The (Not-So) Secret, but (Definitely) Free HofM Syllabi

There are at two online archives of syllabi in the history of medicine. They incorporate submissions from past and ongoing courses as taught by many professors at a variety of institutions. The topics range from the obvious to the obscure.  

While syllabi are not tutorials, these outlines offer two things that would be otherwise cumbersome to glean: a rapid survey of the scope of medical history; and instant identification of choice books and papers. 

  National Library of Medicine

National Library of Medicine

The first of the archives, from The National Library of Medicine (NLM), is no longer kept current. But, not to worry—their work to 2008 has been permanently archived, and the mantle picked up by the Bulletin of the History of Medicine (BHM). I think it is safe to say, of the NLM database, that the majority of historical insights have a shelf-life greater than then years.

The greeting on the NLM site is "Welcome to the National Library of Medicine's online syllabus archive...the world's largest online collection of syllabi in the history of medicine." We also see that it was:

  • First published: 08 June 2007
  • Last updated: 24 September 2008
  • Date Archived: 06 February 2012
  • Metadata | Permanence level: Permanent: Dynamic Content

The site explains that the archive is now permanently stored on an internal server with a commitment to maintaining hyperlinks. They also say that, "The online syllabus archive is not accepting new syllabi at the moment." This is followed, nonetheless, by an invitation to "send us a syllabus"—by email!

While keyword search is not currently available on the site, one can search by Professors, Titles, Institutions, and Subjects. The courses are all college level and the format is PDF. Hopkins, Harvard, Yale, University College London, and McGill University are amongst the institutions participating, to name a few of undisputed excellence. Faculty members include many of the veterans. Four of the ten faculty members in the Department at Hopkins—"the first Department of the History of Medicine in the English-speaking world"—have contributed syllabi.

You'll find contributions by the likes of the venerable William Bynum from University College London, perhaps the premiere program in all of Europe. For example, with his colleague, Bynum provides the outline and reading list for HMED C118 , Disease in History. It includes lectures such as Disease and colonial order: Plague, Disease and economic order: Plague and Hookworm, Disease and military order: Malaria, and Disease and social order: Cholera. There are twenty in all, with a hundred or so reading references.

Bulletin of History of Medicine

After the NLM site stopped accepting syllabi, the Bulletin of the History of Medicine, an imprint the Johns Hopkins University Press, stepped up: “In 2015, the Bulletin of the History of Medicine announced plans for a pedagogy initiative, which would include a blog about the experiences of teaching in the history of medicine and a new syllabus archive.

 Welch Medical Library

Welch Medical Library

Welch Library–Hopkins. Home of BHM.

The Bulletin of the History of Medicine is the official publication of the Johns Hopkins Institute of the History of Medicine and the American Association for the History of Medicine (AAHM) and is published by The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Membership in the AAHM and subscription to BHM are reasonably priced.

The Spring 2016 issue inaugurated a section on pedagogy  with four articles: Introduction, Teaching Medical History with Primary Sources: Introduction, Teaching with Oral Histories, and Teaching with Artifacts and Special Collections.

The list of syllabi here is not nearly as extensive as that of the NLM, but it does, as promised, extend the NLM list with more recent offerings, including more lectures by Hopkins faculty. The subject list has stubs for some categories but there are especially good selections pertaining to gender/women issues, public health and epidemics, and an especially complete offering on the Civil War—ten lectures sponsored by the Mutter Museum. In addition, there are a number of good survey courses, including that by Mary Fissell, of Hopkins, which cites a rich array of articles, and recommends the text book by Lawrence I. Conrad, Michael Neve, Vivian Nutton, Roy Porter, and Andrew Wear, The Western Medical Tradition: 800 BC-1800 AD, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995). (Available Amazon).

Other Syllabi

The NLM site lists related links, but I found that they miss their target for syllabi–spedific pages. You may want to explore them, even so.

STEM

H-Sci-Med-Tech, Syllabi for Courses in Science, Medicine and Technology (Sponsored by H-Sci-Med-Tech).

Humanities

On-line Syllabi of Courses in Medical Humanities (Sponsored by the Medical Humanites website, New York University).

Behavioral and Social

STS Course Syllabi (Sponsored by the Society for the Social Studies of Science).

Syllabi of University Courses in the History of Behavioral and Social Sciences (Sponsored by Cheiron, The International Society for the History of Behavioral and Social Sciences).

Other Teaching/Learning Tools.

Recommended Dose is a blog published by BHM, about teaching the history of medicine. They offer email notifications of new items. The editors are Kathleen Crowther, University of Oklahoma, and Mary Fissell, Johns Hopkins University. Readers are invited to submit proposals for a post to the site.

 Crowther

Crowther

 Fissell

Fissell

As you are reading a post on the web about the history of medicine, let’s point out a unique book that deals with “Digital History”, being a “A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web.” It comes from Daniel Cohen and Roy Rosenzwieg, ot the Center for History and New Media. Despite its 2005 publication date, it continued to get 5 star reviews even in 2013. Their core technological observations are durable, despite changes in web ‘fashion’. 

Daniel J. Cohen is Director of Research Projects at the Center for History and New Media (“…Democratizing history through digital media and tools.” )and Assistant Professor of History at George Mason University. Roy Rosenzweig is the founder and Director of CHNM and Mark and Barbara Fried Professor of History and New Media at George Mason University. 

Their essay, Web of lies? Historical knowledge on the Internet, is well worth reading. Learn about H-Bot, a History Software Agent., and “How Computer Scientists Differ from Humanists in their View of the Web.”

Leave a comment—do you think these syllabi will be of interest? You can email us at info@medicalhistorytour.com or visit the web site medicalhistorytour.com.

You can find Digital History, and others in the history of medicine, through our Amazon Affiliate⁠ link.

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