The History of Medicine Course

  •  A wide-ranging course of lectures, collections-based sessions, and practical guidance to support the study of medical history, especially for those new to the subject
  • Small group teaching from historians, clinicians, curators and subject specialists, combined with visits to archives, libraries and museums in London
  • Unrivalled access to the Society of Apothecaries’ livery hall and its collections
  • An introduction to historical research which can be developed by taking the DHMSA exam (which involves writing a short dissertation and giving a brief oral presentation)
  • Applications welcomed from a broad spectrum of people at any career stage and from any background


Course Aim

Our aim for the course is that participants are equipped to fulfil their personal objectives and interests in medical history, whether that is following a specific curiosity into a particular specialty, time period or theme, enabling them to feel confident to carry out their own research for personal or professional satisfaction, or to immerse themselves in a new discipline with a group of like-minded people.


Course Director: Dr Anna Simmons

Dr Anna Simmons works on production, trade, and science in the pharmaceutical marketplace, with a particular focus on London. Her research and numerous publications explore various aspects of the history of British chemistry, pharmacy and medicine from c. 1650 onwards, with a particular focus on the laboratories and pharmaceutical trade at the Society of Apothecaries and the development of chemical careers and professional organisations. She has published extensively on the history of Society of Apothecaries and is an expert on its archival collections. She has been Course Director since July 2020 and works with the Society’s Friends of the Archive to help promote use of its rich historical resources.

Course Insights: an interview with the Faculty Manager - click here to read more about the course.


Lecture Content Includes (please see course programme for further details)

  • Medical traditions, examined by historical period and geographic origins and influence
  • The development of professions, education and specialties
  • The interplay of developing scientific and medical practices
  • The patient’s perspective
  • Demographic and social changes, epidemics, public and global health
  • Apothecaries, medicines and pharmacy
  • Medicine and empire
  • A brief insight into the history of medical ethics
  • Research skills for medical and healthcare history, including:
    • historical approaches
    • finding and understanding sources
    • an introduction to collections, museums, archives and online resources


Learning Outcomes

After taking the History of Medicine Course  you should have gained:

  • An understanding of medical and healthcare practice from ancient to modern times and how this contributed to the evolution of the Western Medical Tradition, with brief insights into non-Western Medical traditions.
  • An insight into important concepts in medical and healthcare history.
  • An understanding of the historian’s approach to medical and healthcare history, research methodology and historiography.
  • Experience of expert lectures from around 50 different historians, curators and clinicians from a variety of fields and methodologies.
  • An awareness of why people, events and developments in medicine have been accorded historical significance.
  • The ability to undertake independent reading and research on medical history topics.
  • Social and intellectual interaction through discussion, visits to London medical museums and networking with individuals with shared interests.
  • The ability to identify, access and evaluate historic material. (There is an opportunity to take the DHMSA exam and utilise the skills gained during the course through writing a short dissertation and giving a brief presentation.)
  • Post nominals, DHMSA


Course Information

The course runs annually from October to June, usually on alternate Saturdays with breaks over UK holiday periods.

Please note: The course will run on Saturdays via Zoom from October 2023 to June 2024 in a blended format with some sessions in-person, but available later online and others live online via Zoom. Contact the Faculty Manager for any questions.

When meeting in-person the lectures are usually given at Apothecaries’ Hall, London, a City of London Livery Company Hall which dates from the seventeenth century. One course day is scheduled to take place at Guys Hospital, visiting the Gordon Museum and Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret. There is also the opportunity to visit the London Metropolitan Archives and the Wellcome Library outside of the course days.

Course fee for 2023-24
Course drop-in fee
£100 Drop-in classes (please mention which course days you would like to attend when emailing application form)

Register onto the course for drop-in days only now by clicking here

Terms and Conditions - Please click here

Course Programme
DHMSA Programme 2023-2024 (Subject to changes)



Diploma in the History of Medicine (DHMSA)

Students may wish to sit the Diploma examination (DHMSA) which accompanies the course.

Eligibility, application and fees for the diploma examination are run separately by the Examinations Office. Details can be obtained here.

  1. 10 examination bursaries are offered to medical and dental students at UK higher education institutions (HEIs) who are either current students on the main WSAL history and philosophy courses (DHMSA or DPMSA) or who have completed the course in the last 3 years.
  2. Bursaries are allocated on a first come/served basis (with priority given to current students for that year’s allocation) until the due date of the formative essay in philosophy (this being the first necessary deadline for entry to the exam in a given year) or, for history, the deadline for receipt in the Examinations Office of the titles and proposal/abstract for the dissertation and test lecture. In addition, if the examination is deferred or bursaries are not taken up they may be rolled over into the subsequent two years until used.
  3. Furthermore, the Executive Committee (EC) will, with sufficient notice (prior to the deadlines specified), consider exceptional requests from undergraduates in relevant disciplines or professions. The relevance will be determined by the EC whose decisions will be final and not the setting of a precedent. (The Executive Committee may elect to expand this to students of other healthcare disciplines at UK HEIs or other students in fields connected to history and philosophy in the future.)


Faculty of the History and Philosophy of Medicine and Pharmacy

If you would like to get involved or learn more about our courses please contact
Telephone: 0207 236 1180