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MPhil in Health, Medicine and Society

The MPhil in Health, Medicine and Society is jointly run by the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Department of Social Anthropology and Department of Sociology at the University of Cambridge. In addition to history, sociology and social anthropology, the course also includes ethics and philosophy, thus offering an unparalleled educational experience. It is a full-time 9 month course and introduces students to research skills and specialist knowledge. Its main aims are:

  • to give you the opportunity to carry out focussed research in Health, Medicine and Society (HMS) under close supervision
  • to give students the opportunity to acquire or develop skills and expertise relevant to their research interests
  • to enable students to acquire a critical and well informed understanding of the roles of the history, philosophy, sociology and anthropology of health and medicine and
  • to help students intending to go on to doctoral work to acquire the requisite research skills and to prepare a well planned and focused PhD proposal.


  1. giving students the experience and guidance necessary for them to be able to formulate a realistic research proposal, and to prepare written work based on such a proposal to a strict timetable
  2. introducing students to relevant research methods across their choice of the four disciplines
  3. giving students the experience of presenting their own work and discussing the issues that arise from it with an audience of their peers and senior members of the department
  4. providing lectures, supervisions and research seminars in a range of technical/specialist subjects central to research in the different areas of history, philosophy, sociology and anthropology of health and medicine, and giving students the opportunity to base some of their essays or dissertation on such teaching.



Core courses

1. History of medicine

  • Bedside medicine: patients, bodies and medical encounters
  • Hospital medicine: charitable care, the Paris Clinic, and the rise of research institutions
  • Experimental medicine: reassessing the laboratory revolutionBiomedicine and biomedicalization

2. Philosophy and ethics of medicine

  • Defining health and disease: fact and value
  • Measuring health and disease: QALYs, well-being and the limits of the numerical
  • Medical ethics: principles, virtues and institutions
  • The tangled ethics and epistemology of medical research

3. Medical sociology

  • The relationship between human society and human health and illness
  • Concepts of health and illness in comparative historical and cross cultural perspective
  • The therapeutic arts and sciences in comparative historical and cross cultural perspective
  • The political economy of health and illness

4. Medical anthropology

  • Learning to practise scientific medicine
  • Who is really ill?
  • Re-inserting the social, cultural, political and economic
  • Affliction and healing beyond biomedicine

Optional variable modules

5. History of medicine: Public and environmental health
6. History of medicine: Reproduction
7. Philosophy and ethics of medicine: Health justice and inequalities
8. Philosophy and ethics of medicine: Medical epistemologies
9. Medical sociology: Ethnographies of biomedicine
10. Medical sociology: Sex, gender and the body
11. Medical anthropology: Anthropology and epidemics
12. Medical anthropology: Global health

Further details about the MPhil in Medicine, Health and Society, including information about teaching, assessment and eligibility can be found on the MPhil in Health, Medicine and Society pages.

Applications are made through the University’s Graduate Admissions Office (GAO) and detailed information about the application process for this course can be found on the Graduate Prospectus. All prospective applicants should read the information on the Graduate Admissions Office website carefully prior to applying.



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