MA Specialisation: Medical and Health Humanities

The interdisciplinary English-language MA programme History: Medical and Health Humanities at the VU University, Amsterdam, combines the history of health and medicine with a wide array of arts and humanities approaches. Classes explore the different ways that bodies and minds have been investigated and understood, and how these various ways of knowing shape everyday life, medical practice, and public health policy. Participants learn to contextualise medical ideas in the time and culture where they were produced, and to analyse a diverse range of sources, including historical artifacts, comics and films, medical texts and health journalism. Drawing on methods from across the disciplines, students will broaden their tools of investigation beyond the written word to also consider the sounds, smells, and the look and feel of the past and its lessons and legacies in the present day. 

Full Track or Individual Courses Offered

The programme is jointly offered by the Faculties of Humanities of the VU University and the University of Amsterdam, and by the Faculties of Medicine of the Universities of Maastricht, Amsterdam and Rotterdam. The programme runs annually from February through June. Sessions are led by scholars from universities around the country, as well as those involved in medical history in other venues, including online and in museums.

The courses are also open to interested MA or MSc students registered at other Dutch universities. This includes those enrolled in medical school, or specializing in related health or humanities disciplines, such as psychology, art history, nursing, social work, communications, media studies, anthropology, or museum studies, as well as exchange students with a comparable amount of knowledge and experience. You can follow just one, two or three courses, or complete the full programme.

Also welcome: health and humanities professionals with relevant work experience, who are not enrolled as students in the Netherlands or elsewhere. Non-students pay a fixed fee of €2000 to follow the programme.

Students come from a broad range of disciplines, bringing an array of perspectives, as historians or physicians in training, for example, and/or former patients or caregivers to others. This mix of experiences and expertise in the classroom offers the opportunity to compare and contrast worldviews, to challenge assumptions, and to critically reflect on issues of great significance, from birth to death.

Classes explore the different ways that bodies and minds have been investigated and understood, and how these various ways of knowing shape everyday life, medical practice, and public health policy. Participants learn to contextualise medical ideas in the time and culture, and to analyse a diverse range of sources, including historical artefacts, comics and films, medical texts and health journalism. Information on the courses currently offered is available here:

The programme is taught by staff from the Chair of Cultural History (prof. dr. Inger Leemans) and the Chair of Medical History (prof. dr. Manon Parry). Please contact course coordinators Prof. Dr. Manon S. Parry (m.s.parry@uva.nl) or Dr. Ab Flipse (a.c.flipse@vu.nl) for more information.