Science and Technology Studies


STS offers degrees at each university level: undergraduate, masters, and PhD



We will take specific diseases such as cholera, tuberculosis, smallpox, plague, malaria and AIDS, and examine their social and medical impact during the past couple of centuries.

Disease in History

In doing so, we will trace the interplay of scientific, clinical, social and moral judgements invested in 'framing' a disease.

What is disease? How has our understanding of disease, and people's experiences of disease, changed over time? This course will give you some new and challenging ways to think about these questions.

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Course Objectives:

By the end of this module, students should be able to think critically and historically about the history of disease. We will consider both specific diseases – Small pox, Spanish flu, Malaria, AIDS – and broader shifts in Western medical discourse, examining their cultural and medical impact on Western life over the last few centuries. In doing so, we will trace the interplay of scientific, clinical, social, religious and moral judgements invested in ‘framing’ a disease, and how these ‘frames’ have developed in different times and places. In addition, we will also consider the ways in which race, gender and sexuality have each been framed in pathological terms, and how these framings have been challenged.

Students will also have the opportunity to develop a range of skills:

  • Close reading and critical interpretation of primary and secondary sources
  • Historical reasoning and comparative analysis
  • Discussion and debate with colleagues and the lecturer
  • Constructing a clear, well-reasoned argument
  • Writing engaging, well-structured prose

Course Syllabus:

UCL Module Catalogue: Disease in History (HPSC0002)