Archive for May, 2011

New issue: PSN

A new issue of Psychiatrie, Sciences humaines, neurosciences (PSN) is out and includes articles on contemporary issues such as mechanisms of defence in today’s clinic (A. Braconnier), an interview with John S. Strauss, Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at Yale, a piece on the question of “scientificity” in psychoanalysis (V. Aucouturier) and a book review of Quétel’s Images de la folie (T. Haustgen).

It also includes an historically-oriented article entitled “L’essor des sciences du neurone au XXe siècle” (J-G Barbara). The abstract reads:

À la fin du xix e siècle, l’introduction du concept de neurone dans les différents champs scientifiques a suscité de vives réactions, particulièrement au sein de la physiologie du système nerveux. Au Royaume-Uni, l’hostilité commune pour concevoir le neurone comme un élément fonctionnel physiologique fondamental a cédé la place à différents programmes de recherche (Sherrington et Adrian) qui aboutissent à une même physiologie neuronale récompensée par le prix Nobel de physiologie ou de médecine de 1932. Cette première neuro-physiologie se répand à l’étranger et entre en conflit avec l’école américaine sur la question du rôle fonctionnel du corps neuronique par opposition au rôle hypothétiquement plus fondamental de son axone. Les décennies 1930–1940 sont marquées par une série de polémiques qui se résolvent progressivement en établissant les bases fondamentales d’une nouvelle physiologie du neurone internationale qui aboutira après la Seconde Guerre mondiale à l’essor des neurosciences.

In the late 19th century, the introduction of the neurone concept led to vivid oppositions in many fields of enquiry, especially in the physiology of the nervous system. In Great Britain, novel research programs (Sherrington and Adrian) supplanted the general common hostility to conceive of the neurone as a general and fundamental physiological element. These new paths of research led to a unique neuronal physiology awarded the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine in 1932. This first form of neuro-physiology spread abroad and came under the attack of American physiologists concerning the functional role of the neurone soma vs the more fundamental and hypothetical function of the axon. During the 1930s and the 1940s, a series of polemics progressively died out with the establishment of the fundamental bases of a new and international neuronal physiology, which led to the rise of neuroscience after the Second World War.

More information can be found here.

New issue: History of Psychiatry

hist psychiatry

The June 2011 issue of History of Psychiatry is now available online. Titles and abstracts below:

Writing the history of psychiatry in the 20th century (Volker Hess and Benoît Majerus)

As editors of the special issue, we try to summarize here the historiographic trends of the field. We argue that the field of research is accommodating the diversity of the institutional, social and political developments. But there is no narrative in sight which can explain the psychiatry of the 20th century, comparable to the authoritative coherence achieved for the 19th century. In contrast, the efforts to extend these narratives to the 20th century are largely missing the most impressive transformation of psychiatric treatment — and self-definition.

‘Therapeutic community’, psychiatry’s reformers and antipsychiatrists: reconsidering changes in the field of psychiatry after World War II (Catherine Fussinger)

In addition to outlining some core characteristics of the therapeutic community — an approach developed during World War II — this article describes the achievements of reformist psychiatrists in the field of the therapeutic community during the 1950s and also discusses the appropriation of this model by the antipsychiatrists during the 1960s. By emphasizing the proximity of their respective contributions, rather than their generally accepted radical differences, this article is an invitation to renew the way historians consider the dynamics of change in psychiatry after WWII.

Reforming psychiatric institutions in the mid-twentieth century: a framework for analysis (Nicolas Henckes)

This article develops an analytical framework of processes of institutional reform in psychiatry in Western countries during the last century. It discusses explanations of social change based on deinstitutionalization and proposes instead to put reform practices themselves at the centre of the analysis. Thus, central to this framework is the historicity of the idea of reform itself. Taking the case of France as an example, the article shows how the diffusion of a reformist ethos within psychiatry in the post-World War II period can be accounted for by a change in medical expertise during the first half of the century. It concludes with a discussion of the changing relationship between psychiatrists and the State in the twentieth century.

Terra incognita : an historiographic approach to the first chlorpromazine trials using patient records of the Psychiatric University Clinic in Heidelberg (Viola Balz)

Psychiatrists have often referred to the discovery of new psychopharmaceutical drugs in the 1950s as a ‘therapeutic revolution’, which allowed physicians to observe und measure therapeutic effectiveness easily. Contrary to this view, this article will argue that psychiatrists needed the patient’s subjective voice to evaluate the effects of the drugs. In a micro-analysis of hospital records of the first patient to be treated with chlorpromazine in the Heidelberg clinic in 1953, I show the different perspectives of doctors and patients on the diagnosis and treatment. The analysis points up how difficult it was to get an impression of the drug’s effectiveness. The article emphasizes the importance of the new perspective that includes the patient’s voice in the history of psychotropic drugs after 1945.

Deinstitutionalizing the history of contemporary psychiatry (Greg Eghigian)

While contemporary mental health services have been marked by the burgeoning of outpatient and preventive care, the historiography of psychiatry remains largely tied to the study of custodial and palliative treatment. The work in which contemporary psychiatry has been involved cannot be adequately understood as a singular, autonomous enterprise based in a residential facility. It has become a technoscience that operates in numerous settings and alongside multiple sciences, technologies and decision-makers. This paper explores what it might mean to ‘deinstitutionalize’ the history of contemporary psychiatry by examining the case of social therapy for sex offenders in West Germany.

‘In good times and in bad’: boundary relations of psychoanalysis in post-war USA (José Brunner and Orna Ophir)

This paper suggests writing the history of psychoanalysis by focusing on the manifold ways in which its practitioners may relate to the boundaries dividing it from its neighbouring professions. This approach is illustrated by two loosely interrelated examples: the 1950s debate among leading US psychoanalysts on whether borderline patients can be analysed, and the 1990s responses of psychoanalysts to psychopharmacological treatments of schizophrenia. A close reading of psychoanalysts’ journal publications reveals in each instance multiplicity (of voices), instability (of boundaries), duality (of defence and dialogue) and simultaneity (of internal and external addressees). At the same time, a common rhetorical stance emerged in each period, serving as a shared discursive frame while allowing a plurality of boundary relations.

The Rodewisch (1963) and Brandenburg (1974) propositions (Volker Hess)

The Classic Text presents two documents of the development of modern social psychiatry. Both show the early beginnings of the reform movement in the GDR — in contrast to the FRG where the reform did not take place until the late 1970s. Adopted in 1963, the Rodewisch propositions formulate for the first time the central issues of the German reform debate in psychiatry. The Brandenburg propositions (1974) document how the reform movement was shifting from a political to a more individual perspective in the GDR.

More information, as well as a complete table of contents including book reviews, can be found here.

Symposium: Biography and its Place in the History of Psychology and Psychiatry (UCL)


University College London’s Centre for the History of Medicine is hosting a one-day symposium on Friday, 10 June 2011:

This one-day symposium will open up discussion about all aspects of the place of biography in the history of psychology and psychiatry. The main themes of the day will include questions such as:

  • Do biographical studies occupy a special or privileged position within the historiography of these human sciences?
  • What is biography? What kinds of questions can biographies hope to answer? And where should biographers not venture?
  • How historically have psychologists and psychiatrists themselves used individual patient ‘biographies’ to construct and legitimise their theories?
  • Can biography, as an immensely popular format, offer a vehicle for introducing more complex historical analysis to the general public?

Academic speakers will include:

  • Professor Daniel Todes (John Hopkins University)
    ‘Ivan Pavlov: “Objective” science as autobiography’
  • Dr Mathew Thomson (Warwick University)
    ‘Narrating the life of David Eder, Britain’s first psychoanalyst: reflections on the Biographical in the History of Psy’
  • Dr Roderick Buchanan (University of Melbourne)
    ‘Confessions of the reluctant biographer: Legacies and tensions of the biographical approach in the history of psychology’
  • Mr James Good (Durham University)
    ‘Title TBC’
  • Dr Peter Hegarty (University of Surrey)
    ‘From ideal husbands to inadequate wives: Gerrymandering marital happiness with the man who made IQ’
  • Ms Sarah Chaney (UCL)
    ‘”Hallucinations do not affect his will”: Nineteenth Century Asylum Case Histories and the Psychiatric Method’
  • Ms Corina Palasan (UCL)
    ‘Criminals’ stories. Use of biographical data in juvenile delinquency research at the Institute of Experimental and Applied Psychology, Cluj University, Romania, 1920-1940.’

The event will culminate in a panel-led discussion about the publishing and public engagement issues surrounding biographical approaches to the History of Science and Medicine. Panel guests will include Mark Pollard from the publishing house Pickering and Chatto.

Entry is free and all are welcome to attend. However, places are limited, so those who are interested should contact Emma Sutton, in advance, at to reserve a place.

Bill Bynum on Roy Porter

To mark the 75th anniversary of the death of Henry Wellcome, the Wellcome Trust, is  publishing a series of features on people who have been significant in the Trust’s history. Medical historian Bill Bynum looks at his former colleague Roy Porter, who was for years a linchpin of the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine and who played in important role in the history of psychiatry.

“De l’histoire de la psychiatrie au surréalisme” – Vente publique de la bibliothèque Julien Bogousslavsky

Paris Vente publique 
16 juin 2011 à 14 h

De l’aliénisme et la neuropsychiatrie au surréalisme

De la bibliothèque Julien Bogousslavsky et à divers amateurs

Cette bibliothèque, rassemblée par un grand neurologue depuis une vingtaine d’années, fin connaisseur de l’histoire de sa discipline, est un ensemble unique que l’on pourrait très difficilement reconstituer. 

Il est axé sur les débuts de la psychologie dynamique moderne. Toute l’histoire de la psychiatrie y est présente, de Pinel et Esquirol à Clérambault et Lacan, dans des documents très rares. Elle croise l’Age d’or de la neurologie moderne qui prend naissance avec Charcot dont toute l’école est ici rassemblée : Babinski, Déjerine, Pierre Marie. Enfin, du creuset de la Salpêtrière, nous suivons et remontons la trace de trois autres fleuves : celui de la psychanalyse, un ensemble unique de publications originales de Freud est ici proposé, nombreuses comportent des envois autographes ; celui de la psychologie, avec les  travaux importants de l’école de Pierre Janet, ainsi que de nombreux ouvrages provenant de sa bibliothèque ; enfin la naissance de la psychiatrie française moderne qui s’est difficilement séparée de la neurologie. 

D’autres approches plus transversales sont également présentes, l’art et la folie, avec les premiers ouvrages de Prinzhorn, Morgenthaler, Vinchon et Rogues de Fursac. Et last but not least, quelques météorites inclassables : L’Enfant Sauvage d’Itard dédicacé à Madame Récamier ; L’introduction à la Médecine Expérimentale de Claude Bernard signé lui aussi, et la clef des songes d’Hervey de Saint-Denis. 

Ce dernier ouvrage nous ouvre l’inévitable échappée vers les surréalistes.  Tous se sont intéressés à la médecine mentale, par intérêt, pour la décrier, ou par nécessité, comme patients. André Breton, Salvador Dali, André Masson, Yves Tanguy sont remarquablement représentés ici. Malgré les rejets et attirances réciproques – un  « Je t’aime moi non plus », vraisemblablement emprunté à Salvador Dali – les psychanalystes, psychiatres et surréalistes sont ici mêlés et proposés dans une juste association de savoir, de talent, voire de génie.


Exposition mercredi 15 juin 2011 de 11 h à 18 h et jeudi 16 juin 2011 de 11 h à 12 h 

Paris, Hôtel Drouot, salle 8

Et à l’Espace Berggruen, sur rendez-vous, de 14 h à 18 h, du mardi 7 au vendredi 10 juin 2011

9 rue Duras – 75 008 Paris Tel : 01 40 06 06 08 – Fax : 01 42 66 14 92>

Espace Berggruen 68-70 rue de l’Université – 75007 Paris Tel : 01 42 22 12 51 – Fax : 01 42 22 14 44 Mobile : 06 03 13 07 68

From Kirchner till this day – artist reaction of the Prinzhorn Collection

In 2001, the Museum Prinzhorn Collection opened in a refurbished lecture building. It celebrates its 10th anniversary with an extensive exhibition on the resonance of its collection, in which several Heidelberg institutions participate. With works by more than 60 artists, it shows the differences in the critical responses to the famous collection, from Prinzhorn’s time until the present.
In the Prinzhorn Collection Museum, works from the historic fund are mainly juxtaposed with works by more senior artists. The Expressionists Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Alfred Kubin are represented, as well as Paul Klee and the Surrealist Max Ernst. The post 1945 response is shown in works by more contemporary ‘classic’ figures like Richard Lindner, Georg Baselitz, Walter Stöhrer, Arnulf Rainer, Wolfgang Petrick, Emil Siemeister, and Edgar Schmandt, but also by younger artists like Lisa Niederreiter and Jennifer Gilbert. The cabinets contain different responses to textile works like the little jacket by Agnes Richter and to the iconic drawings of August Natterer. The foyer and reading area of the City Library is taken over by a Peter Riek installation; the DAI exhibition space shows unexpected views on and into the museum by the photographer Jochen Steinmetz. The Museum Haus Cajeth sees an encounter of several draughtsmen and women: Jörg Ahrnt, Julia Kuhl, Stefan Lausch, and Dorothee Rocke. And the Forum für Kunst brings together the responses of 27 artists of the BBK.
Thus the exhibition gives an overview of art in the 20th and 21st century from an eccentric but revealing perspective.

For more information, click here.

Two recent articles

The UC Davis Disability Studies blog contains a list of recently-published historical articles dealing with disability (broadly defined). This month, the authors have included the following two articles of interest to historians of psychiatry:

Reaume, Geoffrey. “Psychiatric Patient Built Wall Tours at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Toronto, 2000-2010,”  Left History 15(1)(Fall-Winter 2010-2011), 129-148. The article begins thus:

The purpose of the wall tours described in this article is to remember the men and women asylum patients who built, lived, worked and died behind the last remaining structures that still exist on the grounds of the former Asylum for the Insane, Toronto. The tours first started with a conversation. In spring 2000, Heinz Klein, one of the organizers for the Psychiatric Survivor Pride Week events, and an activist whom I have known since 1993, asked me to give a talk about the history of people who lived in the Toronto Asylum for the upcoming annual event organized to celebrate the contributions of psychiatric survivors/consumers in our community. I was skeptical and said a lot of people had recently seen a play based on my research which did a better job than I could of speaking about patients’ lives. Heinz then suggested I could give a talk outside by the 19th century patient built wall at the present day Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), not far from where the play had been performed in April, 2000. As we continued to talk the idea of a wall tour came up, though I can’t remember who suggested it first. Instead of a stationary talk by the wall, the idea was to give talks all along the wall about patients’ lives where they lived. The wall would be the central site of multiple talks woven together by the common theme of describing a history of patients’ life and labour on this site. And so began the wall tours with the first one held on July 14, 2000, Mad Pride Day as it is now called. To my amazement and delight, about fifty people showed up for the first wall tour, a harbinger of things to come in the following years.

The full article can be accessed at

Stebbings, Chantal. “An Effective Model of Institutional Taxation: Lunatic Asylums in Nineteenth-Century England,” Journal of Legal History 32(1)(2011): 31-59. The abstract reads:

The compulsory establishment of large public lunatic asylums under Act of parliament in the nineteenth century to address the enormous increase in the number of the insane raised legal and practical challenges in relation to their status within the law of tax. As a result of their therapeutic and custodial objectives, these novel institutions required extensive landed property and very specific systems of governance, the fiscal consequences of which potentially undermined those very objectives. This article examines and analyses the nature and legal process of the application of the tax regime to these asylums, concluding that it constituted a rare and effective model of institutional taxation.

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