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Medical Humanities

The medical humanities covers a range of perspectives and approaches that apply the arts and humanities to health and social care, health and/or wellbeing practices. This can include the history of medicine, the use of arts therapies in healthcare, narrative medicine, philosophical perspectives and cultural aspects of healthcare, for example. It can help put the human experience into medicine and healthcare, and learn lessons from the past about how to improve current and future practices.

The AHRC has supported a wide range of projects in the medical and health humanities, and is planning to produce a booklet showcasing some of our projects and the impact that they have had in the near future. A link to the booklet will be added to this page once it has been published.

Case study

Living with Dying: Everyday Cultures of Dying within Family Life in Britain, c1900s - 1950s

The Living with Dying project explores what history can tell us about dying, grief, bereavement and remembering, moving death away from medical practitioners and undertakers, to families and individuals. In looking at how death and dying was discussed in day-to-day life, the project provided valuable resources for bereavement charities and public health teams as well as historians.

“There’s still a perceived taboo around talking about death,” explains project leader Dr Laura King, Associate Professor of Modern British History at University of Leeds. “We worked with the Leeds Dying Matters Partnership, which is a partnership of hospices, NHS staff, public health teams, funeral services and charities that aims to get people talking about dying, pass on their wishes to loved ones, and make a plan for when they die.”

In 2018, AHRC ran the Health Humanities Medal competition in association with the Wellcome Trust, which sought to highlight work in this area across five categories: best research, best doctoral or ECR research, best international research, the inspiration award and the leadership award. The award winners were announced in September 2018.

Read about medical care during the First World War and how hospitals managed the influx of injured soldiers.

The AHRC has funded a project on visualising the conditions and experiences of seizures, where art has been used to contribute to our understanding of illness and medicine.

You can also read about a selection of medical humanities projects that have been supported by AHRC in this feature, a Spotlight on: Best doctoral or early career research nominations.

Associated image copyright: Double-M on Flickr by CC2.0