HIST 458 and 640A: What is this Thing Called Disease?

Liaison librarian

  • mary.yearl [at] mcgill.ca (Email) 514-398-4475 x09847
  • McGill users only
  • Open access resource
  • Free resource
  • In-library-use only
  • Catalogue record

Reference sources

Medical biographies

Medical/disease terminology

General history of medicine

Article indexes and databases

Specific to history of medicine

  • History of Science, Technology and Medicine (HSTM): Journal articles, conference proceedings, books, book reviews, and dissertations in the history of medicine and allied fields, science and technology. NOTE: most of the historical medical entries date from 1991 to 2004, so be sure to use additional databases in conjunction to find additional older and more recent sources.
  • Subject Catalogue of the History of Medicine and Related Subjects: Published by the Wellcome Library, includes items published between 1900-1978. Good to find earlier articles that may not be in HSTM.
  • LocatorPlus Online catalogue of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, one of the most important collections of historical material and writings about the history of medicine. Contains records of books and some book chapters and articles.

General history and social sciences

  • America: History and Life Journal articles, book reviews, and some dissertations on Canadian and US history. Broad subject coverage includes medical topics.
  • Historical Abstracts Journal articles, book reviews and some dissertations on world history from 1450 (particularly the West). Note: Excludes Canada and the United States.
  • Academic Search Complete Multidisiplinary database of scholarly articles, includes a broad range of topics on history and sociology, including medical sociology.
  • Sociological Abstracts  Specialized database in sociology and the social and behavioral sciences from 1952.


  • McGill University's WorldCat Catalogue lists almost all of the printed holdings in the various branches of the McGill Library, as well as electronic, microform and audio-visual material, such as e-books and e-journals. For first hand accounts and case records, try using search terms like: personal narratives; narratives; diaries; correspondence; interviews; biographies; case studies.
    • An easy way to narrow down printed books to only history of medicine (i.e. eliminate contemporary medical literature from your search results) is by searching in the Osler Library subcatalogue of the Classic Catalogue:
      • Click the "Sub-catalogues" tab, then click "Osler Library of the History of Medicine" under the Libraries and Collections category
      • Run your search!
  • Use McGill's WorldCat Catalogue when searching for e-journals, e-books and databases.

Primary resources

Article indexes - medicine

  • EMBASE Major database of biomedical research with a lot of international, particularly European, content. Some overlap with MEDLINE. Contains articles dating to 1947. 
  • IndexCat (Index-Catalogue of the Library of the Surgeon-General's Office) Both a catalogue and an index, with records for journal articles, books, pamphlets, reports, dissertations and portraits. A great source for locating primary resources. References are multilingual and cover medicine and allied areas. Coverage is through 1950. (Note: for a comparison of coverage between IndexCat and Index Medicus, see the NLM explanatory page.)
  • MEDLINE  Major bibliographic index of journal articles in medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, and the pre-clinical sciences dating back to before 1950.   One can also limit results to only "History of Medicine" by clicking on "More Limits".

Newspapers and magazines

  • Google News Archive of newspapers and periodicals going back aproximately 200 years, including the "Montreal Gazette." (Note: Not all content is freely viewable.)
  • Newspapers List of online historical and contemporary newspapers and newspaper/magazine databases available at McGill.
  • Readers' Guide Retrospective Online version of The Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature, an index to U.S. popular periodicals. Contains material from 1890 to 1982.

Other article databases

Books and other online publications

  • Bibliothèque Interuniversitaire de Santé, Paris Links to a number of history of medicine and dentistry resources. There is also a listing of digitized historical works arranged by subject.
  • Gallica Digitized books, dictionaries and periodicals spanning many centuries, including medical and related works. This site is maintained by the National Library of France, so almost all works are in French.
  • Internet Archive Freely available digitized out-of-copyright books, journals and other material. This is a good resource for locating historical books (primary material).  This site cannot perform full-text searches across all material.  You have to open a specific book or other item and then do a full-text search only on that item.
  • Medical Heritage Library This is a subset of the Internet Archive of selected historical medical material. The difference between this site and the Internet Archive is that the MHL lets you do full text searching across all the digitized content. This is a good resource for locating historical medical information embedded into more general primary historical works.  Searching is still in beta form, so read the help file to refine your search (e.g. add a date limit).

Archival indexes

  • ArchiveGrid Searchable database of archives held in thousands of collections around the world.
  • Archives in the Osler Library - searchable database The Osler Library Archives has nearly 200 collections of papers by or about doctors, medical students and organisations, including significant collections on Sir William Osler, Wilder Penfield, Maude Abbott and the Canadian Health Libraries Association.
  • History of Medicine Finding Aids Consortium This is a discovery tool providing keyword search services of descriptions of primary source (archival) materials found in special collections and archives in the U.S. and Canadian (such as the Osler Library).

Government information

  • Government information from Canada, Quebec, other provincial governments, the UK, the US, the European, and some intergovernmental organizations dating back centuries available at McGill. Much is available online.

Other Useful Information

Citation styles

Annotated bibliographies

Library information


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