New issue – History of Psychiatry

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The second issue of 2017 of History of Psychiatry is now available and could be of interest to H-madness readers. The issue includes the following articles:

Philippe Huneman, From a religious view of madness to religious mania: the Encyclopédie, Pinel, Esquirol.

This paper focuses on the shift from a concept of insanity understood in terms of religion to another (as entertained by early psychiatry, especially in France) according to which it is believed that forms of madness tinged by religion are difficult to cure. The traditional religious view of madness, as exemplified by Pascal (inter alia), is first illustrated by entries from the Encyclopédie. Then the shift towards a medical view of madness, inspired by Vitalistic physiology, is mapped by entries taken from the same publication. Firmed up by Pinel, this shift caused the abandonment of the religious view. Esquirol considered religious mania to be a vestige from the past, but he also believed that mental conditions carrying a religious component were difficult to cure.

The debate on the causes and the nature of pellagra in Italy during the nineteenth century resembles and evokes the similar debate on General Paralysis of the Insane (GPI) that was growing at the same time in the United Kingdom. Pellagra and GPI had a massive and virulent impact on the populations of Italy and the UK, respectively, and contributed to a great extent to the increase and overcrowding of the asylum populations in these countries. This article compares the two illnesses by examining the features of their nosographic positioning, aetiology and pathogenesis. It also documents how doctors arrived at the diagnoses of the two diseases and how this affected their treatment.

Elisabetta Basso Lorini, The erudite humility of the historian: the ‘critical epistemology’ of Georges Lantéri-Laura.

This paper analyses the historical and epistemological work of the French psychiatrist Georges Lantéri-Laura (1930–2004) within the context of the French ‘tradition’ of history and philosophy of sciences, with special reference to Georges Canguilhem and Michel Foucault. After an introduction devoted to a critical survey of the most recent works on the history and historiography of psychiatry in French, the paper outlines Lantéri-Laura’s approach by focusing especially on the role played by the methodological concept of ‘semiology’ as regards the relation between medicine and psychiatry. The last part of the paper draws attention to the relation between the history and philosophy of psychiatry in light of Lantéri-Laura’s ‘critical epistemology’.

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