A218 – Medicine & Society in Europe 1500-1930

Caricature of Georgian Surgeons at Work - Thomas Rowlandson, 1793

So armed with my lessons learnt from studying A200 I started again, keen and eager to move onto pastures new (albeit slightly battered and bruised) and like a breath of fresh air, A218 began…..

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And my god what a difference.  This one……I loved!  Wow, I really loved it – it made such a lasting impact on me which is why I decided I’d like to study the History of Medicine for my MA.  I loved the Classics, but this really struck a chord with me.

It started on 30th January 2010, but me being me I started it the customary 2 weeks early, so I didn’t fall behind if life got in the way.  Life didn’t get in the way with A218, unlike on my first attempt at A330 in 2012, when life came crashing through like an electrical thunderstorm in Italy in July.  But that’s for later.

A218 was:

a fascinating introduction to the last five centuries of medical history, tracing developments in medicine from the Renaissance to the early twentieth century. It shows how a tradition of medical thought and practice inherited from classical Greece gradually became a recognisably modern medicine.

The above was taken from the module’s blurb but in a nutshell, its aim was to demonstrate how social, political and cultural contexts shaped medical thought and practice, from the Galenic system of medicine still practiced in Europe in 1500 straight through to the medical practice of 1930, eighteen years before the advent of the NHS.  A slight difference in this module was in the materials.  There were only two large textbooks, two source books, no visual sources book and a CD-ROM.  Funny, now that the OU has changed to having virtually everything online I’d forgotten about the days of the clunking CD-ROMs and it all looks very dated now.

There were 7 TMAs and an exam.  Yes another one.  I really wasn’t looking forward to this exam after doing miserably in the previous exam I’d sat for A200 but I was determined to do better and determined to start from day one with my notes making sense.  Something else I got to grips with – the course themes (about time too) which is always helpful when you’ve got to do an exam on them at the end!

And I happily went along through the months of studying, thoroughly enjoying it all.  Reading back through the course texts I’ve realised that a lot of the subject matter I was studying on A218 I’m now choosing to read about for pleasure, in background stuff for the MA in September.  The Black Death, the Victorian asylum, medieval medicine, Greek & Roman medicine, the history of anatomy and the birth of the hospital.   All fascinating stuff.  To geeky me anyway 😉

The areas it covered were:

Part 1:The Healing Arts

  • Medicine in Western Europe in 1500
  • The sick and their healers
  • Medical Renaissance of the 16th century – Vesalius, medical humanism and bloodletting
  • Medicine and religion in 16th century Europe
  • Chemical medicine and the challenge to Galenism
  • Diseases, poverty and hospitals
  • Old and new models of the body
  • Women and medicine
  • The care and cure of mental illness
  • War, medicine and the military revolution
  • Environment, health and population
  • Medicine and health in the age of European colonialism
  • Organisation, training and the medical marketplace in the 18th century

Part 2:Medicine transformed

  • The localisation of disease
  • The changing role of the hospital 1800-1900
  • The emergence of modern surgery
  • The rise of laboratory medicine
  • The emergence of a modern profession
  • Women in medicine: doctors and nurses 1850-1920
  • Dealing with disease in populations 1830-1880
  • Colonial and imperial medicine
  • From germ theory to social medicine 1880-1930
  • The fortunes of eugenics
  • The rise of the asylum in Britain
  • Medicine in war
  • Access to health care 1880-1930

Actually it’s great and really useful to write it all down again, to see what I studied, so I can have a definitive list of what I’ve already covered.  A lot of this will be what I’ll be covering again, but in more detail, in the MA.

My tutor was a lovely man, Dr TS and I really enjoyed his tutorials.  They started off at the beginning of the module in the February in the usual way, with approximately 20 people at the tutorial and then thinned out to the last few diehards (of which I was always one) at the end of the module in the October, of just 3 or 4.  I’m lucky in that I don’t live far from the University of Manchester, where the tutorials were held, so I could always make them and they were only for a couple of hours so didn’t take too much out of a day.

And so dawned the start of the revision.  Determined to be really organised with my revision, I set aside 3 weeks for it and tried not to book too much stuff into that time that could take me away from it.  I set out an organised study plan, got my notes together, got my pretty coloured highlighters, post its and blank sheets and got stuck in.  I found a revision formula that really worked for me, so I stuck with that for the exams which came after (A219 and A340) and to be honest, I really enjoyed the revision.  It brought the whole course together, rather than just being sections in isolation.  I’d go through my notes, and rewrite them onto A4 sheets with relevant points, then I’d transfer these onto larger A3 sheets.  These I’d then transfer onto index cards and go over and over those ad infinitum until the day of the exam.

That October (2010) was particularly mild and I remember this because I’d walk round and round the garden with my index cards, in nice weather, reading stuff out loud to try and memorise it.  My memory used to be razor sharp but now its very blunt but I’ve discovered that if I keep going over and over things, it does tend to stick in my brain in the short term, until after the exam anyway.

And so, on 12th October, I returned to the scene of the crime.  It was held once more in the Great Hall of the Sackville Street Building at the University of Manchester.  This time it was on the day before my birthday.  I took this as a good omen as the exam for A200 had been the day after my birthday.  I think I must have sat in the very same seat I’d sat in a year beforehand, it was obviously sorted alphabetically.  But I was determined that wouldn’t affect me (I do realise I’ve used that word a lot in this post, shows how determined single minded I was to do better).  I really can’t remember much at all about the exam and I then spent an anxious few weeks waiting for the result to come in, which was…….overall Grade 2 pass!!!  Woo hoo!!!  Oh I was so bloody relieved as I’d got a Grade 2 pass in the TMAs and needed to do well in the exam to maintain the same overall result.

As I’d now achieved the compulsory 120 points from two level 2 modules which I needed to count towards the degree in History I should really have gone on to study a level 3 module next.  Unfortunately it’s a shame that there wasn’t a level 3 History of Medicine course to study with the OU and I know a lot of people really loved the course and would have gone on to take a level 3 course.  As of October 2015 they’re not even offering A218 any more.  Shame, as it’s a fab course.  Instead I chose to take another level 2 module, A219 – Exploring the Classical World which I was really excited about.

There’s nothing really earth shattering to write about for this module.  No bad results, no bad forum experiences, no harem of misguided adoring followers to write about (click here to read that post), just a calmer, very interesting module which served me well.

Overall then a much much better and kinder experience than on A200.  I remember thinking then that I’m back on track now so till next time…….

Amen image



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