Kevin Brown Historian

History of health, medicine and naval history

Summer School: Was the First World War Good for Medicine?

War medicineSummer School: Was the First World War Good for Medicine?

Fridays 19 July, 26 July, 2 August 2013, 10:30-15:30

Discover how doctors, nurses and casualties survived the war to end wars and decide whether anything good came out of their experiences. A follow up to the day school on Medicine on the Home Front in the First World War.

City Lit, Keeley Street, Covent Garden, London

Tutor: Kevin Brown

KEVIN BROWN is the Trust Archivist to Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and the Curator of the Alexander Fleming Museum at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington and an expert on the history of medicine. He is the author of Penicillin Man: Alexander Fleming and the Antibiotic Revolution, which tells the story of the antibiotics revolution that began in the laboratories he now curates, and also Fighting Fit: Health, Medicine and War in the Twentieth Century, a history of military medicine in the wars of the twentieth century, The Pox: The Life and Near Death of a Very Social Disease and Poxed and Scurvied: The Story of Sickness and Health at Sea. His latest book, Passage to the World: The Emigrant Experience 1807- 1940 is published in April 2013. He has lectured widely, both internationally and at home, and was 2001 Andrew J. Moyer Lecturer at the United States Department of Agriculture National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research.

Course outline

What is the course about?

The course will explore the role of medicine in the First World War, the advances arising out of wartime conditions and the challenges faced by doctors, nurses and the wounded.

What topics will we cover?

-the challenges to medicine posed by modern mass warfare

-the experiences of patients, doctors and nurses in front line medicine

-the fight against infection

-the beginnings of modern plastic surgery

-the problems of early blood transfusion

-sexual health, alcohol and the armed forces


By the end of this course you should be able to:
-understand how the Great War changed medical practice

-place in context the main developments in medical care in the war years

-discuss the relationship between war and health in an age of total war

-identify ways of learning more about the subject and archive sources with greater critical awareness.

-debate whether the First World War had been good for medicine or not, and whether good can ever come out of war

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

This is an `introductory` course and does not assume any previous study or reading although you will need a good grasp of English to keep up with the course and to participate fully in discussions. You will gain more from the course, in terms of enjoyment and learning, if you are able and willing to do some supplementary reading. As with most of our history and current affairs courses, curiosity, an open mind and a willingness to listen to and think about views with which you do not always agree are more important than specific levels of skills.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

The course will be taught through illustrated lectures and discussion, using slides and handouts as appropriate. There will also be visits to relevant museums in London.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

Please bring a pen and paper. Books and other resources will be recommended so you can follow up themes that interest you, but there is no need to have done any introductory reading before starting the course. There may be travel costs to visit museums (Zone 1).

If you do want to read about the subject before hand, recommended books are

K. Brown, Fighting Fit: Health, Medicine and War in the Twentieth Century (History Press, 2008)

I.R. Whitehead, Doctors in the Great War (Pen and Sword, 1999)

To book


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: