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Department of History and Philosophy of Science


Nick Hopwood

This entry is an introduction to reference resources for the large field concerned with how, and with what consequences, the medical institutions, professionals and practices of the modern world were made during the long C19 and transformed in the C20 into a major political, economic and ethical concern.

History of medicine is important even to those who see themselves primarily as historians or philosophers of science. Much of what we might initially think of as biology, chemistry and physics was done within medicine, and even today a great deal of science is either done at the bedside, or at least nominally directed towards medical ends. Yet for all the overlap and interaction – people sometimes speak of history of STM (science, technology and medicine) – important traditions in history of medicine are very different, and have taken importantly contrasting approaches to common problems. For example, historians of medicine have had far more to say about laypeoples' relations to experts, and many deal with medicine as part of a primary interest in health and disease.


Recent textbooks

  • Roy Porter, The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity from Antiquity to the Present (HarperCollins, 1997). X1711
  • W. F. Bynum, Science and the Practice of Medicine in the Nineteenth Century (CUP, 1994). X1380
  • Christopher Lawrence, Medicine in the Making of Modern Britain, 1700-1920 (Routledge, 1994). X1391
  • Dorothy Porter, Health, Civilization and the State: A History of Public Health from Ancient to Modern Times (Routledge, 1999). X1823
  • Mark Harrison, Disease and the Modern World (Polity, 2004)
  • Deborah Brunton (ed.), Medicine Transformed: Health, Disease and Society in Europe, 1800-1930 (MUP, 2004; X2267), the second textbook of the new Open University course, with the accompanying Deborah Brunton (ed.), Health, Disease and Society in Europe, 1800-1930: A Source Book (MUP, 2004).
  • Joan Lane, A Social History of Medicine: Health, Healing and Disease in England, 1750-1950 (Routledge, 2001). X2044
  • Anne Hardy, Health and Medicine in Britain since 1860 (Macmillan, 2000). X2016
  • Virginia Berridge, Health and Society in Britain since 1939 (CUP, 1999). X1841
  • Charles E. Rosenberg & Janet Golden (eds), Framing Disease: Studies in Cultural History (Rutgers, 1992). X1780
  • Andrew Wear (ed.), Medicine in Society: Historical Essays (CUP, 1992). X1123
  • Wolfgang U. Eckart, Geschichte der Medizin, 4th edn (Springer, 2000). X1935 (3rd edn)


  • David J. Rothman, Steven Marcus & Stephanie A. Kiceluk (eds), Medicine and Western Civilization (Rutgers, 1995). X1828
  • John Harley Warner & Janet A. Tighe (eds), Major Problems in the History of American Medicine and Public Health: Documents and Essays (Houghton Mifflin, 2001). X2095

Companions and encyclopedias

  • W.F. Bynum & Roy Porter (eds), Companion Encyclopedia of the History of Medicine, 2 vols (1993). REF (MED 97, 98)
  • Roger Cooter & John Pickstone (eds), Medicine in the Twentieth Century (Harwood, 2000). X1987 A, B. Paperback published as Companion Encyclopedia of Medicine in the Twentieth Century (Routledge, 2002). REF (MED 133)
  • John Krige & Dominique Pestre (eds), Science in the Twentieth Century (1997). C503. Includes some useful introductions to biomedical topics.
  • Kenneth F. Kiple (ed.), The Cambridge World History of Human Disease (1993). REF (MED 92). A compendium of the history – often especially the natural history – and geography of disease. Uneven, but the best starting place for work on this major topic.
  • Stephen Lock et al. (eds), The Oxford Illustrated Companion to Medicine, 3rd edn (2001). REF (MED 128)
  • Colin Blakemore & Sheila Jennett (eds), The Oxford Companion to the Body (2001). REF (MED 129)
  • Encyclopedia of Life Sciences
  • Medical eponyms

Syllabus archive

The Online Syllabus Archive, run by the History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine, aims to provide both an online syllabus exchange and a historical record of teaching in the history of medicine.


  • In addition to the Whipple and the UL, the Medical Library in the Clinical School at Addenbrooke's is invaluable, especially for journals. For local history, the Cambridge Central Library in Lion Yard is usually the best place to start, not least because the staff are very helpful. In London, the Wellcome Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine and the British Library are both conveniently near King's Cross.
  • Copac, the union catalogue of research libraries in the UK and Ireland, includes the UL, British Library and the Wellcome Library. It is often the best place to start.
  • The History of Science, Technology and Medicine database includes books and articles since 1975.
  • The National Library of Medicine (NLM) gateway gives access to Medline, the bibliographic database of articles in biology and medicine. See also the History of Medicine homepage.
  • WorldCat international library catalogue, includes the National Library of Medicine.
  • The Karlsruhe Virtual Catalogue allows simultaneous searching of the online catalogues of the major German, Austrian and Swiss libraries and the comprehensive German union catalogue of serials (Zeitschriftendatenbank), as well as many other catalogues around the world, including Copac.
  • New York Academy of Medicine

Image libraries

Medical biography

  • Use the library catalogues.
  • Leslie T. Morton & Robert J. Moore (eds), A Bibliography of Medical and Biomedical Biography, 2nd edn (1994). R301.11
  • For German, Austrian and Swiss medics, see the biographical reference works listed in the entry on science, technology and medicine in German-speaking Europe since 1800.
  • The Biography Room at the Wellcome Library is a wonderful place for medical biographical work.

Archives and museums

Professional societies

Main English-language journals



See also entries for early modern medicine, sciences of mind, HSTM in German-speaking Europe, history and philosophy of psychoanalysis, late C20 biology.