Colleges & Universities

Pain by Charles Bell.

The Foundations of Contemporary Attitudes Towards Health, Illness, and the Body

Suitability: KS5 and above

Maximum number of students: 50 

Duration: Approximately 60 minutes 

Cost: 18 years or under: £3 50 per student. Over 18 years: £6 per student.  Accompanying teaching staff or group leaders will be charged  £3 50 per head 

Available: Tuesday – Saturday

Session outline  

This session stimulates discussion around the extent to which categories such as ‘pain’ change over time. Medicine and surgery prior to the revolutionary discoveries of anaesthetics and antiseptics will be explored. By engaging with some of the Museum’s historic artifacts students will develop their interpretation skills and understand how diverse responses to health and illness reflected wider social and cultural change. An underlying theme will be the examination of the extent to which the nineteenth century laid the foundations for contemporary attitudes towards health and illness

Tutor’s comments  

Masters students from several programmes at King’s College London benefit from seminars in the distinctive and thought provoking atmosphere of the St Thomas’ Herb Garret and Operating Theatre. By studying memoirs of surgeons who worked there and learning from the guided tour provided by staff, students see and feel the conditions in which early nineteenth-century, pre-anaesthesia surgery was practised and experienced by patients. The culture and material conditions of surgery, the prescribing, making-up and dispensing of medicines, as well as the medical student spectatorship come intensely to mind. It's a remarkable survival, providing very valuable teaching and learning opportunities in an unrivalled setting”.

Brian Hurwitz, Professor of Medicine and the Arts, King’s College London

Curriculum links

This session is designed for medical undergraduates, those studying BTEC Diplomas in Health and Social Care and Access to Higher Education Diplomas. It will also be particularly beneficial to students on Humanities programmes. 


 Booking is now open for this session: fill out a booking enquiry form.

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