New Issue of History of Psychiatry

The September 2010 issue of History of Psychiatry is available online and contains seven articles. Titles, authors and abstracts are listed below.

From stack-firing to pyromania: medico-legal concepts of insane arson in British, Us and European contexts, c.1800-1913. Part 1 by Jonathan Andrews (Newcastle University)

This article surveys evolving and competing medico-legal concepts of pyromania and insane arson. Exploiting evidence from medical jurisprudence, medico-legal publications, medical lexicography and case histories, it seeks to explicate the key positions in contemporary professional debates concerning arson and mental derangement. A major focus is the application of the doctrines of moral and partial insanity, monomania, instinctive insanity and irresistible impulse to understandings of pyromania and insane arson. The limited extent to which mental defect provided a satisfactory diagnosis and exculpatory plea for morbid arson is also explored. Additionally, this article compares and contrasts contemporary debates about other special manias, especially kleptomania. Part 2 will be published in the next issue, History of Psychiatry 21(4).

Illness of the will in ‘pre-psychiatric’ times by Kathleen Haack (University of Rostock, Germany), Ekkehardt Kumbier (University of Rostock, Germany) and Sabine C Herpertz (University of Heidelberg, Germany)

Since its emergence as a medical discipline in its own right, i.e. since the end of the eighteenth century, disorders of the will have constituted a major area of interest for psychiatrists. But even before then, in ‘pre-psychiatric’ times so to speak, there were occasional descriptions of illnesses of the will or, in the nomenclature used at the time, ‘ambiguous emotional states of minds’. This study presents some very early attempts to tackle and explain the problems of amentia occulta, manie sans délire and monomania in German literature, concentrating on works written from a medical and philosophical perspective. Beginning with the differentiation between will and reason, this study explores some concepts in which the will was perceived as a possible cause of mental illness and thus became a topic of medical interest.

The face of madness in Romania: the origin of psychiatric photography in Eastern Europe by Octavian Buda (‘Carol Davila’ University / ‘Mina Minovici’ National Institute of Legal Medicine, Bucharest)

In 1870 the Romanian physician Nicolae G. Chernbach published a photographic atlas of the main types of mental alienation, a collection of twelve plates depicting mentally ill patients from the Marcutza Asylum in Bucharest. Each photograph included a diagnosis based on the clinical nosography and theories of the physiognomy of insanity acknowledged during the period. The publication of the atlas — just a few years after Hugh W. Diamond’s initial use of photography for this purpose in Britain in the 1850s — means that the photographs were not only the first taken in Romania, but among the first photographs of the mentally ill. This study provides an insight into the origins of modern clinical psychiatry and medical advances in Romania, and the contemporary personalities in Romanian and Eastern European medicine.

From psyche to soma? Changing accounts of antisocial personality disorders in the American Journal of Psychiatry by Martyn Pickersgill (University of Edinburgh)

The history of psychiatry is often portrayed through the metaphor of a pendulum, the profession swinging back and forth between a concern with psyche and soma. Recent work critiquing the pendulum metaphor, however, suggests that it does not account for the complexity of psychiatry.This article explores the metaphor through an analysis of the changing aetiological accounts of personality disorders associated with antisocial behaviour advanced in the American Journal of Psychiatry from 1950 onwards. It is argued that the social, scientific and economic factors which help shape overarching professional trends in psychiatry only partly structure personality disorder discourse. If the pendulum swings, therefore, not all psychiatrists move with it.

Psychiatry in Britain, c. 1900 by Hugh Freeman (University of Oxford)

At this period, British psychiatrists practised in a climate of opinion that was deeply pessimistic, influenced by the views of Henry Maudsley and by the accumulation in asylums of incurable patients. The inflexible Lunacy Act of 1890 tended to encourage chronicity. The terminology both of mental illness and of the doctors who dealt with it was uncertain. Management of these disorders was intimately involved with the operation of the Poor Law. Neurology, on the other hand, carried high prestige and advanced clinically; many patients with neurotic disorders came under the care of neurologists. Postgraduate education and training in psychiatry was practically non-existent, as was academic psychiatry, in contrast notably to Germany, though there was a small professional organization.

The reception of Eugen Bleuler in British psychiatry, 1892-1954 by Thomas Dalzell (St Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin)

This article draws on over 60 years of British medical journals and psychiatry textbooks to indicate the chronological stages of the reception of Eugen Bleuler in British psychiatry. Bleuler was already well known in Britain before his schizophrenia book appeared, with the journals containing numerous references, mainly positive, to his work. The psychiatry textbooks, however, were slower to integrate his contribution. This paper argues that this was not due to Bleuler’s placing Freud on a par with Kraepelin, but because of the early negative reaction to Kraepelin’s dementia praecox concept, despite Bleuler’s wider and less ominous conception of the illness.

Classic Text No. 83: ‘On Uprootedness’ by Emil Kraepelin (1921) by Eric J Engstrom (Humboldt University, Berlin) and Matthias M Weber (Max-Planck-Institute for Psychiatry, Munich)

Penned at the height of the debate on national regeneration in Germany after World War I, Emil Kraepelin’s study On Uprootedness sets out his views on social psychiatry. More than just a response to critics of his nosology, On Uprootedness outlines a larger political agenda of social governance and ‘inner colonization’. This introduction places Kraepelin’s understanding of social psychiatry in the broader context of social reform debates in the early Weimar Republic.

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