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Taught Masters Programme in the History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine

Programme Details

To download the HPSM Programme Handbook for 2015/16 please see below.


Components of the Programme

As a student reading for the HPSM MA, you will complete four modules and a dissertation:

I. Core Modules

  • Research Methods and Resources- Trains students in the competent use of library resources, key reference works, IT and internet databases, primary sources and various styles and bibliographical conventions appropriate to writing in the fields of history and philosophy. Following from this, the module introduces key methodological concepts need for students researching the interactions between the philosophy of science and medicine, the history of science and the history of medicine.
  • Dissertation - In this final module to be taken from April to mid-September, you will write a dissertation (12,000 words) on a topic of your choice. You will pursue independent, thoroughly supervised, in-depth research involving extensive study and critical assessment of secondary literature and, where appropriate, several primary sources. This is done by training students in developing a research plan and presenting a detailed argument on an issue from the History of Medicine, or the History of Science, or the Philosophy of Science and Medicine; advancing student skills in research, analysis, and writing relevant to your field of study; instilling a firm understanding of the inter-related nature of historical and philosophical aspects of the dissertation topic.

II. Optional Modules

You have to choose one module from

List A and one module from List B, plus one further module

from either List A or List B

List A (at least one module)

Optional Module: History of Medicine (HEAS 40030, 30 credits)
This module is formally assessed by one essay and overviews the history of medicine and its cultural placement.

Optional Module: Gender, “Sex”, Health and Politics (HEAS 40530, 30 credits)
This module is formally assessed by one formative assessed essay, one poster and one summative assessed essay.

Optional Module: Gender, Medicine and Sexuality in Early Modern Europe (HIST 44230, 30 credits)

Optional Module: Ethics, Medicine and History (PHIL 41330, 30 credits)
This module is formally assessed by one essay.

Optional Module: Science and the Enlightenment (PHIL 40330, 30 credits)
This module is formally assessed by one essay and overviews the history and historiographies of science.

List B (at least one module)

Optional Module: Phenomenology and Sciences of Mind (PHIL 41030, 30 credits)

Optional Module: Current Issues in Metaphysics (PHIL 40730, 30 credits)

Optional Module: Philosophical Issues in Science and Medicine (PHIL 40430, 30 credits).

Optional Module: Ethics of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (PHIL 41830, 30 credits)

Optional Module: Philosophy of the Social Sciences (PHIL 41730, 30 credits)

III. Research Seminars

You are expected to attend the Department of Philosophy's research seminar as well as seminars and other events organised by the Centre for the History of Medicine and Disease. You will also benefit from the events organised by the Northern Centre for the History of Medicine, the Department of Philosophy, the School for Health and other departments and institutes in Durham that offer seminars relevant to HPSM studies. On many of these occasions, you will have the chance to debate with visiting speakers from the UK and abroad on a broad range of key topics. In addition to Durham's resources, you will also be presented with the opportunity to attend (on a voluntary basis) the seminars of the Newcastle MA in History of Medicine.

Teaching and Learning

The core modules convene during the academic year and consist of a format that includes lecture, seminars, personal tutorials and workshops.  The wide spectrum of academic staff from the Department of Philosophy and the School for Health allows you to focus your research on a wide variety of topics, some of which include bioethics and medical ethics, the history of medicine, the history of the body, the history and philosophy of science and environmental philosophy.


Assessment of the core modules is determined by three formative assessed short essays (2,000 words), three summative assessed essays (5,000 words) on a topic distinct from that of the short essays, a bibliographical essay (3,500 words), a dissertation proposal (1,500 words) written on topics of your choice, and the dissertation (12,000 words), again on a topic of your choice.  The essays have to be submitted at the end of each module.