War and Medicine

The details
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Sunday 17 January 2021
Friday 26 March 2021
22 May 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

Both medicine and the military are social phenomena. From the middle of the 19th century, medicine came to play an increasingly central role in the emergence of modern mass and industrialised warfare. In addition to the maintenance of discipline and morale, medicine also provided administrative and technical support to what became known as the 'total' wars in the 20th century.

This module examines the relationship between medicine and the military in the 'modernisation' of societies during the 19th century and 20th century. It asks to what extent medicine contributed to the 'rationalisation' of military management?

Module aims

This module allows students to integrate modern warfare and medicine into the familiar terrain of historical studies and methods and into pre-existing models of society, culture, or power.

Module learning outcomes

On completing this module, student will have gained understanding of the process in which medicine, from disease eradication to health care, and hygienic rituals as well as health propaganda, contributed to the ‘rationalisation’ of military management.

This ‘rationalisation’ process mirrored the new disciplinary regime in civil society in the 19th and 20th century. Thus students will be able to make an informed analysis of how industrial capitalism and associated developments in the public sphere accelerated the increasing medicalisation of both the military and the civilian society.

Module information

General Reading List:

Max Weber, 'The Technological Advantages of Bureaucratic Organisation', in From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, ed. by H. Gerth and C. W. Mills (Routledge, 1970)

Roger Cooter, Harrison Mark and Steven Sturdy, War, Medicine and Modernity (Sutton Publishing, 1998)(eds.), Medicine and Modern Warfare (Rodopi, 1999)

Learning and teaching methods

1 x 2 hour seminar per week


  • (no date) '“Mortal in this season”: Union Surgeons and the Narrative of Medical Modernisation in the American Civil War'.
  • Cooter, Roger; Sturdy, Steve; Harrison, Mark. (1998) War, Medicine and Modernity, Stroud: The History Press Ltd.
  • (no date) Discipline and Punishment: The Birth of the Prison.
  • Cooter, Roger; Harrison, Mark; Sturdy, Steve. (1999) Medicine and Modern Warfare.: Brill/Rodopi.
  • (no date) The Interplay Between Socio-Economic Factors and Medical Science: Yellow Fever Research, Cuba and the United States.
  • Gilman, Sander L. (2018) Stand Up Straight!, London: Reaktion Books.
  • R Harari. (no date) Medicalised Battlefields: The Evolution of Military Medical Care and the 'Medicine 'in Japan'.
  • Gerth, H. H.; Mills, C. Wright; Turner, Bryan S. (2009) From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, Abingdon: Routledge.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   5,000 Word Extended Essay     

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Xun Zhou, email:
Dr Xun Zhou
Senior Student Administrator, Department of History, Telephone: 01206 872190



External examiner

Dr Paul Corthorn
Queen's University Belfast
Senior Lecturer in Modern British History
Available via Moodle
Of 20 hours, 20 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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