Syllabus: Eghigian,”History of Madness and Psychiatry in the Western World”

This is another installment in our series on university and college courses dealing with the history of madness, mental illness, and psychiatry.

Greg Eghigian is co-editor of H-Madness and Director of the Science, Technology, and Society Program (on leave 2010-11) and Associate Professor of Modern History and Science, Technology, and Society at Penn State University (USA).  He writes and teaches on the history of madness, mental illness, and mental health in the western world.  He is the co-editor and author of numerous books, most recently From Madness to Mental Health;  Psychiatric Disorder and its Treatment in Western Civilization (Rutgers University Press, 2010).

The course I teach is one I designed from “scratch,” so to speak.   By that, I mean that there was no such course on the books at my university when I first started out.  So, I needed to build the course from the ground up.

From the start, I was faced with choices.  What time period should the course cover?  What geographical region or regions?  Would the focus be on medicine and psychiatry, or would it integrate broader social and cultural aspects?  Should the course be for advanced students majoring in history, or should it target non-history majors?

I decided pretty quickly, however, that the course should be an introductory level and one that would attract students from across the university.  It’s important,  I think, that students think about history as more than just the story of kings, queens, wars, political developments, and social movements.  These are all important matters, to be sure, but thematic dimensions of human history can also provide an important window into how and why the world has come to appear the way it does.  But beyond this, I was (and remain) less interested in the prospect of luring history majors to the course than bringing in students majoring in psychology, pre-med, life and health sciences, and the social sciences.  One of my chief purposes, then, is to get future clinicians, caretakers, researchers, and policy makers to consider what an historical perspective might say about the choices made and not made along the way in the development of social and medical thinking about and responses to madness.  This is accomplished institutionally, at least, by ensuring that the course satisfies the “general humanities” requirement that students in non-humanities fields must meet.

Thus, I designed and teach the course as an introduction to the long history of (ancient times to the present) of madness and mental health.  There are restrictions and limitations, however.  I focus exclusively on the “western” world, meaning Europe (including Russia and Great Britain), European colonies, and the United States.  I try to be sensitive to non-western perspectives and global change, but, alas, there is only so much I know and can present.  In the ancient and medieval periods, I make a point of discussing the roles of Judaism, paganism, Christianity, and Islam, but the course has an increasingly secular focus as we move into the modern period.  Developments since the 18th century are the main focus of the course, due, in part, to my own interests, but also due to the fact that I believe students are eager to learn about the 19th and 20th centuries.

The course in its present form is relatively large, ranging in recent years from 140 to 220 students.   At Penn State, this means that the course has a fixed structure: two large lectures a week, combined with smaller discussion sections taught by graduate teaching assistants every Friday.   My lectures are fairly straightforward PowerPoint presentations, punctuated by films now and again.  The focus of the Friday sections is on primary sources.  The graduate TAs and I meet once a week to analyze and talk about the week’s primary sources, flagging the main themes to be addressed on Friday.

Originally, when I taught the course, the primary sources were provided to the students in the form of a photocopied reader.  The course, however, inspired me to “take the plunge” and edit a primary source reader, now being published by Rutgers University Press (thanks to former TA Deirdre Fulton for lighting a fire under me).

Something I later integrated into the book I’ve edited is the periodization of the course. I break the course down thematically as well as chronologically.  The longest period I call the Pneumatic Age (from ancient times to the 18th century) – from the ancient Greek concept of “pneuma” – when madness was seen and treated as both a spiritual and somatic affliction.  The second period, running from the second half of the eighteenth through the 19th century, I deem the Age of Optimism.  Here, the emphasis is on institutional and treatment reforms as well as the growing importance of academic science and research.   The third period – from around 1914 to the 1970s – I refer to as the Militant Age, a period when heroic medicine and radical projects came to dominate psychiatric work.  Finally, a period from around the middle of the 20th century to the present I refer to as the Psychoboom.  This is a time when a wide array of psychotherapies entered the marketplace, coupled with a precipitous rise in the number of mental health professionals.

Without question, there are advantages and disadvantages to covering such a lengthy period of time.  It is difficult to give the most recent developments the time they deserve: student (and instructor) fatigue sets in at the same time that one begins to take on the contemporary period.  And, of course, it is pretty much impossible to delve into any one issue in detail.  In the end, however, I believe much more is gained by spending considerable time on the pre-modern.  By taking students out of the comfort zone of modernity and encouraging them to see the world through ancient, medieval, and early modern eyes, it is perhaps a little easier to think about the present in novel ways.

New Issue of NTM Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Wissenschaften, Technik und Medizin

The August issue of NTM Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Wissenschaften, Technik und Medizin is available online. It presents, among other things, a piece by Lea Haller entitled Stress, Cortison und Homöostase. The abstract reads:

This article investigates the emergence of the concept of stress in the 1930s and outlines its changing disciplinary and conceptual frames up until 1960. Originally stress was a physiological concept applied to the hormonal regulation of the body under stressful conditions. Correlated closely with chemical research into corticosteroids for more than a decade, the stress concept finally became a topic in cognitive psychology. One reason for this shift of the concept to another discipline was the fact that the hormones previously linked to the stress concept were successfully transferred from laboratory to medical practice and adopted by disciplines such as rheumatology and dermatology. Thus the stress concept was dissociated from its hormonal context and became a handy formula that allowed postindustrial society to conceive of stress as a matter of individual concern. From a physiological phenomenon stress turned into an object of psychological discourse and individual coping strategies.

Syllabus: Killen, “Madness and Modern Civilization”

This is another installment in our series on university and college courses dealing with the history of madness, mental illness, and psychiatry.

Andreas Killen is co-editor of H-Madness and Associate Professor of History at the City College of New York and the CUNY Graduate Center. He has held fellowships at the UCLA Humanities Consortium and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. Among his publications are Berlin Electropolis: Shock, Nerves, and German Modernity (University of California Press 2006) and a special volume of Osiris that he co-edited on the history of the human sciences. Currently he is working on a book about the relation between film and the human sciences in early 20th century Germany.

Announcement: Bauer, A Mind Apart

CFP: British Psychological Society Annual Conference 2011

British Psychological Society, History & Philosophy of Psychology Section

Annual Conference 2011

19th-21st April

Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford


The British Psychological Society’s History & Philosophy of Psychology Section invites submissions for its 2011 Annual Conference to be held at Lady Margaret Hall at the University of Oxford (

We invite proposals for individual papers or symposia in any area dealing with conceptual and historical issues in psychology, broadly defined.

The conference’s Keynote Speakers will be Professor Graham Richards (Section Founder Member) and Professor Dan Robinson, University of Oxford (

The conference is open to independent and professional scholars in all relevant fields, not just Section or British Psychological Society members. A limited number of bursaries will be available to students who have had their paper accepted for presentation.

Presentations will be limited to 25 minutes. For individual papers, abstracts should be up to 200 words. For symposia, the submission should include details of the convenor, the speakers, the theme and abstracts of the contributing papers.

All submissions should be sent via email to Dr Geoff Bunn: The deadline for submissions is MONDAY 13th DECEMBER 2010.

Further information will be posted on the Section’s website in due course:

We look forward to meeting friends old and new in Oxford in April.

Dr Geoff Bunn

Senior Lecturer

Chair, BPS

History & Philosophy of Psychology Section


Manchester Metropolitan University

Elizabeth Gaskell Campus

Hathersage Road

Manchester M13 0JA

0161 247 2587

email disclaimer:

Colloquium: Les sciences de l’homme à l’âge du neurone

The EHESS (Paris) will be hosting in October a three-day colloquium entitled « Les sciences de l’homme à l’âge du neurone ». Here is a brief overview of the program :

“Les sciences de l’homme à l’âge du neurone”, 13-15 octobre 2010, organisé par Alain Ehrenberg dans le cadre du programme ANR PHS2M (Philosophie, Histoire et Sociologie de la Médecine Mentale), en partenariat avec le Centre Alexandre Koyré.

NEUROECONOMIE, neurosociologie, neuroanthropologie, neuropsychanalyse,… : à voir les publications récentes, il semblerait que les sciences de l’homme et de la société entrent dans l’âge du neurone. Sous l’impulsion, entre autres, de développements technologiques comme l’imagerie cérébrale fonctionnelle, les promoteurs des neurosciences ont réactualisé le projet d’une science de la vie mentale qui donnerait les clés des représentations et des comportements sociaux. Cartographier le substrat cérébral de la société et ainsi expliquer le fonctionnement de cette dernière, voilà l’ambition affichée. Régulièrement critiquées pour leur immaturité scientifique, les sciences de l’homme et de la société trouveraient ainsi dans les progrès des neurosciences cognitives de quoi garantir la légitimité de leurs fondements épistémologiques. L’extension de ce programme scientifique explique sans doute qu’il rencontre un grand écho au sein des institutions de la recherche mondiale. Ce colloque se propose de prendre les neurosciences sociales et leur essor comme objet de réflexion. Nous aborderons successivement trois volets de la question : on tentera tout d’abord de reconstituer l’émergence et l’extension de ce nouveau programme scientifique, puis de suivre les neurosciences sociales à l’oeuvre avant de s’interroger sur les usages de l’opposition nature/culture en leur sein.



13 Octobre, Amphithéâtre François Furet

MATINEE (9H‐13H) :

Jean‐Michel FORTIS (CNRS, HTL) : L’émergence de la linguistique cognitive.

Bruno AMBROISE (CNRS, CURAPP‐ESS) : Le tournant cognitif en pragmatique.

Francis AFFERGAN (Université Paris‐Descartes) : Terrain d’enquête ou boîte noire ? Le dilemme du prisonnier.

Wolf FEUERHAHN (CNRS, Centre Alexandre‐Koyré) : Un tournant neurocognitiviste en phénoménologie ? Sur l’acclimatation des neurosciences dans le paysage français des sciences humaines.

APRESMIDI (14H30‐18H) :

Frédéric LEBARON (Université de Picardie, CURAPP) : Sciences économiques et sciences cognitives : quelques remarques sur les fondements sociaux d’une convergence intellectuelle.

Emmanuel MONNEAU (Université de Picardie, CURAPP) : Le traitement de la neuroéconomie dans quelques revues académiques françaises de sciences économiques.

Rafael MANDRESSI (CNRS, Centre Alexandre‐Koyré) : De l’usage du neurocognitivisme en histoire.

Sébastien LEMERLE (Université Paris Ouest) : Une nouvelle lisibilité du monde : les usages des neurosciences par les intermédiaires culturels en France (1970‐2000).

14 Octobre, salles 7‐8

MATINEE (9H30‐12H30) :

Régine PLAS (Université Paris‐Descartes, CeRMeS3) : L’introduction de la neuro‐imagerie fonctionnelle en psychologie cognitive en France, quels enjeux ?

Jean‐Christophe COFFIN (Université Paris‐Descartes, Centre Alexandre‐Koyré) : Les neurosciences vues d’en bas. Ethique de la réception d’un programme scientifique par la « psychiatrie des champs ».

Fernando VIDAL (Max‐Planck‐Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte) : La neuroesthétique, ou comment se débarrasser de l’art.


14 Octobre, salles 7‐8

APRESMIDI (14H30‐17H) :

Julien JUPILLE (CeRMeS3) : La prise en charge de l’hyperactivité de l’enfant dans un service hospitalo‐universitaire à l’orientation cognitive.

Baptiste MOUTAUD (CeRMeS3) : Troubles moteurs et troubles mentaux : la deep brain stimulation face aux troubles obsessionnels compulsifs.

Camillo VENTURI (CeRMeS3) : La remédiation cognitive dans la prise en charge de personnes atteintes de schizophrénie.


15 Octobre, salles 7‐8

MATINEE (9H30‐12H30) :

Denis FOREST (Université Lyon 3, IHPST) : Naissance et renaissance du cerveau social/The birth and rebirth of the social brain

Albert OGIEN (CNRS, CEMS) : Normativité sociale et normativité neuronale : les neurones miroirs et les limites de l’explication cognitive. / Social normativity versus neuronal normativity. Mirror neurons and the limits of cognitive explanation.

Tim THORNTON (University of Central Lancashire) : Explanation vs understanding in Psychiatry/Explication contre interprétation en psychiatrie


Pierre‐Henri CASTEL (CNRS, CeRMeS3) : Le “cerveau” de la psychopathologie cognitive

et évolutionniste/The “brain” of cognitive evolutionary psychopathology

Alain EHRENBERG (CNRS, CeRMeS3) : Neurosciences sociales : de nouveaux jeux de langage pour de vielles questions ? / Social neuroscience : new language games for old issues?

For the detailed program, click here (pdf).

Syllabus: Hayward, “Madness and Medicine in Modern Britain”

This is another installment in our series on university and college courses dealing with the history of madness, mental illness, and psychiatry.

Rhodri Hayward is Wellcome Award Lecturer in the History of Medicine at Queen Mary, University of London, where he works closely with the Centre for the History of the Emotions. His current research examines the rise and political implications of psychiatric epidemiology in modern Britain.  He has published on a wide variety of subjects including the history of dreams, Pentecostalism, demonology, cybernetics and the relations between psychiatry and primary care. His book, Resisting History: Popular Religion and the Invention of the Unconscious was published by Manchester University Press in 2007. He has recently completed a second book, Self Cures, on the relationship between psychology and medicine in modern Britain.

‘Madness and Medicine in Modern Britain’ was first developed as a masters course at the University of East Anglia, where it proved popular among creative writing students in search of fresh material. Over the last few years it has been taught as a second or third year undergraduate option to history students and is usually oversubscribed.  At first glance the course appears rather parochial. It offers a linear narrative history of psychiatry in Britain from the building of the first state-sponsored asylums through to their closure under the Tory governments of the 1980s.  However within this narrative strong emphasis is placed on the legal origins of psychiatric categories, the changing bases and rationalisations of medico-psychological practice and the implications that these changes carry for the understanding of selfhood and interpersonal relationships.

In my experience the narrative format works very well.  Although it runs the risk of reifying certain medical developments it does bring out the contingency of psychiatric ideas and students are well able to understand the social and political factors that contribute to classifications, treatments and theories.  An ongoing disappointment is that where once students turned to these seminars for political insight, they are now more likely to treat classes as a kind of therapeutic forum in which they use historical materials to reflect upon their personal problems.  I once hoped that this course would help them see their problems, are in the last analysis, political.  I am no longer convinced that this will happen.

%d bloggers like this: