital, bringing a historical perspective to bear on topics such as the politics of pharmaceutical patents, the emergence of the new genetic determinism, and ways cultural representations of medicine and doctors inform our health care decisions.

 Learning Objectives:

By the end of this course students should demonstrate:

  • Mastery of the broad outlines of the history of scientific medicine
  • The ability to identify the 3 course themes (noted above) in the readings and lectures
  • An understanding of the difference between primary and secondary sources and how to use them
  • The ability to analyze primary sources and secondary sources in their written work
  • An understanding of the issues at stake in writing the history of science
  • Some improvement in their powers of expression
  • A demonstrated grasp of scholarly citation technique


Community Contribution                                 10%

Identification Terms                                         10%

Reader Response Paper #1:                           10%

Reader Response Paper #2                            15%

Midterm                                                            15%

Final                                                                  15%

Final Paper                                                        25%

Community Contribution (10 %):

Students are expected to attend and actively engage with the materials presented. Although much of this class is lecture-based, your participation is necessary for the success of the course. I aim to establish an environment where mutual respect is accompanied by serious reflection on the material. Participation will be assessed through in-class assignments and group work, and active, thoughtful, and sensitive contributions to class discussion, including speaking with an awareness of what’s already been said, listening with intent to understand, and making space for others to enter the conversation. Note that repeated absences make it difficult for you to contribute in these manners; thus, attendance will factor in your grade. You cannot make up any in-class assignments you missed.

 Community and classroom conduct

I would like us all to approach this class as if we belong to a community of learners. We, including myself, can all learn from each other. In this community we will meet people with a diversity of backgrounds and experiences. Engaging with people with differences in nationality, ethnicity and race, gender identity/presentation, sexual preference, language background, religious affiliation, socioeconomic class, age, and (dis)ability are all vital components to our mutual education. Such diversity provides opportunities to learn new things, compare experiences, test assertions, understand each other (and ourselves) better, and find common ground. Diversity can also trigger emotions and/or conflict. In the midst of such charged emotions, I hope we can all try to maintain an open heart and mind. Please approach your classmates with an attitude of generosity. Understand that we all carry personal histories in our bodies, histories of which we are not always aware. Yet our histories can inform how we consciously and unconsciously react even in classroom settings. So it is vital that each of you challenge yourselves to both listen and speak and do so with respect while demonstrating the intent to understand others. The success of our community is dependent on the compassionate contributions of everyone.

 Identification Terms (10%):

For each reading, group of readings, or lecture, I will provide several Identification Terms. These terms will be posted on the course website by date or topic. Your responses to these terms should be submitted through Canvas by the end of the day on which the text was discussed. Students should come to each class prepared to discuss these terms based on the readings. I recommend you bring a copy of these terms to class so you may use them for class discussion and/or expand on your response based on the material presented. These terms will not only help you to focus on key points from the readings but also help you prepare for the midterm and final exams.

 Answering Identification questions

Identification answers have three main components:

  1. The term is explained in a general way.
  2. Some specific details about the term are provided.
  3. So what? The broader significance of the term is explained; that is the responder makes it clear why this particular term is important in the context of the course.

 An example: Bubonic Plague. Bubonic Plague is a disease with a variety of symptoms, most notably the formation of necrotic pustules known as buboes (component #1). The disease is caused by bacterium transmitted from rodents to humans (component #2). The epidemic of 1347 – 51 was the greatest disease outbreak in European history killing ¼ of the total population and creating social havoc. Although caused by a microbe, the late 19th c. epidemic in China was linked to racial stereotypes, often labelled a filth disease, which reinforced imperialistic policies (component #3/Course theme #3 – effects of political/social/cultural conditions).

 Reader Response Papers (Paper #1 = 10%, Paper #2 = 15%):

A “Reader Response” is a three to five page, (~ 900 – 1500 words), (double-spaced, 1” margins) paper representing a thoughtful reaction or response to what you have read.

 Response Paper #1 should be written about the reading and film for A Midwife’s Tale (texts due on April 11). Response Paper #1 is due by class time on April 18.

 Response Paper #2 should be written about a reading of your choice. Response Paper #2 is due by class time on May 9.

 Response papers should be uploaded using the assignment link on Canvas. Response papers will not be accepted after 3:30 p.m. If you wish, you may turn in a response paper earlier than the due date. I will provide more information about the papers on Canvas and in class.

 Final Paper (25%) (6 – 8 pages) (~1800 – 2400 words):

Students will write one essay using various types of historical analysis and making an argument in relation to a research question. The assignment is designed for students to make use of course readings, at least as a starting point. The assignment will also require research of outside sources either available as online archives/exhibits/documents or through the library.

 Students will be required to locate at least one primary source and at least two secondary sources in relation to the topic of analysis. Details about the assignment as well as a detailed rubric for evaluating and grading it will be provided on the course website and in class. The Paper is due through online submission to the course website on May 23) by class time (3:30 p.m.).

 Midterm (15%):

The midterm will be multiple choice questions based on identification terms. It will be a take place online or in class on May 2. The content of these questions will come from both required reading assignments and material covered in lecture.

 Final (15%):

The final will be multiple choice questions based on identification terms. It will be a take place online on June 10 (time to be determined). The content of these questions will come from both required reading assignments and material covered in lecture.

 Citations for Papers: If you are only citing course materials, you may use parenthetical references (Porter 20). If you use outside references, please use numbered footnotes (no Roman numerals, please) and Chicago or MLA style.

For an online guide to MLA style see: For more information on using Chicago style see the guide available at:


Course readings: There is one required text: Porter, Roy. Blood and Guts (a short history of medicine). New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2002.

Two copies of the text are available on reserve in Odegaard Library. All other readings are available electronically on our Canvas course website. Please always bring a copy of the assigned reading to class with you.

 Classroom Conduct and Policies

 Grade Conversions:

Grade Point



































Missed classes: If you miss class, please check Canvas and consult with classmates about what you missed. Please do not ask me, “Did I miss anything?” because the answer will always be “yes!” You are always welcome to talk with me during office hours (or by appointment) if you have questions about any material you may have missed, but please get notes from classmates first. You cannot make up any in-class assignments you missed.

 Course communications: You are responsible for all materials, updates, and announcements covered during class sessions. The course calendar will most likely change over time due to unforeseen circumstances. Be sure to check Canvas regularly for any updates. In addition, you should set your “notifications” preferences on Canvas to email you regarding all course announcements and changes. If you wish to use another email address as your primary – rather than your UW address – set up your UW account to forward to your other address. If you are new to Canvas, please see the guides for students available at:

 Late policy: Late assignments will be penalized 5% per day. If a serious personal or family emergency prevents you from completing work on time, please let me know immediately and we will work something out.

 Electronic devices: During certain activities involving the readings, I will allow you to open your laptops or other devices to refer to electronic copies of the readings. For the most part, however, LAPTOP USE WILL NOT BE PERMITTED in class. I strongly recommend that you bring either a paper copy of the reading and/or hard copies of notes you have taken to refer to in class. If you have a documented disability or believe you have a valid need for laptop use during class, please see me during the first week of classes. Otherwise, please do not open you laptops during class unless it is with my ok. Please turn your phones off completely and put them out of sight during class.

 Getting Support

 Getting help from me: If you have any questions or concerns about the course material, please talk to me. If you have a personal or family situation that is affecting your school work, please let me know so I may figure out how I can best help you. You can drop by during my office hours, set up an appointment, or contact me via email. If you email me before 5 p.m. on a week day, I will do my best to get back to you the same day or the following morning. Please follow proper etiquette when sending email messages. See: for details.

 History Writing Center: The History Writing Center provides one-on-one assistance on writing assignments to students enrolled in history courses. The Center’s services and hours are available at: To make an appointment, contact the History Writing Center Director, at The Center is located in the basement of Smith hall, Room 020.

  Be sure to check the course website regularly in case of any announcements.

Weekly Lecture and Reading Schedule:

 Reading and other assignments (bullet points) are due by class time (3:30) on the date listed below. Identification Terms are due by the end of the day.

 Please note: There will be NO CLASS the week of April 11 – 14. Instead, you will be expected to complete a reading and writing assignment, which includes a viewing of a film available on reserve at the library.

 Week #1: Early modern medicine

Mon. 3/28 - Introduction to the Course – A History of (a) Disease

    • No reading

Wed. 3/30 - From Humoral medicine to Islamic hospitals

Week #2: From Medieval to Enlightenment Medicine

 Mon. 4/4 – The Body

Wed. 4/6 – The French Revolution and the Training of the Senses

Week #3: Social Medicine in post-Revolution United States

Mon. 4/11 and Wed. 4/13 – NO CLASS

Week #4: The nineteenth century

Mon. 4/18 – Foundations of Modern Public Health

Wed. 4/20 – Medical education and the body as mechanical processes

Week #5: The laboratory

Mon. 4/25 – The origins of experimental physiology

 Mon. 4/27 – Microbes

Week #6: Midterm and Medicine and Imperialism

Mon. 5/2

  • Midterm Exam Online - NO CLASS

 Mon. 5/4 – Medicine, Industry and Imperialism

  • Blood and Guts, Ch. 5

  Week #7: WWI Medicine and Medicalization

Mon. 5/9- WWI Medicine

 Wed. 5/11 – Medicalization

 Week # 8: WWII & Medicine

Mon. 5/16 – Nazi Medicine and Racial Hygiene

 Wed. 5/18 – Medical Advances during WWII

 Week #9: Post-war developments

Mon. 5/23 –The War on disease and therapeutic optimism

 Wed. 5/25 – The End of therapeutic optimism

  • Blood and Guts, Ch. 8

 Week #10: Contemporary Issues

Mon 5/30 – Memorial Day – NO CLASS!

 Wed. 6/1 - AIDS

Thurs. 6/9  – Final Exam – online - NO CLASS


Catalog Description: 
Investigates the origins of aspects of contemporary life form vitamins, to giving birth in a hospital, bringing a historical perspective to topics including the politics of pharmaceuticals, the emergence of genetic determinism, and bioethics.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
February 11, 2018 - 9:31pm