New issue: History of Psychiatry

A new issue of History of Psychiatry is now available online and contains the following articles:

“Alexandre Brierre de Boismont and the origins of the Spanish psychiatric profession” (Enric J Novella and Rafael Huertas)

This article examines the influence of the French alienist Alexandre Brierre de Boismont in the first development of the Spanish psychiatric profession during the third quarter of the 19th century. As an outstanding figure of French psychological medicine, Brierre enjoyed great scientific prestige among Spanish doctors, but he also took an active part in promoting and legitimizing the cause of alienism in Spain. For instance, he was involved in projects for the reform or creation of new mental hospitals, supported the admission of some Spanish colleagues into the Société Médico-Psychologique and made a decisive contribution to the social recognition of the professional and medico-legal expertise of alienists in Spain. His case is thus an excellent example of the important role played by international relations and the scientific and professional networks of European alienism in spreading the discourses and practices of the emerging psychological medicine.

“The peculiarities of the Scots? Scottish influences on the development of English psychiatry, 1700–1980” (Andrew Scull)

This paper examines the multiple influences Scottish psychiatrists have exercised over the shape of English responses to mental illness during nearly three centuries, beginning with George Cheyne and ending with R.D. Laing. Scotland’s distinctive response to mental illness was largely ignored until recently, as though it had simply followed the English path. The neglect has begun to be rectified, but the powerful influence of the Scots on developments south of the border requires more sustained attention than it has received hitherto.

“Institutionalization of mentally-impaired children in Scotland, c.1855–1914″ (Iain Hutchison)

This article examines two institutions which were established in Scotland specifically for the accommodation of mentally-impaired children: Baldovan Asylum near Dundee and the ‘Scottish National Institution for the Education of Imbecile Children’ in Larbert, Stirlingshire. It surveys the aims and agendas of the institutions in the spheres of residential childcare, mental health, and education and training. It compares the admission regimes of these institutions and considers whether they complemented one another in serving an unsatisfied demand for places, or whether they were in competition for admissions, staff and charitable support. The survey covers the period from the opening of both institutions to the implementation of the Mental Deficiency Act of 1913 which required the (re)certification of all children.

“‘Him Bi Sona Sel’: psychiatry in the Anglo-Saxon Leechbooks” (Christopher Pell)

Classical Greek and Roman writers documented the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric illness in ancient times. Following the fall of the Western Roman Empire however, we find little writing on the topic in early Medieval Europe. Yet in Britain, medical texts survived and were complemented by local traditions and treatments. This article explores the best-known Anglo-Saxon medical texts, the Leechbooks and Lacnunga, for evidence of psychiatric illness and the treatments employed by physicians in the tenth century. The difficulties encountered when working with sources translated from Old English and speculations about the supernatural aetiology ascribed to these illnesses are detailed. The efficacy of the leechdoms (treatments) described are also investigated for both their placebo and potential pharmacological effects.

“Women and melancholy in nineteenth-century German psychiatry” (Lisabeth Hock)

This study examines depictions of the relationship between women and melancholia in German psychiatric textbooks published between 1803 and 1913. Focusing in particular on how these texts present the female life cycle, nineteenth-century views about female ‘nature’ and gender traits, and women’s familial and professional roles, it reveals how nineteenth-century psychiatrists were caught between the scientific demand for objective clinical observation and the gender norms of the culture to which they belonged. On the one hand, psychiatrists carefully and sensitively describe female melancholia with evidence obtained through the scientific methods of clinical observation, anatomical investigation and self-questioning. On the other hand, language choice contributes to the naturalization of gender difference by assigning cultural meaning to clinical observations.

“The fight for ‘traumatic neurosis’, 1889–1916: Hermann Oppenheim and his opponents in Berlin” (Bernd Holdorff and Dr Tom Dening)

The concept of traumatic neurosis conceived by Hermann Oppenheim (1858–1919) located post-traumatic nervous symptoms between hysteria and neurasthenia, considering them a consequence of physical reactions to fright and a cause of molecular tissue changes. As early as 1890, his concept was criticized at an international congress in Berlin. In February 1916, there was a significant debate of the issue in Berlin, and eventually Oppenheim’s concept was completely defeated at the war meeting of German neuropsychiatrists in September 1916 in Munich. In the Berlin debate, a range of views on war neurosis was presented. Partly as a result of this, but also due to the powerful position of Oppenheim himself, it was not until after the end of WWI that traumatic neurosis was excluded from medico-legal assessments. The differing views of physiological brain-mind relations from that time do not differ greatly from present concepts. However, Oppenheim’s traumatic neurosis with its more quasi-neurological picture should not be equated with PTSD.

The issue also contains as its classic text the second part of August Wimmer’s ‘Psychogenic Psychoses’ (1936) commented by Johan Schioldann, an essay by Neil Vickers entitled “Literary history and the history of neurology“, as well as two book reviews.

For more information, click here.

  1. Thanks to Dr Frye and others that have comtimed their careers to helping people with these very challenging conditions. I am so glad and proud that we have someone like Dr Frye on-board here at Mayo! There is a great need for more understanding, research, and resources to help individuals and families who’s life is touched with this very difficult situation. We have a son who suddenly, at age 19, with no warning or suspicion came down with Bi-polar one. This happened six years ago at college. It was so sudden I mean we visited him and he seemed fine/normal, and a week later was in mania and had to go to the ER. Three hospitalizations since then and we never know what the future holds. We are glad for medicines. We have compassion for individuals and families that go through this.

  1. March 18th, 2012

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