Why did academically trained physicians in the early modern period absolutely refuse to operate on cataracts? And why was in that period the social status of surgeons so much lower than that of university trained doctors? Why have in the course of time specific symptoms been diagnosed in very different ways? Why were certain psychiatric complaints in some periods interpreted as the effects of brain deficiencies and at other times as the result of a patient’s personal history? To what extent are ideas and attitudes of both physicians and patients the result of the socio-cultural context in which these people live? Is there only progress in medical science or do regressions also occur? And then, what do phrases like ‘the progress of medical science’ or ‘hard medical knowledge’ mean at the end of the day?

Questions like these, rather general or very fundamental, can only be answered by scholars who have a profound knowledge of the history of the medical profession and discipline. Good medical-historical research is more than just a description of specific developments in the medical domain. These developments must always be studied within the context in which they take place. Medical history therefore does not only have a subject matter of its own, but also a specific methodology.

The master track Medical History:

  • starts in the second semester of the academic year.


  • is jointly offered by the Faculties of Humanities of the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam and the University of Amsterdam, and by the Faculties of Medicine of the Universities of Maastricht, Amsterdam and Rotterdam.


  • is proud that the lectures are given by the most eminent Dutch medical historians.


  • is open to master students of Medicine, History, Pharmacy, Health Sciences, and Social Sciences.