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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : History

Undergraduate Course: Histories of the NHS: A National Religion? (HIST10523)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe National Health Service is supposed to be Britain's 'national religion'. Where did that devotion come from? Do all citizens of the United Kingdom feel equally invested? And will the public remain in love forever? This course tries to answer these questions through an exploration of the social, cultural, and emotional histories of the NHS.
Course description The NHS is a major part of many people's lives. It's the UK's largest single employer, we're all likely to engage with its services at some point in our lives; it's a huge political talking point; and it plays a big role in British national identity. And yet, you might not have spent much time considering its history. This course will not only provide you with a general understanding of the NHS's political history, but also acquaint you with its complex social dynamics, its cultural representations, and the fraught emotions it has evoked over its 75-year-history.

Together we'll read a mix of scholarly essays and books; we'll watch films clips and TV episodes; and explore primary sources like newspaper articles, political manifestos, diaries, letters, and novels. While you will leave this course with a solid grasp of the history of NHS policy and how the service functions, this is primarily a course about the social, cultural, and emotional past. We'll consider themes of gender, race, chronic disease and disability, as well as social class, and reflect on who has been excluded from the NHS, both historically and today. As a result, you'll not only come away with lots more knowledge about the history of modern Britain and its welfare state, but also a new understanding of the fraught, emotive, and politicised narratives that circulate about the NHS. We will think about how the history of the health service has shaped the present, and consider how the past has been instrumentalised in service of certain aims, and political and professional identities.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements A pass or passes in 40 credits of first level historical courses or equivalent and a pass or passes in 40 credits of second level historical courses or equivalent.

Students should only be enrolled on this course with approval from the History Honours Programme Administrator.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 3 History courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses. Applicants should note that, as with other popular courses, meeting the minimum does NOT guarantee admission.

** as numbers are limited, visiting students should contact the Visiting Student Office directly for admission to this course **
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Coursework:
1500-word source analysis (30%)
3500-word essay (70%)
Feedback Students are expected to discuss their coursework with the Course Organiser at least once prior to submission, and are encouraged to do so more often. Meetings can take place with the Course Organiser during their published office hours or by appointment. Students will also receive feedback on their coursework, and will have the opportunity to discuss that feedback further with the Course Organiser.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Discuss the history of the NHS with an in-depth understanding of its origins, challenges, and representations.
  2. Analyse many different types of primary source material, including novels, television programmes, and public information films.
  3. Apply this knowledge and these skills to the study of other themes and issues in modern British history, as well as the history of other periods and places.
  4. Take part productively in exchanges of ideas on the theme of the NHS's history, also using different media, registers and forms of communication.
  5. Demonstrate a high degree of autonomy and resourcefulness when working alone, as well as an appropriate level of scholarly maturity when working with others.
Reading List
Andrew Seaton, Our NHS: A History of Britain's Best-Loved Institution, (Yale University Press, 2023)

People's History of the NHS -- a website put together by the Cultural History of the NHS

Richard Gordon, Doctor in the House, (Michael Joseph, 1952)

Jennifer Crane and Jane Hand, (eds), Posters, Protest and Prescriptions: Cultural Histories of the National Health Service in Britain (Manchester University Press, 2022)

Roberta Bivins, 'Picturing Race in the British National Health Service, 1948-1988', Twentieth Century British History, Vol 28, 1, (March 2017): doi: 10.1093/tcbh/hww059

Jennifer Crane, 'Save Our NHS: Defending the NHS and Reassessing the 1980s', Contemporary British History, 33 (1) (2019), pp. 52-74.

Jack Saunders, 'Emotions, social practices and the changing composition of class, race and gender in the National Health Service, 1970-79', History Workshop Journal, 88 (Autumn 2019), 204-228

NHS at 70: Voices From the First NHS Hospital -

NHS on Film -

Ellen Stewart, How Britain Loves the NHS: Practices of Care and Contestation, (Policy Press, 2023)

Cal Flynn, The History of the NHS, Wellcome Collection -

This is Going to Hurt:
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Graduates of this course will be able to:

demonstrate familiarity with some of the main concepts, sources and works of scholarship relevant to the history of the NHS and modern British history more broadly.

process and combine this material with a degree of historical imagination, also while considering the relationship between the past and the present.

develop an independent project using the sources and approaches encountered during the course and present it in different written ways.

be able to package your historical research for more public consumption.

discuss scholarly arguments and evidence about the NHS and its history with your peers in a sustained, coherent, and collaborative fashion.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Agnes Arnold-Forster
Course secretary
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