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History of Medicine, Healthcare, and Disease

Guide to locating research on historical health topics and diseases.

Search the NYU Libraries Catalog

Search for books, journals, videos, etc. in our local libraries and special collections.



The Literature, Arts and Medicine Database (LitMed) is a collection of literature, fine art, visual art and performing art annotations created as a dynamic, comprehensive resource for scholars, educators, students, patients, and others interested in medical humanities.

E-Books for the History of Disease

  • Credo Reference: Credo is a vast, online reference library, containing dictionaries, bilingual dictionaries, thesauri, encyclopaedias, quotations and atlases, plus a wide range or subject-specific titles covering everything from accounting to zoology, via maps, math, management, martial arts, media studies, medicine, mountains, moons, music, multimedia, mythology. Access full text of hundreds of highly regarded and popular titles. Credo uses the web to add another dimension to reference books. Not only does our powerful search look through your collection of books in seconds, but our unique network of cross-references connect relevant information across the whole library.
  • Ebook Central: a searchable collection of thousands of online full-text books and other materials that spans all academic subject areas, including health, biomedical and clinical sciences, and social and behavioral sciences.
  • Oxford Reference Online Medicine subset searches Oxford Companion to the Body; Dictionary of Food and Nutrition; Concise Medical Dictionary; A-Z of Medicinal Drugs; Oxford Companion to Medicine; Dictionary of Nursing; Dictionary of Psychology; Dictionary of Public Health; Dictionary of Sports Science & Medicine.
  • Reference Universe: a vast, cumulative index with over 15 million citations to over 10,000 specialized encyclopedias, compendia and handbooks.
  • Gale Virtual Reference Library: a database of encyclopedias and specialized reference sources for multidisciplinary research. SCROLL to view publications in medicine, including the Gale Encyclopedia of Public Health, Encyclopedia of Pain, Encyclopedia of Cancer, Encyclopedia of Nursing & Allied Health, Encyclopedia of Medicine, Encyclopedia of Public Health, Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, and MORE.
  • Google Books: search the full text of some seven million books through Google Books. Browse by subject, search by keyword, use advanced search features, OR: search for words within an individual book, browse the contents or index, like this one below:

You can find additional materials by searching the library catalog BobCat by subject under the appropriate Library of Congress Subject Heading. The following terms can be used in searching for the history of disease:


Medicine -- History
Disease -- History
Medical geography

More specific keywords or subject terms may also be searched:


AIDS (Disease)

Some of the subdivisions listed under these subject headings include:

Heading Subheading Example
Health care reform 

--Economic Aspects

Health care reform -- Economic aspects



--Law & legislation

Abortion--law and legislation

--Moral & ethical aspects

Biotechnology--Moral & ethical aspects

--Government policy

Influenza--Government policy

--United States--History--20th century

Poliomyelitis--United States--History--20th century



Diabetes -- Complications
Bellevue Hospital, Training School for Nurses


Bellevue Hospital, Training School for Nurses -- History

(geographic areas can also be specified, such as Great Britain)

Tuberculosis--Great Britain

U.S. National Library of Medicine


U.S. National Library of Medicine Links:               

  • NLM History of Medicine Home Page:  Collects, preserves, and makes available to researchers and the public, print and non-print materials that document the history of medicine, health, and disease in all time periods and cultures.
  • NLM Historical Books and Journals  More than 600,000 printed works includes pre-1914 books and serials, thousands of pamphlets and dissertations, and pre-1871 journals.  Material in the collection covers every area of the history of medicine and the health sciences in the United States and Europe, and substantial collections of Latin American and Asian publications.
  • IndexCat, the online version of the Index-Catalogue of the Library of the Surgeon-General's Office, U.S. Army (61 volumes in 5 series, 1880-1961), is a comprehensive subject catalog of books, pamphlets, dissertations, reports, and journal articles published from the 17th-20th century and held by NLM. Researchers will find material in IndexCat that is not in the Library catalog (LocatorPlus)
  • Prints and Photographs   The Prints and Photographs Collection contains approximately 100,000 images dating from the 15th to the 21st century (including the online image database)
  • NLM Digital Collections free online repository of biomedical resources including books, still images, videos, and maps. 
  • More NLM Online Catalogs
  • Directory of History of Medicine Collections (U.S. and other countries)

Other Online Catalogs