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Unit information: Race and Health in America in 2018/19

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Unit name Race and Health in America
Unit code HIST30099
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Stephen Mawdsley
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit explores the complex intersection of race and health in America. Students will grapple with the ideology of race as well as the social construction of disease, illness, and the body. By using case studies, students will gain a deeper understanding of the social determinants of disease, the effects of racism, and how racial groups have negotiated existing institutions (hospitals, public health, government, and medicine). By engaging with a range of primary and secondary sources, students will improve their research skills, public speaking skills, and knowledge of American health history through the lens of race.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will be able to:

  1. demonstrate an understanding of how the ideology of race was constructed and how it affected conceptions of the body, disease, and treatment.
  2. discuss and evaluate the key themes surrounding race and health since 1600
  3. evaluate how national and regional circumstances shaped conceptions of race and disease.
  4. locate and analyse both primary and secondary sources pertinent to the history of medicine and health in America.
  5. present independent research in written forms appropriate to H/6

Teaching details

3 hours of seminar per week

Assessment Details

1 x 3,500-word summative essay (50%) [ILOs 1-5]

1 x 2 hour exam (50%) [ILOs 1-5]

Reading and References

Todd L. Savitt, Race and Medicine in Nineteenth- and Early- Twentieth-Century America (2007)

Sharla Fett, Working Cures: Healing, Health, and Power on Southern Slave Plantations (2002)

Margaret Humphreys, Intensely Human: The Health of the Black Soldier in the American Civil War (2008)

Vanessa Northington Gamble, Making A Place for Ourselves (1995)

Susan Reverby, Examining Tuskegee: The Infamous Syphilis Study and Its Legacy (2012)

David McBride, Integrating the City of Medicine: Blacks in Philadelphia Health Care, 1910-1965 (1989)