Dr Michael Bresalier
Lecturer in the History of Medicine
Telephone: (01792) 513203
Room: Office - 137
First Floor
Keir Hardie Building
Singleton Campus

I am a lecturer in the History of Medicine, with expertise in the social, cultural, economic, and global dimensions of health and disease in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I trained in social history at the University of Ottawa, environmental studies at York University (Toronto), and the history and philosophy of science at the University of Cambridge. Before joining the Department, I was Wellcome Research Fellow at the Department of History, King’s College London and previously held research and teaching posts at Imperial College, the University of Manchester and the University of Bristol.

Research interests

• International health
• Disease and the modern world
• Global and transnational history of science, technology and medicine
• Food, nutrition and hunger
• Animals in medicine

I have researched and published on nineteenth and twentieth century British medical science and its institutions, specifically the role of bacteriology and virology in the modern state, military and empire. I now work on the ways international health organisations shaped medical and scientific knowledge and experiences of health and disease in the twentieth century. I am especially interested in the role of United Nations agencies in tackling problems of hunger, nutrition and infectious disease at the human-animal interface, and with how these problems have been crucial to projects of development, human rights, and humanitarianism. Behind my research is a broad concern with why Western medicine, science and technology became ‘global’ and, in turn, has shaped our world.

Areas of Expertise

  • History of modern medicine
  • History of international health
  • History of disease


  1. Woods, A., Bresalier, M., Cassidy, A., Mason Dentinger, R. Animals and the Shaping of Modern Medicine: One Health and its Histories Basingstoke Palgrave Macmillan
  2. Bresalier, M. From healthy cows to healthy humans: Integrated approaches to world hunger, c. 1930-1965 (Ed.), Animals and the Shaping of Modern Medicine 119 160 Basingstoke Palgrave
  3. Bresalier, M., Cassidy, A., Woods, A. One health in history (Ed.), One Health: The Theory and Practice of Integrated Health Approaches 1 15 Oxford Cabi International
  4. Bresalier, M., Worboys, M. 'Saving the lives of our dogs': the development of canine distemper vaccine in interwar Britain British Journal of the History of Science 47 2 305 334
  5. Woods, A., Bresalier, M. One health, many histories Veterinary Record 174 26 650 654

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  • FY-012 Introduction to Being Human

    This module will focus on introducing what it is to be human from a broad humanities and social science perspective. It will offer the opportunity to engage with key ideas, theory and literature within these disciplines. It will therefore prepare students for further academic work in the humanities and social sciences and initiate the development of critical thinking and creative abilities.

  • HI-M22 Dissertation

    Students produce a dissertation of up to 20,000 words on a historical topic, chosen in conjunction with their supervisor. This represents the culmination of the History MAs, and constitutes Part Two of the programme.

  • HI-M39 Research Folder

    This module is designed to help students to identify a dissertation topic appropriate to their interests and expertise, and to tackle the problems of methodology, develop the research techniques, and undertake the project planning which are the necessary preliminaries to researching and writing a 20,000 word dissertation.

  • HI-M80 Directed Reading in History

    Under the guidance of an expert supervisor, students analyse developments in research and historiography relating to a topic in History which they choose from a wide range of options.

  • HI-M88 Modern Medical Bodies: Major themes in the History of Modern Medicine

    This module examines the changing conditions, roles, representations, and uses of bodies in modern medicine. It examines how historians have made the body a central focus of research to explore the interconnections of medical ideas, institutions and practices with histories of modern world and to address core problems of medicalisation, power, class, race, gender, sexuality, nationality, and empire. Surveying the intersections of bodies, medicine, and modernity, students taking this module will develop critical grounding in major themes, controversies and approaches in the history of modern medicine.

  • HIH122 Making History

    History is an imprecise art and what historians say and write about the past is not the same as what actually happened in the past. Most people's knowledge about the past doesn't come from professional historians at all but rather from 'public history'. Public history is the collective understandings of the past that exist outside academic discipline of history. It is derived from a diverse range of sources including oral traditions, legends, literature, art, films and television. This module will introduce you to the study and presentation of the past. It will consider how the content, aims and methods of academic and public history compare and contrast and you will engage in your own small research project to investigate this. The module will also teach you about the fundamentals of studying and writing history at university. You will learn about essay writing, group work and critical analysis and employ these skills to understand and assess history today, both as an academic activity and as public knowledge.

  • HIH124 Modern British History

    This module explores the broad sweep of the history of the United Kingdom since its modern creation in 1801. It brings together different approaches from political, economic, social and cultural history to consider the different ways the history of a nation can be studied. At the module's heart are questions of what constitutes a nation and the extent to which British society can be considered to be unified.

  • HIH237 The Practice of History

    The purpose of the module is to encourage you to think more deeply about how historians work and, in particular, about how we as historians can locate and use primary historical sources effectively as a means of interpreting and understanding the past. During the module we will learn about the survival of historical evidence, how it is organised and made accessible to historians to undertake their research, and how to effectively locate and interpret it in your studies. We will consider how the process of doing historical research changes over time, in particular with the impact of recent developments like digitization. At the core of the module will be the work you undertake with others in your seminar group using a range of primary sources which your seminar tutor will introduce to you. As part of the module assessment you will also undertake your own primary source based research project using items from these collections. The module is designed strengthen your analytical skills and to help prepare you for the more extensive uses of primary evidence which you will encounter in final year special subjects and dissertation.

  • HIH280 Colonial to Humanitarian Medicine: The History of Global Health

    This module examines global health as a crucial topic in the history of the modern world. We start by tracing the origins of global health in nineteenth century commercial and colonial systems, and then turn to study how missionaries, philanthropies and international health organisations created in the early twentieth century reproduced and challenged the nineteenth century European imperial order. The module then turns to the period after the Second World War and the rise of the United Nations as a key player in international health. We examine how UN organisations confronted legacies of colonialism and challenges of the Cold War in tackling such problems as disease, population, development, and human rights. In developing a long-view of the history of global health, the module will allow students to develop critical tools for understanding how `health¿ became a global problem and how global health shaped and was shaped by different ideologies, institutions, economies and geopolitical systems. It engages with key themes, methods and debates in global health historiography, which will enable the use of different approaches in analysing a range of primary sources and in writing essays. Seminars will provide an opportunity to develop communication skills, to work with fellow students in leading discussion, and to present essay plans. The skills developed in this module will prove valuable for higher-level study in modern history and in careers outside academia.

  • HIH3300 History Dissertation

    The History dissertation is a free-standing, 40-credit module that runs across both semesters of Level Three. Candidates conduct research upon a subject of their choice, devised in consultation with a member of staff teaching for the degrees in History, and concerning a topic that falls within staff research and teaching interests.

  • HIH3335 Infections in Global History, 1500-2000

    This module surveys the global history of infectious diseases from 1500 to the present. Weekly lectures and seminars will examine the ¿biographies¿ of some of the most significant diseases in history ¿ from plague to AIDS. Taking this approach, the module explores how diseases have shaped and been shaped by the interaction of ideas, practices, and institutions that different societies and cultures developed to understand and control them. Students will gain particular insight into a wide range of perspectives and sources ¿ government records, treatises, textbooks, medical and popular press, art, literature, film and digital media ¿ that historians have used to address themes of class, race, gender, sexuality, nationality, and empire, and into how the history of disease is integral to the history of the modern world.

  • HIH3346 The Hungry World: Food, Famine and the End of Empire, 1880-1945

    Hunger has fundamentally shaped human history. But only in the twentieth century did it emerge as a medical, scientific, and public health problem to be studied and controlled in every corner of the globe. This two-semester module explores how hunger became a galvanising and polarising force in the contemporary world. We will address this question in seminars that focus on key themes and debates in the historiography ¿ particularly with how hunger has been tied to matters of health, development, colonialism, geopolitics, war, socio-economic and gender inequality, human rights, security, and the global food system. Seminars will be based on analysing a range of primary sources, including those produced by governments, medical and scientific authorities, the popular press and mass media, philanthropies and international agencies. We will use these documents to elucidate the many experts, organisations, and governments who converged on hunger, the changing methods and means they used to define and combat it, and those who embodied and experienced it. The first semester traces the framing of hunger as a world problem from the late nineteenth century to the Second World War. The second semester examines its rise to prominence with the creation of the United Nations, battles over solutions in the contexts of decolonization and the Cold War, and its emergence as a global humanitarian crisis.


  • Reconstructing South Asian Medical Migration: Doctors' experiences in South Wales, 1950-1990 (current)

    Other supervisor: Prof Martin Johnes

Career History

Start Date End Date Position Held Location
2013 2015 Wellcome Research Fellow Department of History, King’s College London
2012 2013 Research Associate Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, Imperial College London
2010 2012 Research Associate Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of Manchester
2006 2010 Teaching Fellow in Medical Humanities Department of Philosophy, University of Bristol, UK

External Responsibilities

  • Expert observer, Fourth International Meeting on NZDs, World Health Organization

    2014 - 2014

  • Ethics advisor, European Research Council

    2011 - 2015

  • Peer-reviewer (Funding), Wellcome Trust Medical Humanities Fellowships

    2012 - Present

Research Groups

  • Research Group

    for Health, History and Culture